Best Law Firm Mentors 2022: Kay Kyungsun Yu

Kay Kyungsun Yu, solo practitioner

Yu has been steadfast in her commitment to mentoring law students, particularly diverse law students, with the goal of training and developing diverse legal talent for the Philadelphia community. For example, she has mentored law students through APABA-PA. In 2006, Yu served as the national site coordinator for the Thomas Tang International Moot Court Competition. In 2011, she served as the coordinator for the Northeast Regional Thomas Tang Moot Court Competition held at Drexel University School of Law. She has mentored many of the APABA-PA members, including Jennifer Lin (Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and APABA-PA president, 2012), Rahat Babar (Special Assistant to Attorney General, New Jersey, and APABA-PA President, 2014), Bryan YM Tham (deputy general counsel and corporate secretary, Armstrong World Industries and APABA-PA President, 2017), and Chi-Ser Tran (current APABA-PA president; Attorney at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia; APABA-PA law student liaison, 2016 ; and Recipient of the Judge William M. Marutani Fellowship Award and the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Public Interest award).

As you built your career, who mentored you?

Larry Momo, the Columbia College Admissions Officer who recruited me to attend his institution of higher education, was an early and powerful mentor to me. If not for Larry, I would not have known how to navigate the college admissions process. If not for him, I would not have gained admission to an institution of higher education with a need-blind admissions policy that fully funded my college education. If not for him, I would not have been able to return to Columbia after taking a year off because of my mother’s illness and eventual death. And above all else, if not for Larry, I would not have acquired the college core curriculum that laid the foundation for my future development.

I am grateful to the litigators at my first firm, Shipman & Goodwin, who taught me how to practice law with the highest degree of professionalism possible. I am grateful to Frank Devine, who took me to lunch when I first became a partner at Pepper and encouraged me to get more involved with local bar associations. Little did I know how transformative this work would be.

Now that I have embarked on a new path to serve as a neutral arbitrator and mediator, I am ever so grateful to Margie Brogan, Walt DeTreux, and Homer LaRue, for taking me under their wing to guide me in this endeavor.

What is the value of robust mentorship?

We must take care to nurture our next generation of leaders. Mentorship is a two-way street where mentors benefit as much, if not more, than those who receive the mentorship. The best of mentorship can include doing substantive work as a collective. It can, and should, be the basis of mutual respect and lasting relationships.

Keeping in mind today’s rapidly changing profession, what’s one piece of advice you would give to a young lawyer?

The years following the death of my mother was a time of crisis for me as a young woman. Losing my mom when I was just 20 years old, I did not have the tools or the supportive network necessary to work effectively through tragic loss. I nonetheless survived, emerging from that period with two personal mantras: first, don’t ever say that things can’t get worse, because they always can; second, out of the darkest moments in life, something wondrous can come, even if one cannot see it in the moment. Holding on to optimism while enduring difficulties through crisis is a superpower worthy of cultivating.

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