Paul Yoon – Catalyst Spotlight

What is your occupation and how did you come to work in this field?

I am a Litigation Partner at an international law firm, Wong Fleming PC. After college, I started my career with an interest in public service and served as Special Assistant to Washington DC Mayor, Anthony Williams. After graduating law school, I clerked for Judge Joseph Donohue in New Jersey and then served as a Prosecutor in New Jersey. I had some of the best years of my career here, but ultimately I took my experience and entered private practice where I have been ever since. It's where I can affect change to the best of my abilities -- and where my skills are best put to the test.

What is the biggest challenge of your work?
The biggest challenge of my work as an attorney in private practice is balancing my time commitments to clients, community, and family. I think those that succeed are the ones that find the right balance. To me, life in general is always a balancing act.

What is your proudest achievement?
I can't really think of a proudest achievement. But one thing that I strive to achieve is to be a good father and husband. And the older I get, the more I realize that family should always be a top priority. If you can't manage your family life, then I think it's tough to manage anything else.

What leaders, thinkers or doers do you admire most?
I admire leaders that choose love over fear. By that I mean, those that believe leading is serving the people around you, not the other way around. I think people follow those that let you down the least in any given situation. And it's really tough to not let people down if you think people are there to service only your needs. Life is not a zero sum game and everybody can do bigger and better things by cooperating and building each other up. The most effective leaders are those that are best at creating this type of environment. Based on what I've read, I think Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln were great at this.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Nobody knows what the future holds. But I try to do well what's in front of me. In 10 years, I see myself enjoying whatever it is that I am doing.

What would be your advice to young people who want their careers and lives to have an impact?
My advice is to be at peace with yourself and find true joy in what you do. I don't think you can inspire anybody else unless the people around you see and feel the energy and excitement from you. In the long run, you will never be able to fake it.

Did you have a mentor or do you mentor someone else? How has that experience changed you?
I have many mentors. But the one that has affected me the most personally is Judge Donohue - the judge that I clerked for. He gave me a lot of good advice and guidance. But there is one piece of advice that always plays over and over again in my mind. And I even tell it to a lot of my mentees. He was a very popular judge based on annual rankings in the Law Journal. And I remember telling him that it must be nice to get a high ranking every year. He responded by telling me that you are only as good as your last day. And this is so true in life. You should never look back on your accomplishments and bask in it. You have to keep doing what you are doing because you really will be judged by what you do last. He was basically telling me that if you screw up on your last day, that's all that people will remember. I think the Adidas commercial summarizes it well - what matters is what we will do today.