Yuwoon "David" Choi
As an elementary school student in South Korea, David Choi ’12 watched a documentary film that changed his life. It concerned a Korean-American named Alexander Jeong, whose legal studies were interrupted by a car accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down. The disability did not impede Jeong from pursuing a successful career in law, and now, more than a decade later, Judge Alexander Jeong serves on the Brooklyn Criminal Court.
“The film gave me a positive image of not only the United States, but of the legal profession,” says Choi, who also is physically disabled. “In law, your mind is what gives you power and influence.”
Choi attended an American-run private school in Suwon, South Korea, in part because it was more wheelchair-accessible than Korean schools. Frustrated with the lack of infrastructure for people with disabilities, Choi’s family was planning a move to Australia when his father’s company unexpectedly transferred him to New York City. The family settled in Bergen County, New Jersey, and Choi attended New York University, where he majored in political science and solidified his intention to pursue a career in law.
As he looks toward graduation, Choi describes his work assisting start-ups and nonprofit organizations through the Community Enterprise Clinic, under the direction of Professor Barbara A. Schatz, as among the most rewarding experiences of his time at Columbia Law School. Later this summer, he will join the New York City office Vinson & Elkins, a Houston-based firm specializing in the energy industry. And he cannot wait to get started. “I’ve dealt with big and small obstacles all my life, and overcoming them with a sense of optimism is an expertise for me,” he says. “It’s a big part of why I’m drawn to the law—it’s all about helping clients overcome their obstacles.”