Houston trial lawyer John Kim is one of the funniest guys I’ve interviewed for the Face to Face profile the HBJ produces. He was my subject this week, and our conversation went so long and was frankly so interesting, that I wanted to share the parts of our chat that the print edition’s space limitations held out.
Kim, 51, grew up in Lubbock, a place that, despite its reputation as a hub city in the middle of nowhere, is beloved to many folks who’ve lived there. The town was good to Kim, too. And he had a paper route delivering my alma mater, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, when he was a kid.
Kim went from Lubbock to Austin, which was still a small town when he headed to college at The University of Texas. He said the first time he saw skyscrapers was when he came to Houston.
We chatted in his renovated River Oaks office recently, while he chomped on a cigar and shared the secrets of his success.
Where do you do your best thinking?
In a bar. And I mean it. For one thing, I like to drink, and so I’m much more agreeable after a few cocktails. But I like bars because you meet people from all walks of life and so I like to lay out my thoughts or what I’m thinking and if I’m particularly troubled with how to try a case or present a fact or an issue, I find no better place because I do think you get a cross section of people.
The other thing, people want to vent when they’re in bars. You pick up on emotional triggers or emotional issues that may trigger secondary thoughts. I don’t think you can be successful if you don’t emotionally invest in every case. If you can’t and won’t emotionally invest in a case, don’t take it because you’re not doing your client a service. I may take fewer cases but I’m emotionally invested, which means I live with them. That doesn’t mean I don’t have fun, because I certainly have my share of fun. What it does mean is that even when you’re having fun, and not in an overbearing manner, I talk about my cases. They
pop up in conversation. I introduce them into the locker room or the bars, and I get a lot of opinions.
You seem pretty willing to think outside of the box. Where did that come from?
My dad was a physicist. His greatest disappointment in life was when I told him I wanted to be lawyer.
“Why” is my favorite word. I’ve never accepted anything at face value. I’ve always questioned everything.
If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be and why?
Tiger Woods, because I want the real story. Albert Einstein — he was brilliant on so many levels and maybe he could explain to me what my dad was trying to explain to me all those years ago as a physicist. And then, my grandparents, who I never had the opportunity to meet and I’d like to learn more about our family history.
Who would play you
in a movie? Me