[Other] Interview with Ewha Alumna Lee Young Hee
Interview with Ewha Alumna Lee Young Hee, First Female Managing Partner at a Large Law Firm
#Ewha has produced numerous female legal professionals since the establishment of the Department of Law in 1950 and the world’s first women’s College of Law in 1996, and the opening of the world’ first law school dedicated only for women in 2009. Ewha Today met with a proud Ewha alumna who is continuing Ewha’s legacy of being the #first in many fields. Meet alumna Lee Young Hee (Class of 1994, Law), who was appointed as the first female managing partner at Barun Law, a major law firm.
Q. Hi there, fellow alumna. Please introduce yourself briefly.
Hello. I entered the Department of Law at Ewha Womans University in 1990. I passed the 39th National Judicial Examination in 1997, joined Barun Law through its first public recruitment call in 2000, and I have since worked there for 23 years. I was promoted to a partner in 2011, elected as a member of Barun’s board of directors in 2018, and most recently elected as a managing partner at Barun Law.
Q. Congratulations on becoming the first female managing partner at a major law firm.
At Barun Law, the managing partner is elected through a vote by all partners at the firm. I feel deeply grateful to them for trusting me and voting for me. I also feel a sense of duty that I must live up to their trust. As the first female managing partner at a major law firm, I must continue to do well, so that those who come after me will be able to flourish and rise to become board members, executives and managing partners at major law firms. In fact, I do feel some pressure that, if I ever make a mistake, that would block the way for others or perpetuate certain prejudices or negative viewpoints. Conversely, I hope that my successes could create positive precedents and pave the way for more women to advance into this field.
Q. What does a managing partner do?
At Barun Law, we have one overall managing partner and two business managing partners. While the overall managing partner represents and oversees the entire firm, business managing partners assist the overall managing partner and oversee specific areas such as the firm’s finances, accounting, public relations, human resources, labor affairs, and organizational management. I’m responsible for human resources and organizational management, so I address matters such as the recruitment and promotion of lawyers and employees.
Q. Tell us about a rewarding experience that you had as a lawyer.
Sometimes clients come to us for help in precarious situations as if they are on the edge of a cliff. An example might be if clients were going to lose all of their assets in an investment made with severance pay after losing a first trial where their entire wealth was at stake. I find it most rewarding when our clients thank us in tears after we take on the case and manage to win a favorable ruling in the appeals court. Those are the most precious moments for us. Although I’m paid to do this job, it nonetheless makes me glad that I chose this line of work.
Q. How has Ewha influenced your life?
Back in my day, there were not many female students in most universities in Seoul, especially in law schools. But since Ewha solely consisted of women, we naturally had to take the initiative for any activity such as preparing for school festivals. Throughout my four years at Ewha, we became used to discussing and thinking amongst ourselves to solve any problem that we came across without help from men, and this experience became embedded in our very DNA. Perhaps that’s why Ewha graduates are much more autonomous and independent in the professional world than those who graduated from co-ed universities and less likely to take a backseat when something needs to be done. I think we benefited from the experience of thinking for ourselves to find a way to solve problems rather than seeking someone else’s help. I believe that is why Ewha produces so many leaders in various fields.
Q. As an alumna, what kind of future do you wish for on behalf of Ewha and the Ewha family?
I once heard the phrase “a women’s university like no other in the world” during the inauguration ceremony for an Ewha president. This is the future that I envision for Ewha. These days, there are so many distorted notions regarding gender. Therefore, I think it is necessary to nurture talented women with sound values. There is no place like Ewha for trying various efforts and experiments with a keen interest towards what needs to be done in order to strive for the coexistence of the genders rather than remaining mired in gender-based antagonism based on a mutual victim mentality. I would like Ewha to become a women’s university like no other in the world through vigorous research on how the next generation will coexist with one another. To this end, I hope that people from Ewha will continue to uphold rational values and foster an enterprising and daring spirit.