Monthly Feature: Get to Know... Rebecca K. Kimura
September 1, 2022
It borders on cliché. The rebellious youngest daughter of a reserved Presbyterian minister, prone to argument and debate and righting perceived wrongs, grows up to become an attorney.
“I thought everything was unjust and unfair and I argued a lot,” Rebecca Kimura says. “Everyone said, ‘Be a lawyer.’”
But what seemed obvious to the adults took Rebecca a bit more time to discover on her own. A native of South Korea who moved to the United States at age 3, Rebecca grew up in the Buffalo suburb of Amherst, where many of the Korean Americans in her father’s congregation were doctors. So, when she headed off to New York City to study at Barnard College, Columbia University, she enrolled in premed courses.
“I thought that was what my path would be,” she says.
At least until a classmate at Columbia described his exciting internship at a Wall Street investment bank. Soon she fell under the spell of a romanticized notion of the whirlwind financial sector – and switched majors to economics.
“I was completely dazzled by the finance world,” she says. “It opened my eyes to other possibilities, paths, professions.”
She landed her own internship at Drexel Burnham – a few years before infamous trader and junk bond king Michael Milken was convicted of securities fraud and drove the investment firm into bankruptcy. But even before the floor dropped out at Drexel, Rebecca knew she wanted away from Wall Street and its wolves.
“Sexist egos, driven psychopaths, I hated everyone there,” she recalls.
It was time to take stock again, and Rebecca decided to apply to Cornell Law School.
“I had the privilege of studying under some of the most renowned professors in the field at Cornell,” she says. “It was there I truly fell in love with the law and its application.”
Out of school, she got a job with the ACLU Children’s Rights Project in New York City. She focused on high-impact class action litigation with the goal of reforming the child welfare system.
“I wanted to change the world,” she says. “There are so many kids languishing in foster care, so that was very rewarding work.”
After several years, she moved to the San Francisco Bay area to start a family of her own. She and her now ex-husband had “four amazing children” – all girls. Three of them now are in college and one recently graduated.
After she became a single mother, Rebecca switched to the private sector and worked at a minority-owned employment litigation boutique firm in San Francisco for nearly a decade.
“It was an invaluable experience. I learned everything I know from my mentors there,” she says.
Four years ago, Rebecca decided it was time to come home. She returned to New York and began working for labor and employment firm Putney, Twombly, Hall & Hirson until it combined last year with Bond.
Her daughters still think of California as home. Two are still there: one a recent graduate of University of California at Berkeley and the other a student at UC Santa Barbara. A third is studying in Vancouver at the University of British Columbia, and the fourth is at Purdue University.
It was all a “long circular journey” leading Rebecca to the type of law she feels she was meant to practice.
“I love the human element of employment law,” she says. “There’s a human story behind every case. You can actually help clients, either by counseling them on prevention or helping them minimize the consequences of bad choices. I like getting to the truth of the matter, investigating, the tactical aspect to it all. I also like that it’s winnable. I’m not one of those attorneys who loves the spotlight, who wants to perform for an audience. I just like to win.”
Did we mention Rebecca’s competitive streak?
“I am a diehard gamer,” she says. “My kids and I are vicious. We play to win. There’s no ‘everyone’s a winner’ in my house. We have weekly baking competitions. It’s fierce.”