As a child of immigrants, I remained very active with community involvement and assisting other immigrant families to “pay back” for all the help my parents and I received from others upon our arrival. In 1997, when residents decided to incorporate Shoreline, Washington, as its own city, I ran for a position on the founding City Council, where I served for two terms, incorporating the city and directing foundational policy for all of the infrastructure and services the city now provides. It was quite challenging and demanding to serve on the Shoreline City Council while working full time at Boeing, but it was an incredibly rewarding opportunity to serve my community. Today, I serve on the board of Shoreline Community College Foundation and Seattle City Symphony and am the board chair of Korean Community Service Center (“KCSC”), a nonprofit serving the Seattle metropolitan area that promotes the health and well-being of the Korean American community through a wide range of services. I am also the founding president of the Washington Chapter of the Korean American Coalition (KAC-WA), now a 4,500-member community empowerment and development organization. I advocated fiercely on behalf of my local community and still do.
Taking that advocacy into the realm of legal work has felt powerful and satisfying, as I’ve been able to use my expertise to support others in new ways. As soon as I was eligible to do pro bono work in law school, I jumped at every opportunity and loved it. I volunteered with intake efforts for the Moderate Means Program, which helps moderate income individuals obtain legal services in key areas. I assisted a U-Visa applicant and assisted DACA applicants under the supervision of a practicing lawyer. Upon passing the Washington State Bar, I quickly signed up to volunteer with one of the King County Neighborhood Legal Clinic programs, a pro bono legal clinic run by the Korean American Bar Association of Washington (“KABA”). I even served as president of KABA. During my presidency, I helped raise the most funds KABA has ever raised and more than doubled the amount of scholarships awarded to law students. After the conclusion of my presidency, I am continuing to serve as the chair of KABA’s pro bono clinic, directly delivering pro bono services as well as soliciting and managing volunteers. During the pandemic, I coordinated with KCSC, which hosts the pro bono clinic at its office, to fit the office with clear plastic shields. With these and other precautions in place, we opened the legal clinic for up to four hours each day to aid mom-and-pop business owners struggling with the challenges of the pandemic. The appreciation expressed by the clients made all of the time and effort, including risk during the pandemic, worth it.
My years of professional experiences prior to becoming an attorney provide great foundation and context as I assist clients in my current practice, which is focused on real estate transactions and advising small, family-owned businesses. The opportunity to deliver pro bono services alongside that practice is incredibly rewarding; it affirms that I made the right decision to go to law school and become a lawyer as my fourth career. Was it worth leaving my job as a marketer at Microsoft and leaving thousands of shares of unvested stock? Would I do it again? Probably not. Do I regret it? Definitely not, because I am able to help those who are in need of legal assistance but unable to afford it. No one can tell me that I “need to go talk with an attorney” when I am trying to help those in need.