Featured Pro Bono Attorney: Meet Greg Kim
This is the second of two profiles of the Refugee & Immigration Law Clinic’s recent pro bono attorneys. We are featuring them to thank them and to encourage more people to volunteer! RILC will be holding an asylum law training for pro bono attorneys and other legal professionals on May 20, 2023. Register for the training here.
For almost 40 years, Greg Kim has been a corporate lawyer, practicing in the area of corporate and securities law, including startup work and venture capital. As someone with an entrepreneurial mindset, who is not afraid to try and learn new things, Greg answered the call to service last year when the Refugee & Immigration Law Clinic was looking for a pro bono attorney to assist a stateless Palestinian asylum seeker from Egypt with his defensive asylum case in Immigration Court.
Greg has always viewed learning as a lifelong endeavor. After obtaining his B.S. in Engineering and Applied Sciences from Yale University and his J.D./M.B.A. from UC Berkeley, Greg served as a law clerk to the Honorable Herbert Y.C. Choy of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He began training as a corporate lawyer in the Bay Area at Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro, before returning home to Hawai‘i in 1988, where he joined Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel. In 2004, he launched Vantage Counsel as one of the nation’s first virtual law firms. He then joined several other Silicon Valley-based virtual law firms, before returning to Vantage Counsel in 2018. During his career, Greg founded or co-founded multiple organizations dedicated to entrepreneurship and served on boards at business educational institutions. He has also long taught the Entrepreneurship and Small Business Clinic at the William S. Richardson School of Law.
We are grateful for Greg’s willingness to try something new, his heart for immigrants and asylum seekers, and his commitment to excellence in pro bono representation.
Here are his full responses to questions about his pro bono experience with RILC:
Why did you volunteer to take a pro bono immigration case?
In recent years, I have become increasingly frustrated with the treatment of immigrants in the US, and the abuses they have experienced. Our country’s commitment to immigration seemed to be waning. It is the backbone of our country. I decided to take action to help immigrants. I reached out to John Egan at the Refugee and Immigration Law Clinic at UH and asked for a case. He offered me an asylum case representing a Palestinian, stateless refugee from Egypt. I undertook the representation, and it has been a life changing experience in so many ways.
Why is doing pro bono work important to you?
Many of us wonder about the meaning of life. I do not know for sure, but I do know it’s not about making money, or achieving professional success and accolades. I feel that I am on the right track when I am helping others without personal gain. As lawyers, we have the training and experience to do many things, and to learn new things, which can be a powerful tool for change. The question is whether and how we use our opportunities to use the law to help others. Even if you only take one pro bono case, to the client, it is their whole life that you are trying to save. That is a powerful and huge source of inspiration.
What is one thing you have learned from this pro bono experience?
We can learn new things and do them well. We just need the courage to try. Statistics show that the odds for a successful outcome for immigrants in asylum cases is far less when they do not have legal representation. And the asylum laws are fascinating from a legal and historical standpoint, representing the efforts by countries in the United Nations to learn from the experience of WWII. It is an honor and privilege to be part of this effort.
What is one thing that has surprised you about this pro bono experience?
There are so many bright, capable, and passionate people who are willing to help immigrants in pro bono asylum cases. We have received so much invaluable help from the Refugee and Immigration Law Clinic faculty and staff, nonprofit lawyers at United Stateless, social service providers, and experts. I have not experienced this type or level of support in the private sector. I attribute it to working on the right side of justice. I also learned that immigration courts and staff have received guidance from the Administration to encourage and facilitate pro bono representation given “the immense value of legal representation in immigration proceedings, both to the individuals that come before our courts and to the efficiency of our hearings.” This experience has renewed and strengthened my faith in humanity at this important time.