Beong-Soo Kim returns to USC as new general counsel

Kim, an attorney with more than 20 years of experience in the private and public sectors, will become USC senior vice president and general counsel in July.

Beong-Soo Kim new USC general counsel
Beong-Soo Kim is responsible for overseeing all major litigation and investigations at Kaiser Permanente, as well as the health plan and payor operations legal team. (Photo courtesy of Beong-Soo Kim)

Beong-Soo Kim, a leading attorney with over two decades of experience in the private and public sectors, including the better part of a decade at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in L.A., has been named senior vice president and general counsel of USC, President Carol L. Folt announced Tuesday.

Kim led the nation’s largest federal white-collar prosecution section before moving to Kaiser Permanente, where he’s spent nearly six years. As vice president in the national legal department, he is responsible for overseeing all major litigation and investigations, as well as the health plan and payor operations legal team. Kim will join USC on July 1.

“Beong’s diverse and high-level legal expertise, mission-driven approach to taking on challenges and commitment to public service made him our clear first choice,” Folt said. “He will be an important addition to the USC leadership team and an asset to our entire university community.”

New general counsel has rich legal background, including teaching at USC Gould

Kim, whose father attended graduate school at USC, was born and raised in Woodland Hills and grew up watching Trojan football games. In high school, Kim furthered one of his lifelong passions and studied the cello with the late Eleanore Schoenfeld, a legendary professor at the USC Thornton School of Music. Though he moved to the east coast to attend college, Kim said his life story exemplifies USC’s broad impact on residents of Southern California.

“It is a privilege to join this remarkable institution, which touches the lives of so many people throughout Southern California and the world,” Kim said. “USC’s mission has never been more vital and relevant, and I am tremendously excited about working with President Folt and other stakeholders to move that mission forward.”

After graduating magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in social studies, he went on to earn his master’s in political theory at the London School of Economics as a Rotary Foundation Scholar the next year. He returned to the U.S. to work for the New York City mayor’s office for a short time before realizing that his true path was law school. He graduated cum laude with his JD from Harvard Law School in 1999 and completed a clerkship at the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York. Kim returned to Harvard as a teaching fellow before heading back to California in 2001 to join Munger, Tolles & Olson as a litigation associate.

Two and a half years later he joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in L.A., where he eventually became chief of the major frauds section, criminal division. There, he supervised 36 prosecutors and directed the investigations of complex criminal matters including health care fraud, securities and investor fraud, government fraud, theft of intellectual property and embezzlement.

“When you lead a large group of lawyers, you learn the importance of listening,” Kim said. “It’s important to have a clear vision but it’s also important to listen to people, and that’s what really promotes better decision-making.”

In 2007, during his time at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Kim also taught at USC, designing and co-teaching a weekly seminar on “Sentencing Law, Policy and Practice” at the USC Gould School of Law.

Kim left the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2012 to become a partner at Jones Day in L.A., where he expanded his skill set to include crisis management, internal investigations and high-profile complex litigation. Two and a half years later he moved to Kaiser, where he said despite the enormity and complexity of the organization, he was able to navigate his role due to Kaiser’s unifying mission. This became particularly crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That’s such an important lesson for any complex organization, that if you can mobilize resources around one common shared vision, you’re going to be able to respond so much more effectively,” Kim said.

Beong-Soo Kim connects with community during uncertain times

Kim’s positivity and calmness during the pandemic didn’t only show up in his professional life. The accomplished, lifelong cellist has started making a name for himself around his Pasadena neighborhood for his “porch concerts” that he began around the same time as the safer-at-home orders. One Saturday morning he brought his cello outside onto his porch to practice, and before he knew it, neighbors started listening from their homes, lawns and the sidewalks.

“There was just so much anxiety and fear in the air,” Kim said. “I really wasn’t expecting anyone to even take notice, but I thought as long as someone was walking by, music is a way of just reaching out and making a connection.”

The endeavor soon turned into a family activity, with his wife joining on piano, his 13-year-old daughter on the violin and his 8-year-old son — though also a pianist — acting as sort of the band manager and videographer.

“He’s mostly behind the scenes turning pages for my wife,” Kim said with a laugh.

During the pandemic, Kim has found a way to help connect his neighborhood and his family — and that’s what he said he plans to do with everyone he works with at USC.

“In my experience, great in-house lawyers don’t just provide advice and then walk away,” Kim said. “It takes a village to build a robust legal and compliance culture, and that’s why one of the most important things I’ll be doing is getting out during the pandemic and connecting with all the key stakeholders and constituencies at the university.”

USC’s Office of the General Counsel is responsible for addressing legal issues arising out of the activities of the university, Keck Medicine of USC and other USC-owned entities. The office consists of in-house attorneys, including several specializing in health law, and support staff partnering with outside law firms.

By Grayson Schmidt

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