Law student takes aim on corporate law career

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Ellen Kim, who is earning a dual J.D. at Detroit Mercy Law, has spent time Down Under, and is pictured at the Twelve Apostles limestone stacks off the coast of Victoria, Australia.

Photo courtesy of Ellen Kim

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

A year after obtaining her bachelor’s degree, and at a crossroads between graduate school and law school, Ellen Kim wanted to try something new and challenging — and considered law school.   

“I was also influenced by the professor I was working for at the time, who had created a start-up company based on his research,” she says. “It was the first time I thought of going into corporate law, where I’d be able to work in a role that supported companies in carrying out their vision.”

A Canadian citizen, Kim is now a 3L student at the University of Detroit Mercy Law School, pursuing a Dual U.S. and Canadian law degree.

“I appreciate how a lot of practical courses are embedded into the program,” she says. “I took the Immigration Clinic, where I had the opportunity to interact with clients, draft adjustment of status applications, and file briefs with the court. I also took the Anatomy of a Transaction Law Firm Program course, where the whole course was a simulated M&A transaction.

“Right now I’m leaning towards a career in corporate law, but I’m also looking forward to exploring various practice areas during my articles. Beyond what I practice, though, I’d like to become a lawyer whom clients can trust as an expert in the legal issue they face.”

At the end of her 1L year, Kim externed for Judge Patricia Fresard in Wayne County’s Third Circuit Court Civil Division.   

“Externing was amazing because I had access to behind the scenes action of courts,” Kim says. “In addition to writing bench memos and sitting in on settlement conferences, I got a glimpse into how judges decide a case and the range of advocacy strategies lawyers use.

“Since she is the presiding judge of the civil division, I also was able to work with her and the general counsel of the Third Circuit to create resource material for judges across the bench.”

This past summer, Kim, who has also served as a teaching assistant in Comparative Legal Writing and Research at Detroit Mercy Law and as a research assistant to the Associate Dean at the University of Windsor, worked at Miller Thomson LLP in Toronto.

“The work was extremely rewarding because I had the opportunity to not only get deeply involved in files, but also experience a large range of practice areas like corporate law, bankruptcy, and intellectual property, just to name a few.

“It was daunting initially, but I had a lot of support from the people at the firm. My mentor, for example, took me out to lunch almost every week. I’m excited to return there for my articles.”

Kim has also been involved in many mental health related extracurricular activities, in order to stay in touch with her psychology background; she earned an honors bachelor of science degree from the University of Toronto, double majoring in psychology and cognitive science.

“I was drawn to psychology because I’m fascinated by how unique every person is and how this influences interactions and relationships,” she says. “I chose cognitive science—best explained as the study of artificial intelligence—as my second major because AI is a booming industry, and since it’s an interdisciplinary study, there’s a lot of overlap with psychology.

“Studying these two disciplines together has been tremendously helpful in giving me the skill to apply my psychology background to my legal knowledge. For example, during my externship I wrote a bench memo on a motion to compel psychiatric evaluation, and was able to supplement my legal findings with psychological research.”

A native of Seoul, South Korea, Kim spent an early part of her childhood in Denver, then spent most of her formative years in Vancouver, Canada. After moving to Toronto, her parents lived in Sydney, Australia, for 5 years, so Kim was able to travel there quite a bit.

“I consider myself a third culture kid, having spent so much of my time in different places,” she says. ”It's awesome because you grow up with a sense of cultural fluency, and you also find yourself having old friends to visit almost everywhere you go.”

Kim, her younger sister, and her parents currently live in Toronto, although she lives in Windsor during the school year. She also enjoys spending time in the Motor City.

“The best part of Detroit is you never run out of things to do,” she says. “The food is obviously a given, but there’s also so much entertainment – I've gone to see the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, binged on a bunch of concerts, and even went to a Manchester United game against Liverpool.”


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