Like many younger sisters, Sophia Choi has always looked up to her older sister.
Sophia always wanted to be just like Sylvia, the sister that is about 3 ½ years older. Their bond has remained inseparable even to this day.
“She knew she wanted to be an attorney since she was about five,” Sophia said of Sylvia. As they got older, Sophia wasn’t completely sold on that for herself. What she perceived for her life and career kept changing.
“I thought I wanted to be a doctor, a news anchor, a computer scientist. A lot of different things,” she said with her usual glowing smile.
It wasn’t until late in her college days at UCLA that Sophia ultimately made up her mind. She was going to be an attorney. Just like her sister.
The Choi sisters are veteran prosecutors at the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.
It makes sense that they both would steer the direction of their lives to the law. Their uncle in Korea was a prosecutor and both were around that growing up.
As Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month comes to an end, we’d like for you to learn a bit more about Sophia, her many accomplishments, and what AAPI means to her.
“Asian American Pacific Islander month serves as a reminder to us all that we Asian Americans are an integral part of America, rich in culture and diversity to be celebrated,” Sophia said. “It is not only acknowledging the uniqueness of our culture but embracing and being proud of who we are.
“I am very proud to be Korean American, each part equally relevant and important,” Sophia adds.
Sophia was born in San Francisco. Her family moved to Riverside County when she was just five years old.
She graduated from Notre Dame High in Riverside, where she was her class valedictorian, then went to UCLA before earning her Juris Doctorate from the Southwestern University School of Law SCALE Program.
“I fell in love with Riverside growing up here,” she said. So much so that, after graduating law school she was applying for careers as a new attorney which included opportunities in both Riverside and Los Angeles. The LA jobs could have allowed her to make more money.
“For me, LA was a backup to Riverside,” Sophia said.
“I really do believe it is important to give back to the community where you grew up and live,” she said.
And that happened for Sophia in 2006 when she received and accepted an offer from the County Counsel’s Office in Riverside County, starting as a post-bar law clerk.
Sophia remained at the County Counsel’s Office until February 2020 when she joined her sister at the Riverside County DA’s Office.
Sylvia has been with the DA’s Office since 2007 (after a year at the public defender’s office) and currently is assigned to collaborative courts. Sophia currently is assigned to the DA’s Special Prosecutions Region and is also involved in various in-house counsel matters.
“I always knew I wanted to do something in public service,” Sophia said. “I also always wanted to be a voice for the community, especially the Korean community as they face things like language barriers and other issues.”
Sophia’s stellar work as an attorney – and as a voice for her community – can be seen in her many accolades and achievements.
She was recently the president of the Riverside County Bar Association, inaugural president and a co-founder of the Asian Pacific American Lawyers of the Inland Empire, Leo A. Deegan Inn of Court president, and vice president of the Korean Prosecutors Association, which is a global organization.
Here are some of the accolades she has received: Sophia was a recipient of the Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta Award, the Human Relations Commission Riverside Heroes Award, and the Terry D. Bridges Outstanding Attorney Award.
Most recently, Sophia was recognized by Riverside County DA Mike Hestrin as the 2021 Appellate Prosecutor of the Year.
When introducing Sophia as the recipient of that award, her supervisor, Managing Deputy DA Alan Tate said this about her: “Sophia’s research and written pleadings … are unmatched and of exceptional high quality,” he said. “Her work ethic is unrivaled with routine late nights and weekends handling sensitive projects.”
The District Attorney’s Office is lucky and proud to have Sophia as an important part of the office and the community – including the outstanding work she does for and in support of the Asian American Pacific Islander community.
Bringing it back full circle to these two sisters, when asked what Sylvia thought of her decision to become an attorney and join her at the DA’s Office, Sophia said: “She has always wanted me to succeed more than she does so she was happy that I chose the same career path.”
“She has always been my greatest supporter,” Sophia said.
“She thinks of me as ‘her other her,’” she adds, flashing a smile that no doubt would also make her sister proud.
Learn more about Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month here: https://asianpacificheritage.gov/about/