Attorney Harry Budisidharta makes community service and helping refugees his priority
By Annie Guo, Asian Avenue magazine
“I get to make a difference in people’s lives,” says Harry Budisidharta, 29, attorney and partner at The Denver Firm. This is what he says is the best part of being a lawyer.
“Nobody is ever happy to see a lawyer, but I get to help people at their lowest point. My job is very stressful, but it forces me to be creative and to multi-task.”
Born in Indonesia, Budisidharta moved to the U.S. when he was 12 years old. Shortly after he left Indonesia, the country was hit by the Asian financial crisis in 1997. The economic meltdown led to increased political tension with riots and violence toward the Chinese-Indonesian community. “It was a very scary time for me and my family,” he says. “My parents sent me here to get a better education and to avoid the political instability in Indonesia.”
At the age of 14, he took an intelligence test and scored high enough to enroll in college full-time. Thus, he never attended high school. Budisidharta obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from California State University, Los Angeles. He then moved to Colorado and attended the University of Colorado Law School to obtain his Juris Doctor.
“Both of my parents are dentists. My older brother still lives in Indonesia and he is currently studying to become a dentist. I miss them a lot, but I am grateful for the sacrifice that they made to send me here.”
Growing up, he had wanted to follow in his parents’ footsteps. He initially pursued pre-med but realized how much he hated biology and chemistry. He says, “I changed my major to political science because I had a great political science professor that inspired me to become a lawyer.”
Budisidharta has now been a partner at The Denver Firm for approximately five years. The firm handles cases of criminal defense, personal injury, civil litigation, and corporate law.
Not only is Budisidharta a young attorney, he is a young attorney who has received numerous awards. Particularly in 2012, he received three significant accolades.
- 2012 Mayor’s Diversity Award for his community service and advocacy work on behalf of the refugee community
- 2012 Young Lawyer of the Year Award from Arapahoe County Bar Association
- 2012 Governor Ralph Carr Service Award from the Asian Pacific American Bar Association as recognition for his commitment to community service
“I am particularly proud of the 2012 Mayor’s Diversity Award because I am passionate about helping out the refugee population,” he says. While this was a great accomplishment for him, he is also proud to have finished the Rock and Roll Marathon in 2011, which he trained hard for.
If he wasn’t a lawyer, Budisidharta says he would be a community organizer for a local non-profit organization. “I love organizing workshops and forums to educate people about issues that affect their lives,” he says. “I like building coalitions and working together toward a common purpose.”
In this spirit, he is very involved in the community. Budisidharta is the chair of the professional development committee for the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, in which he is in charge of organizing seminars and workshops to train members about the latest developments in criminal law.
He is the president of the Mile High Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, and is on the board of Asian Pacific Development Center, Asian Pacific American Bar Association, Arapahoe County Bar Association, and Aurora Symphony Orchestra.
“I am so busy with my community service that I often joke that I get to be a lawyer in my spare time,” he says.
Lucky for Budisidharta he is able to combine his passion to help the community with his ‘real job’.
“There is a desperate need for legal representation within our community,” he says. “We have a large refugee population that are often preyed by criminals, employers, and slumlords. The refugees can’t afford to hire an attorney and that is when I step in to help them.”
While he is not a refugee, Budisidharta knows what it’s like to grow up in a foreign land. “You feel alone and helpless.”
“I want the refugees to know that they are not alone and that there are people that will help them navigate through this strange and wondrous land of opportunity,” says Budisidharta. This is where he steps in to help.