In a Challenging Time, a Fordham Law Alumna Quits to Begin AnewMarch 11, 2010
When Jenny Yun graduated from Fordham Law in 2005, she obtained what many law students would consider a dream job: a position as a finance associate in one of New York City's leading global law firms. Soon thereafter, she became a corporate and securities associate at another distinguished firm. She was right on track for a successful career in big law, and she already had the great view outside her office to prove it.
But Yun wasn't satisfied.
"I had always been committed to volunteer work and volunteered every semester I was in law school, contributing over 1,000 hours during my law school career," said Yun. "As an associate at a corporate law firm, it is always a challenge to find enough time to dedicate to pro bono work."
In spite of all her professional responsibilities, she did find the time to volunteer her services. She was asked to join her firm's pro bono committee and worked on various projects, including asylum and domestic violence cases and policy work.
As fulfilling as these projects were, however, Yun was still restless for more service opportunities. When the country's economic situation worsened in 2009, Yun made a decision that would completely alter her career.
"I had witnessed firsthand the effects of the recession on the financial industry. As devastating as its effects in the United States were, I knew that there were so many more people around the world that were suffering in unimaginable poverty. Although I had survived the rounds of layoffs at my law firm, I made the decision to quit my job in the summer of 2009."
Leaving a prominent law firm during a period of economic uncertainty may not seem to be within one's best interests, but Yun wasn't thinking about herself at the time; she was considering the millions worldwide who live in poverty: "As fortunate as I had been, I felt it was time to give back. I could not think of a better time than the recession—when there were countless ones in need—to donate my time to the service of others."
Yun's service took the form of a self-funded position as in-house counsel for International Justice Mission (IJM), an international human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression. In September 2009, Yun packed her belongings and moved thousands of miles away from New York City—to Chennai, India.
Now, instead of wearing a suit to a cushy midtown Manhattan office, she often wears a traditional Indian dress (a
|Former slaves served by IJM now grow and harvest their own groundnuts for a profit in this field.|
"In India, IJM investigates and documents cases of forced labor slavery and then works with local law enforcement within the country's legal system to emancipate slaves," explained Yun. "Thereafter, IJM partners with the local government to secure the prosecution of perpetrators in local court systems and empowers communities to make structural reforms to the judicial systems to prevent future abuses."
What this means specifically for Yun are days filled with many important responsibilities: drafting legal pleadings, conducting legal research, preparing witnesses for trial, meeting with government officials, analyzing the best strategies for trial, supervising attorneys, and doing anything else necessary to help secure the convictions of forced labor slave owners.
While Yun may no longer be commanding a high salary for her work, she is completely gratified by the results: "I am both surprised and thankful that, although I have listened to many emancipated slaves tell their stories, I am still overwhelmed each time by their courage and hope. The smiles of those who have been emancipated from slavery are truly priceless."
|IJM clients demonstrate the use of a rice rake.|
Despite Yun's own abiding commitment to helping others in need, she credits Fordham for helping her choose her new career path: "I never imagined that my Fordham Law degree would help take me halfway across the world to work on the prosecution of forced labor slavery cases. I am so grateful that Fordham not only helped me to attain the necessary legal skills to prepare me for this, role but also encouraged me to dedicate my career to the service of others."
Contact: Stephen Eichinger