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SPEAKING UP FOR THE Underdog

Former prosecutor Anna Yum gives a voice to criminal defendants and personal injury victims who need help fighting back against governmental and insurance giants.

Award-winning Trial Attorney Anna Yum is no shrinking violet. Over the past decade she’s become one of the most recognizable faces in criminal defense in San Diego courtrooms. In fact, the fearless Yum has not only served as the voice and advocate for some of the most high-profile criminal defendants in San Diego, but she’s also been featured as a legal analyst on national news networks including Fox News Channel and HLN, and on various programs such as Hannity, Shepard Smith Reporting, Neil Cavuto, Dr. Drew on Call, Nancy Grace, and many others. Articulate, confident, and wildly experienced in the courtroom, the former Deputy District Attorney has spent the better part of the last decade speaking up for those who feel they have no voice when defending themselves against the government, and those whose lives have been immeasurably changed as the result of an injury, and need a passionate advocate to take on insurance giants.

FINDING HER OWN VOICE
“My parents influenced my desire to become an attorney,” Yum says. “They are immigrants from South Korea. I personally saw the struggles they endured to make a living and to support our family. They owned a jewelry store in one of the roughest neighborhoods in Chicago. As immigrants, they spoke in broken English and I would observe their struggles in communicating with some of their customers. Many times, they would be discriminated against because of the language barrier. It was difficult to watch my parents face ridicule,” she recalls.
On the other hand, Yum excelled in public speaking and writing from a young age, leading her father to encourage her to pursue a career as an attorney. “He would always say, ‘When you get older do you want to work here at the store and fight with customers all of the time? Or do you want to get an education and a law degree? Remember that a law degree gives you power. No one can take that away from you.’”

All the same, after graduating from Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Science in Communication Studies and International Studies, Yum first took a position with global powerhouse accounting firm Ernst & Young, where she was ultimately transferred to Los Angeles. Yet the feeling that she was supposed to be helping those who didn’t have a voice never went away and she was soon moving to San Diego to attend the University of San Diego School of Law.

Much as she had excelled in public speaking and writing earlier in her education, in law school, Yum excelled in mock trial and knew that she wanted to accomplish two things. “I wanted to be a public servant and I wanted to be in the courtroom,” she says. “I was told that I would have to wait at least 5 years before I saw the inside of a courtroom if I were to pursue the civil litigation route. I wanted to try cases and be in the courtroom as soon as I could after law school. Criminal law afforded me the opportunity to do so,” she says.

From her very first experience in criminal law, as a clerk at the San Diego Public Defender’s office, Yum knew she was in the right practice area of law. She was also fortunate to work with the late Jack Hochman, who she counts as one of several incredibly influential mentors in her career. “While I was a post-bar clerk at the Public Defender’s office, I asked my supervisor who the best trial lawyer was, because I wanted to learn from him. She told me it was Jack Hochman. I went to Jack and told him I wanted to learn from him. He took me under his wing and we tried 3 or 4 cases together. He always encouraged me to continue to learn, and to try to self-improve. [He said] when you stop focusing on learning, that’s when you should start worrying. As long as you continue to learn and to push yourself to become a better lawyer, you will continue to be successful.”

Yum followed his suggestion, and upon being admitted to the bar accepted a position as a Deputy District Attorney for Riverside County, where she would garner extensive trial experience, and learn more than she could have dreamed about how the prosecution side of criminal law works. “I was promoted very quickly because I tried so many different types of cases and won. I handled everything from misdemeanor DUIs to general felonies, domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse, and gang cases,” she says. In fact, during the time she served as a Deputy District Attorney, Yum was nominated as both Misdemeanor Deputy District Attorney of the Year as well as Sexual Assault Child Abuse Deputy DA of the month.

She also had the fortune of meeting a second influential mentor, Charles Quirk, a criminal defense attorney, during her time at the DA’s office. “Charlie and I handled a case together when I was a DA. When I opened my practice in San Diego, I reached out to him. Since then, we have successfully tried a number of cases together. I learned and continue to learn from him regularly. Charlie has always said, ‘Don’t focus on perfection. You’re going to make mistakes during your career. That’s why it’s called the practice of law. It’s how you respond to mistakes which will really define you. Trial law is about learning how to think on your feet and to respond to situations that you did not expect,’” Yum recalls.

