Dana K. Lee
Social Security Disability
When Dana K. Lee was a third-year student at Washington and Lee University School of Law in 2009 and 2010, she became convinced that representing injured workers was what she most wanted to do as an attorney.
She was accepted into the school’s acclaimed Black Lung Clinic, which assists disabled coal miners and their survivors who are seeking federal benefits, and spent her entire third year there. She worked on briefs for cases against Big Coal, interviewed witnesses, and spent time with injured workers and their families. When the year was done and she got her J.D., she had a good sense of the kind of legal work she wanted to do.
To hone her courtroom skills, Lee spent the next year at the George Washington University Law School, where she earned a master’s degree in litigation and dispute resolution. After graduation, she worked briefly in a general-practice law firm in Virginia before joining a public defender’s office, where she remained for two years before moving to North Carolina with her husband in 2014. She wanted a job where she would have extensive client contact. When Hardison & Cochran offered her a job on their Social Security Disability Team, she saw it as a perfect fit.
“At the end of the day, I’m always helping people, and that’s what I enjoy most about my work,” she says.
In working with clients, Lee considers it extremely important to be very thorough at the start of the process to gain as much information from a client as possible. “I like taking the time to know about their situation, find out what’s going on and get a general idea about their story,” she says.
It’s also important, Lee says, to be willing to learn new things all the time. “In Social Security Disability, a lot of it is about medical records. Every new case will have some sort of new medical condition that you’ll come across for the first time, and you have to read up on it and learn about it. And you also need to have compassion for your client, because if you didn’t, I don’t think you’d be able to do this job.”
A native of South Korea, Lee spent several years in the Washington, DC area with her family when she was in elementary school. Her family moved back to South Korea, where she received a B.A. degree in English literature and linguistics in 2007. She then returned to the U.S. to pursue a legal career.
In her spare time, Lee enjoys reading and taking walks. She’s also very active in the Triangle Korean School in Raleigh, where she teaches the Korean language and Korean culture to adults. “It’s a lot of work,” she says, “but it’s something I do enjoy.”