LIFE AS A LAWYER: HYUNJOO AHN
could you provide a brief overview of your career progression in the legal field?
I started my career as a trade negotiator and legal advisor for the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 2005. I participated in various Free Trade Agreement negotiations. After years at the government, I moved to the US and studied at NYU for my LLM, and continued my study at UConn law school in the JD program. As a dual licensed lawyer in Korea and Connecticut who understands the Korean and US legal system, I developed my exceptional career as a lawyer working with expats in Korea. On the side, as an educator, I made bar subject courses for future law students/lawyers to help their transition to US law school and pass the bar exam. Also as a seasoned lawyer, I support my colleague lawyers as a president of the nation-wide lawyers’ community by facilitating supporting systems and publishing books.
what ultimately made you decide to pursue a career in law? and what drives you to continue your career in law?
I wanted to do something good for the society and believed that knowledge in law and relevant expertise would be a great means for it. Contributing to diverse problem-solving and helping others in need would be the main drive force for me to move on.
how would you describe a typical day in your life as a lawyer? how do you find a healthy work/life balance?
I am a solo practitioner and this type of business setting allows me to be flexible. I love to work early in the morning. After a short workout and meditation, I write my own journal to start off the day. It helps me to prioritize my agenda and make me jump right into each when I have time. After taking care of kids in the morning, I begin my day as a lawyer — attending court hearings, communicating with clients, writing legal documents, and filming youtube videos for future law school students.
I find balance in work and personal life by focusing on only one thing at a time. When I am with my family, I try to focus on them. When I walk into my office, I only think about my job. I love multitasking, I am good at it. But to cherish each moment, fully utilize my capacity, and find meaning in each work, I think pouring myself into one project at a time is the most helpful strategy.
what are some challenges you have faced in your career?
After I returned to Korea, I started solo practice as I relocated to the small city in Korea. First, I did not know how to utilize my experience and expertise. But such challenges became the great opportunities to think out of the box. Unlike other lawyers, I started a youtube channel dedicated to expats in Korea and provided valuable legal information. I shared my experience in the US to help future law students by holding webinars and uploading useful videos on youtube. As I was in a small city, I was kind of out of a professional network. So I created an unique online lawyers’ community to connect creative lawyers and co-authored a practitioner’s handbook for solo practice. What I want to say is that challenges can be a chance if you change your perspective, and it is so cool.
what ultimately motivated your commitment to provide legal advice on your YouTube Channel? and what drives you to continue?
I relocated to the US after years at the government as a trade negotiator. In the US, I went back to law school and did my internship with local lawyers. I met great mentors there and some of them were passionate about helping immigrants. They inspired me and made me decide to do my part when I go back to Korea. In Korea, there are many foreigners who have little access to legal resources due to language barriers. By sparing some time, I knew that I could serve them.
As you might know, it is not easy to continue uploading videos on Korean legal systems given limited, available time as a busy lawyer/mom. But I feel responsible as a lawyer to provide basic legal information and it makes me continue the youtube projects.
what are some things you wished you knew when you were thinking about a possible career in law? and if you could give your law-student-self any advice, what would it be?
I did not know that I could be a pioneer back then. I thought I should follow someone else’s successful career path as exactly as possible to be established and be noticed in the field. I learned it is not always true. Follow your heart, and it will bring you somewhere you never dreamed of, and it might be surprisingly amazing. So hang in there, and keep dreaming.