In celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, WSHC+B partner, Alen Hsu, and summer law clerk, Kayla Wong, interviewed Florida’s first Korean American circuit court judge in the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court, Denise Kim Beamer on Friday, May 28 via Zoom.
The interview highlighted Judge Beamer’s experience as an Asian American in the legal industry, her advice for Asian American aspiring lawyers, and how her culture shaped her into the person she is today.
Born and raised in West Palm Beach, Judge Beamer had a strong work ethic since childhood. Her family immigrated from South Korea and owned a dry-cleaning business in West Palm Beach where they worked 60-70 hours a week. Judge Beamer graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s in Business Administration and soon after taught English in Korea. Later, she attended Barry University – Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law and began her work experience as a Prosecutor in Miami-Dade County in addition to the Office of the Attorneys General Office in Orlando. In 2019, Judge Beamer was appointed by Governor Rick Scott.
In the virtual interview with Alen and Kayla, Judge Beamer spoke about how her Asian American identity influenced her, gave advice to aspiring lawyers and talked about what she believes legal professionals can do to speak out against Asian hate crime.
Q: What drew you to the legal profession?
A: As a lawyer, I acted as my parents’ advocate when they got sued occasionally by customers. Advocating and extending my career in public service felt like the perfect fit for me and motivated me to continue to represent people who needed assistance. As a young Asian, I did not think being a judge was possible, at first. I wanted to be a role model for my own kids and show them that they can do anything they set their minds to – ultimately, they have to give it a shot.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about being a judge?
A: I am fortunate to serve the people and the community. Serving others is what I think I was put on Earth to do. It’s my calling and has been instilled in me since childhood. Also, I handle the civil division where I am constantly learning and growing. Overall, the areas of civil practice are diverse. I write a lot and enjoy it.
Q: How did your Asian American identity influence you?
A: I was raised with a strong work ethic as my parents would work 60-70 hours a week doing hard physical labor. I grew up with different perspectives, especially humility. Humility was learned early on by my parents. My father valued humility, and this continues to influence me in daily life and with raising my children.
Q: In this current moment – what else can legal professionals do to speak out against Asian hate crime?
A: The issue Asian Americans are dealing with makes me so sad. In terms of our communities, it’s important to connect with people who are different from us, making sure to be visible and present. We all go through the same things and finding that commonality rather than what separates us is crucial.
Q: In regard to the legal industry, do you have any advice for aspiring lawyers?
A: Mentoring is a big one – I seek mentors who tell me the truth, and those that later become friends. I tell others to find people that are going to be honest with you, that have a different perspective, and have your best interest at heart. Networking helps as well and finding opportunities that you really enjoy. Alen Hsu, a partner at WSHC+B, and I met organically in a courtroom, but we always kept in touch. Maintaining those relationships is important – taking the initiative, reaching out, and looking for opportunities.
Q: What do you think is the biggest issue Asian Americans are facing in the field today?
A: Florida is different from New York and California. Florida is unique in that there is a very low Asian American population (I believe 3% of Florida’s population is comprised of Asian American). Trying to get people to engage and network especially in our busy lives is hard, but we have to take responsibility for these relationships – keep asking and try to include others.
Q: What can professionals do to increase the presence of Asian Americans?
A: It’s all about inclusion like including other Asian American attorneys in different opportunities. Pro-bono cases or even just events, barbecues, and everyday traditional life events make a difference.
Q: Who inspires you the most?
My parents. They immigrated to the United States, and I think, could I start a business where I don’t know the language spoken in that country, the culture, and raise kids at the same time? I don’t know. Am I that brave? I don’t know. My parents always taught me that if you work really hard and make those connections, keep a positive attitude, and keep trying then it will all work out. Growing and saying yes, while not thinking of the end result, but building relationships organically is important. This is exactly what I did.
Q: Having been a young active attorney, how did you get this active? Did someone help you?
A: I was always showing up and just started talking to people. I would volunteer and then be invited to different things. We lift each other up when one succeeds.
Q: Do you recommend aspiring lawyers to be as active as possible?
A: Yes, but it’s hard. Bar associations can feel cliquey sometimes, but you have to try. I suggest going with a friend, slowly getting to know more people. Ultimately bar associations become a great source for friendships.