A Q&A Session With Hon. Dean S. Lum (Ret.)
Hon. Dean S. Lum (Ret.) joined JAMS after a distinguished 23-year career on the King County (Seattle) Superior Court. As a trial judge, Judge Lum presided over hundreds of civil trials, heard thousands of civil motions and conducted dozens of settlement conferences.
Tell us about your legal career prior to joining JAMS.
From 1983 to 1990, I was a deputy prosecutor for the King County (Seattle) Prosecutor’s Office and tried over 50 felony jury trials. From 1990 to 1998, I handled complex insurance coverage, commercial, products liability and professional liability defense cases for several mid-sized Seattle law firms and was a founding shareholder of what is now one of the largest litigation defense firms in Washington state, Forsberg & Umlauf. In 1998, I was appointed to the King County Superior Court trial bench, where I served for 23 years and presided over a wide variety of civil cases. I also held numerous leadership positions, including assistant presiding judge, chief civil judge and chair of various state and local judicial education committees, and was a faculty member of the National Judicial College. For the past 16 years, I have also been an adjunct professor, teaching trial advocacy at Seattle University School of Law.
Which practice areas are you particularly interested in developing at JAMS?
Insurance coverage. As a lawyer and judge, I have been involved in many of the significant insurance coverage cases in Washington state over the last 30 years. As a lawyer, I had significant experience litigating and settling large, multi-layer excess insurance cases in the pollution context. As a judge, I presided over numerous insurance coverage cases involving groundwater pollution, theft, professional liability, business interruption and professional malpractice.
What are some of the highlights of your career to date, whether in alternative dispute resolution (ADR), litigation or on the bench?
I am particularly proud of my work with the ABA [American Bar Association]—I currently sit on the board of the ABA’s Coalition on Racial & Ethnic Justice and am a former commissioner on the ABA’s Commission on Immigration—and as the founder of King County/Washington state National Adoption Day [NAD] celebration. I presided over my 20th and last NAD celebration this past November.
How has the experience of conducting virtual ADR proceedings or trials been for you?
I was the assistant presiding judge when the pandemic disrupted court operations in March 2020. I helped draft and implement one of the first, if not the first, virtual court operation plans in the nation. Since July 2020, the King County Superior Court has held more virtual jury trials than any other court in the country, and I used Zoom for 100% of my civil cases and 80% of my criminal pretrial hearings from July 2020 to January 2022. Although there was a steep learning curve and they were stressful to implement, virtual civil trials, in some form, are here to stay.
Which of your professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
I was honored to receive the 2003 Trailblazer Award from the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association and the 2019 Judge of the Year Award from the King County Bar Association.
What do you like to do in your free time?
As the son of a restaurant owner, I have been working in restaurants since age 8. My spouse just retired from Alaska Airlines, so it’s fair to say that food and travel are important parts of our lives. On the somewhat negative side, I am a long-suffering bad golfer.
Who is one of your role models and why?
One of my role models was Ruth Woo, a person well known to Washington political insiders but virtually unknown to the general public. She never sought attention for herself but always helped others shine. She was a firm believer that one could accomplish anything if credit was shared. She was the ultimate networker, and she believed that any dispute could be mediated with enough time, patience and conversation. She was a mentor to my mentor, former governor Gary Locke, and advised dozens of Washington state political figures of both parties.
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