VOICE FOR THE VOICELESS
Soon enough, Yum found she could no longer ignore her longstanding desire to help the underdog, or give a voice to the voiceless. “Working for the DA’s office provided me the opportunity to try many cases; but, when I was a DA, defendants were just defendants to me. I didn’t know them as people. They were just an entity. I knew that if I transitioned to criminal defense, I wanted to help people on a personal level, who needed a voice.”

19Yum also astutely recognized that Asian American women criminal defense attorneys were not exactly in abundance in San Diego County. “The idea of trying to break into this new niche was exciting to me. Frankly, I believe that the private criminal defense sector is a mostly male-dominated field,” she says. “I found it empowering, to be a female minority, and I decided I was going to do the best I can, and if I failed, I couldn’t say I didn’t try. I don’t think that I would’ve had the confidence to open my practice without the trial experience that I garnered at the DA’s office, along with my Christian faith. It was a daunting task but being raised in a strong Christian family, I had faith that my career would continue to be successful.”

However, Yum knew that although she would be a minority as a woman in the field, she definitely had experience that many criminal defense attorneys never received. “I knew that many defense attorneys in my field either opened up their businesses right out of law school or they worked for the Public Defender’s office. My DA background distinguishes me because I can easily spot the legal issue and arguments from the prosecution perspective. I can think like a prosecutor and therefore, I don’t approach my cases with blinders on,” she says.

With that, the Law Offices of Anna R. Yum was formed in 2008, and suffice it to say Yum has never looked back. “Criminal defense provides me with the ability to learn about peoples’ lives, their stories, and their pasts. The personalization provides me comfort in knowing that I am doing what I can to help them in what are some of the most harrowing times their lives—especially when their liberty is at stake,” she says.

To that end, Yum is dedicated to providing clients with her own personal time, rather than handing off clients to law clerks, associates or paralegals. “I personally handle all of my cases, so that when a client hires me expecting to work with me, they know that I will not pass the case off to another person. I’m very accessible to my clients. I give them my personal cell phone number so that they can text, email or call me and they know that they will be able to get a hold of me. I think communication is one of the most, if not the most, important aspects of the attorney-client relationship. Lawyers get a bad reputation for not calling their clients back. I am not that type of lawyer.”

Continuing she adds, “I also make it a practice to consistently visit my clients in custody. They need to be kept apprised of their case and it is important that I communicate with them while in custody, along with their family.” For the record, Yum gives credit to a third influential mentor, Judge Gale Kaneshiro, who Yum met in 2009 during a preliminary hearing, for reiterating to her just how important the in-person visits with her clients in custody could be when it comes to earning their trust. “To see an Asian American woman who has been on the bench of the Criminal Justice system for so many years has been so inspiring to me. She is someone I admire so much. She was one of the first to tell me that if I want to really connect and resonate with my clients, I had to meet with them regularly and to earn their trust before advising them on their respective cases,” she adds.

The clients and cases Yum takes run the gamut from small misdemeanors such as DUI, petty theft, battery, vandalism, and domestic violence to serious felonies involving murder, attempted murder, sexual assault, and lewd or lascivious acts on a minor. “At times I will represent clients who are brand new to the criminal justice system. They have never been in trouble with the law before. They are scared, and they don’t know what to expect. Other times I represent clients who have had numerous run-ins with the law, and it’s not their first rodeo, so to speak,” she explains.

Regardless of the type of crime her client is charged with, Yum says that her approach remains consistent. “It is important for me to approach every client with empathy, understanding and no judgement,” she says. That is because she says her goal is always three-fold: To get the best resolution for her client, with the fewest consequences that will affect her clients’ lives in the long term, and to always do her best to perform excellent legal work.

