My Story

Gina Ahn

If you are in a rush and just need the Cliff Notes version click here.

My Story

I was never your typical law student, so naturally I never became your typical lawyer either.

Most immigrant Asian parents naturally want their children to live a better life – instead of minding the family dry cleaner 12 hours a day, which is what my parents did.  And, like any good parent does, only two acceptable options were presented – so that either way, the child’s “selection” will demonstrate “sound judgment.”  It’s the career version of:  “Gina, do you want broccoli or spinach?”  And in many immigrant families, the “broccoli / spinach” menu options for future careers were:  well paid professional (doctor, lawyer, engineer) or scholar/professor.

So the below conversation with Dad was a bit unusual.

“Gina, are you going to law school to make a lot of money?” Dad asked me with a stern serious look.

“Noooo, I want to go to learn law so I can help those who can’t help themselves.  Actually, what I really am interested in is how to help my friends doing humanitarian work in North Korea,” I answered.

“Oh.  Well then, that’s okay,” replied Dad with a vaguely affirmative grunt.

I’m rather amazed that the admissions committee at Notre Dame Law School did not reject me for the sheer naive content of my personal essay – which was essentially a longer version of the above conversation with Dad.  I did not know any lawyers in “real life.” My entire concept of lawyers came from fictional accounts: To Kill a Mockingbird, LA law, and Law & Order SVU.

None of my close college friends became lawyers.  English was my parent’s second language and their immigrant friends were not lawyers either.  Though, there were quite a few lawyers who were customers at my parent’s dry cleaners, I did not feel comfortable enough to ask them questions; they seemed rather busy when they came to pick up their pressed shirts.

Fortunately, while studying for the LSAT’s, a friend connected me to an old classmate from Wheaton who went to law school at Notre Dame and was at that time working for the International Red Cross in Geneva, Switzerland.  She inspired me to apply there and wonder of all wonders, Notre Dame accepted me.

I share this story of my naive beginnings, so you can see that my interest in law has from the beginning always been to utilize it in service to those less fortunate.  For the past 7 years (2009 – 2015) I’ve had the privilege to work as a Legal Advisor / Asia Program Officer for a private foundation and developed a practical understanding of how law works cross culturally in the nonprofit context.

Because of this cross cultural experience and having parents that use English as a second language, I’ve always believed that agreements (or contracts) work best when everyone involved clearly understand what promises they are making and what the consequences are if they don’t keep them.  See my approach to law.

Though, I still work as a legal advisor to a few nonprofit clients who are “on the ground” in Asia, my practice in this area is intentionally limited because I want put much energy and focus into developing my expertise to become an excellent advocate for the elderly.

Cliff Notes Version

  • I am a first generation American with immigrant parents and a genuine desire to utilize law as a tool to help others. I have a ‘down to earth’ practical approach to law.
  • Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL; Bachelor of Arts
  • University of Notre Dame Law School, South Bend, IN; JD
    • Kaufman Social Entrepreneur Grant Recipient
    • Asian Language Studies Grant Recipient
    • International Business Deans Award
  • Active Status Member of the California Bar in good standing (# 249703)
  • 2009 – 2015 Legal Advisor and Asia Program Officer for a Private Foundation
  • Currently developing expertise in Elder Law and seeking conservatorships and trust administrations (potentially pro bono for low income clients or at a discount) until 01/30/2020.