Christine Kim: 2016 Best and Brightest

Christine Kim
Christine Kim
Duke Law School
Hometown: Warren, OH
Undergraduate School: Tufts University
Undergraduate Major and Minor: Public Health, English Literature (double major)
Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During Law School:
Horvitz Public Interest Law Fellowship
Carroll/Simon Endowed Summer Public Interest Fellowship
Published Note: Credit Cards: Weapons for Domestic Violence, 22 DUKE J. GENDER L. & POL’Y 281 (2015)
Duke Journal on Gender, Law & Policy – Editor-in-Chief
Duke University Task Force on Hate and Bias Issues – Representative
Center on Law, Race & Politics – Co-Student Director
Curriculum Committee – Duke Bar Association Class Representative for 1L, 2L, and 3L years
Duke American Constitution Society – Co-President 2014-2015; Social Chair 2015-2016
Public Interest Law Foundation – Law Firm Donation Coordinator
Women Law Students Association – VP of Advertising and Community Relations
Duke Democrats – 1L Representative
Public Interest Retreat Planning Committee
Legal Aid of North Carolina, Inc., Fair Housing Project – Volunteer Law Clerk
Where have you interned during law school?
Center for Responsible Lending
Durham, NC
Law Associate, Jan 2016 – Present
Duke HIV/AIDS Policy Clinic
Durham, NC
Student, Jan 2016 – Present (Not an internship, but a clinic)
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Office of General Counsel, Appellate Section
Washington, DC
Law Clerk, May 2015 – July 2015
Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section
Washington, DC
Law Clerk, Jan 2015 – May 2015
Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC
Washington, DC
Law Clerk, Jan 2015 – May 2015
Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Housing and Civil Enforcement Section, Washington, DC
Law Clerk, Jun 2014 – Aug 2014
What practice area will you be specializing in after graduation? Civil Rights Litigation (I am going to be a Department of Justice Legal Honors Attorney. I do not know which specific practice area I will be placed in yet though).
Why did you choose to attend law school? I had been focused on community organizing and public health research during my undergraduate career. I cared deeply about inequality, but grew frustrated with the limited tools available to community organizers. When I joined an employment discrimination law firm after graduating from college, I knew I had found my calling. Being a lawyer fulfilled all aspects of what I deemed important in a future career. I was passionate about civil rights and eager to make change. Fighting on behalf of employees who had been discriminated against made me feel like I could actually help individuals find relief and compel changes in an institution’s policies. Also, I found the practice of law intellectually challenging and stimulating. I enjoyed that I grew every day that I worked in that firm – either through different skills like taking depositions or through staying up to date on changes in the law.
What was your favorite law school class? Contracts with Professor Barak Richman was my favorite law school class. Prior to law school, I had also worked as a paralegal for the Legal Aid Society of NYC’s Foreclosure and Predatory Lending Prevention Unit. I assisted homeowners facing foreclosure in the Bronx. Every day, I saw minority families struggling with thousands of dollars in debt because of predatory loans. I had formed strong opinions on the failure of contract law and consumer protection. During Contracts, Professor Barak Richman challenged me to articulate my point of view clearly and effectively while also considering counter arguments. He expected a high standard from his students, and I definitely grew a lot in my critical thinking skills as a result.
Which attorney do you most admire? When I was an intern at the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section, I got the chance to work with one of the smartest, hardest working, aggressive, and kind attorneys I have ever met: Colleen Melody. We investigated an Asian-themed bar franchise chain that refused to admit Asians or African Americans patrons. We traveled together for a week and got to work closely throughout the summer.
Throughout the entire time that we worked together, she emphasized that we must work diligently, efficiently, and fast, because she would not stand for us wasting the government’s resources. She also knew that this type of claim was one that would only get more difficult to investigate if we moved slowly in gathering witnesses and evidence. It did not matter if she had to work until 12 a.m. and wake up at 6 a.m., ready for a full day of meetings and interviews with witnesses. She would be prepared for each meeting and eager to listen to witnesses’ stories. Throughout the entire process, she also took the time to be a great teacher. She explained her rationales for why she made certain tactical decisions and always checked in with me to make sure I understood everything that was going on. She knew I looked up to her as a mentor, but at the same time, she made me believe in my own skills and knowledge by making me feel valued and important in the team. After the summer, she left to become the Assistant Attorney General of Washington.
What have you enjoyed most about law school? The best part of law school has been the relationships that I have formed with my professors. At Duke Law, the professors care deeply about their students. They care about whether students are grasping the classroom material, whether they are having a positive and academically rigorous experience at Duke, whether students need guidance in their career paths, and whether students need personal support during difficult times. I would say that I have enjoyed the kind, frank, and open conversations with my professors the most.
During my first month of school, I, along with another first-year student, decided that we wanted to host a civil rights conference at Duke Law. We approached a few professors who – although they said we were crazy and too ambitious – agreed to supervise the project. After two years of planning and many hours of work, we organized a conference that brought over 150 speakers and 300 attendees to discuss the future of civil rights movements. The professors supported us every step of the way – and many other professors who were not intimately involved in the planning process devoted their time to attend almost all of the two-day conference. We would not have been able to pull off the conference without their help. I have been floored throughout my time at Duke by how truly supportive the professors are. I feel very fortunate.
What word best describes your professional brand? Advocate. I believe that individuals are the ones who can make change in society, but lawyers are the ones who advocate on their behalf to fight for their interests – which in turn benefits society. Marginalized groups often are unable to vindicate their rights due to financial concerns, language barriers, lack of time, competing obligations, and so on. I see myself as a conduit for fighting for the change that they deserve and desire.
If you were debt free, how would you spend your first paycheck after landing your first law job? I would be flying my parents to DC, putting them in a hotel, and buying them a nice dinner. They have been supportive throughout this whole process, and I owe everything I am and everything I have to them and all the sacrifices they have made for me.
“I knew I wanted to go to law school when…I helped a client win a settlement against his employer who fired him for trying to stop the sexual harassment of a female employee.”
“If I didn’t go to law school, I would be…either an urban planning focusing on more equal development strategies or working to rebrand community colleges as spaces for community organizing, community development, and civil rights.”
Which academic or personal achievement are you most proud of? My greatest academic achievement is (hopefully) graduating from Duke Law.
Fun fact about yourself: I lived in Bali, Indonesia for two months – studying arts for social change.
Favorite book: Tropic of Orange by Karen Tei Yamashita
Favorite movie: Blade Runner (Director’s Cut)
What are your hobbies? Running, going to concerts, trying to eat at every Mexican/Latino restaurant in Durham before I graduate (the list is surprisingly long and somewhat daunting)
What made Christine such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2016?
“Christine has been an incredibly active and effective student leader across a wide range of issues and roles. To name just a few, she’s been a three-year member of the Curriculum Committee and served as EIC of the Duke Journal on Gender Law and Policy. She’s also been a strong voice and advocate on issues of public interest lawyering and social justice, including as one of two students who worked closely with the faculty in the Center on Law, Race and Politics to put together the huge, and hugely successful, conference in November, ‘The Present and Future of Civil Rights Movements: Race and Reform in 21st Century America.’ In the midst of all of this activity, Christine manages to be one the most compassionate people I know, with seemingly never-ending attention, advice and care for her friends and others who need her.”
Liz Gustafson
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
Duke Law School