20

Admittedly, Yum holds herself to high standards. “My reputation and integrity mean the most to me. I think I have distinguished myself as a hard-working, aggressive and honest attorney who really cares about my clients, who also happens to be a female and a minority,” she says.
As far as being a woman and a minority is concerned, Yum has been pleased to find that in a male-dominated practice area, many of her clients prefer that she is a female. “I provide a different style or perspective when handling their case. There’s also a sensitivity associated with my style which enable clients to open up to me and to feel comfortable with my ability to communicate with them,” she says.
However, those who have mistaken her niceness and civility for weakness have learned all too quickly that when it comes to defending her clients, Yum is tenacious, passionate, and remarkably quick on her feet. In fact, it is because she’s so articulate and experienced that she has become a fixture on local and national news as a legal analyst dissecting the nation’s most riveting cases. She’s also earned numerous awards over the past decade including National Trial Lawyers “Top 100 Trial Lawyers,” American Society of Legal Advocates “Top 40 Lawyers Under 40” in Criminal Defense, “2011 Top Lawyers” as recognized by San Diego Metro Magazine, and in 2015, she was named a Super Lawyers® Rising Star.

FIRM FUTURE: CONTINUING TO CHAMPION THE UNDERDOG
Though Yum has a firm foothold in criminal defense, she refuses to be pigeonholed into any exclusive area of practice. In fact, over the past several years, she’s been enjoying helping other proverbial “underdogs” to have a voice by lending her diverse experience and tenured trial acumen to personal injury plaintiffs. In the same way that her criminal defense clients are up against a bigger adversary when facing off against the government, personal injury victims are often facing insurance companies with seemingly unlimited resources. “I see the similarities between the two practice areas and I always try to put myself in my client’s shoes, and empathize with what they are going through,” she says.

As such, several years ago, when Yum attended a personal injury seminar hosted by prominent San Diego Personal Injury Attorney Dan Gilleon, she decided to introduce herself. “I told him I would love to work on cases together because I was delving into personal injury on the plaintiff’s side. A few weeks later he called me to work together on a few cases. Since then we have continued to work on several high-profile cases,” she says.

As far as the future is concerned, Yum has a full plate, both personally and professionally. Married to her husband Eddie— who recently graduated from law school and who is currently awaiting his own bar results—the two are first-time parents to an infant son. Despite it being a “hectic time,” Yum says she wouldn’t change a thing about the way her life or her practice is going. “I’m definitely not complaining. My family has always been extremely close. My husband, parents and my sister have always been my biggest fans; they have always supported, encouraged and prayed for me throughout my career, and I’m forever grateful. I’ve also had wonderful mentors, who have taught me so much. I feel very thankful and fortunate for the blessings in my life.”

21» EDUCATION

  • Northwestern University, ranked 12th in the country, with a Bachelor of Science in Communications Studies and International Studies
  • University of San Diego School of Law, Juris Doctor (J.D.) Judicial Externship with Senior Federal Court Judge Robert M. Takasugi in the Central District of California.

» LICENSES

  • Admitted to practice law in California.
  • Admitted to practice law in the United States District Court, Central District of California.
  • Admitted to practice law in the United States District Court, Southern District of California.
  • Admitted to practice law in Illinois.

» ASSOCIATIONS AND MEMBERSHIPS

  • San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyers Club
  • San Diego Criminal Defense Bar Association
  • San Diego County Bar Association
  • Illinois State Bar Association
  • The National Trial Lawyers: National Women Trial Lawyers

» AWARDS

  • 2015 Super Lawyers Rising Star
  • The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 Trial Lawyers
  • American Society of Legal Advocates 2015 Top 40 Criminal Defense Lawyers Under 40 in the State of California
  • Avvo Top Attorney Practicing Criminal Defense
  • 2013 & 2014 Avvo Client's Choice Award
  • 2011 San Diego Metro Magazine Top DUI Attorneys in San Diego
  • 2011 Semi-Finalist for San Diego Daily Transcript Young Attorneys

» LEGAL ANALYST/COMMENTATOR

  • Fox News Channel
  • Fox Business
  • Discovery ID
  • HLN/CNN
  • KUSI
  • Fox 5 San Diego

 

 Contact:
Anna Yum
Law Offices of Anna R. Yum
www.annayumlaw.com
annayumlawsd@gmail.com
501 West Broadway #700
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 233-4433

Jennifer Hadley

Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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About the Author: Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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