I believe that lawyers take too much credit when a trial is won and too much responsibility when a trial is lost.
Of course this is our j.o.b. We are in it to win it. Our client’s well being is our number one top absolute priority. And regardless of the reasons why sometimes we cannot convince the judge or jury of our position – it totally bites when we lose.
That said we can only celebrate the wins or grieve the losses for so long. We have to be resilient. This means not ruminating to the point where we cannot give our other cases our full attention.
For trial lawyer survival reasons – I don’t take time off after even the most grueling of trials. It’s not that I don’t care. I care to the depths of my soul. But I have to tuck the elation or grief away. And move forward to the next battle
Illustration by Jay Flynn.
Where the heck have I been. Well, I started writing a book. I write it mainly when on airplanes. Decided I wouldn’t blog until the book was finished. But then changed my mind.
Since the last time I wrote here, we moved our office three miles down the street. We are in the top floor of a 1970s fishing company building that we bought and are in the process of refurbishing.
My partners were only too happy to let me take on the job of working with the designers/architects to fashion our new offices. Not only did I pick out everything from the kitchen sink to the paint colors and flooring. But since we have moved in I have micromanaged the décor to such a degree that I have literally hung every single painting. I have a level, hammer, and tape measurer in my closet. And haven’t created too many extra nail holes. None of my partners were clamoring to do this design work. But instead of feeling put upon or negative in any way, let me tell you – I am absolutely pleased as punch. I totally got my way.
My own office has been spruced up with a giant pop of color. Exhibit A is Nala who happened to get her hair done just before it was time to strike a pose. Hence the pink ribbons that match the pink carpet that match the even more pink chairs. You will gasp with delight when you see how cute this all turned out.
Whenever possible I like to visit with clients and lawyer friends in my office versus a conference room. Have never been a big fan of the “power desk” set up. Where the lawyer sits looking awesome and majestic on one side. The little people on the other. I sit on a ball. Plus there’s Nala. So I created a set up pretty much straight out of Mad Men. Now when we have meetings, we sit ensconced in velvet splendor around the coffee table. Under a black art deco chandelier.
We as lawyers spend so much time at work. There’s no reason we should not make it all as homey and comfortable as possible.
Photo: Nala catching some rare Seattle rays on the pink carpet.
Oh goodie. Oh goodie. Yay. Yippee.
We are up here at the cabin. Am looking out the window in the living room. Watching her carry the little blue kayak down the hill. She is trying to mimic Sol who balances the big kayaks on top of his head. Oops. There it goes over to the left. She hefts it up. Then it slops over again. She looks like a wobbly blue turtle as she makes her way down.
Lays the kayak on the ground. She’s looking at the river which is accessed by going over a steep embankment. Probably factoring me into the equation. Decides to lower the canoe to the river’s edge. Gives it a little push. It slips over the embankment into the river. I hear her shout. The kayak is travelling all by itself. She hops and slides down. Jumps into the river. Splashing. Not sure if she’s swimming or water-running. Grabs it. Makes her way back. Parks it where it should have stayed to begin with. She climbs back up to the cabin. Shorts leaving puddles as she rushes about.
Me, I’m being patient. Finally, she’s changed into a neon pink bikini. Waterproof wallet bag strapped around her waist along with a water bottle. The ice cubes clang each time she takes a step. Safari hat and sunglasses. A real fashion statement. I’m standing there. Thinking. Hurry up. Hurry up.
She straps on my life vest. Yah. I know. Sounds awful. I’m no baby. But actually, I feel quite snazzy in a nautical way. There’s a handle on the top of it so if I can’t figure out how to get back in she can grab and lift me to safety. It is bright orange and clashes hideously with her bathing suit.
We lock the door and head down the hill. I try to roll in something odorous and delicious but she tells me to stop. Reach the water’s edge. She puts the kayak in. Gets in. And so do I. This is the tricky part. It is small. My two front feet go on the prow. But the back feet just can’t get comfortable. So I put them on top of her thighs. Haven’t had a manicure lately but she doesn’t complain. Relieved we’re actually in. And off we go.
She’s decided to paddle up the river and then we will float back. This is so fun. I’m shaking with delight. There are gulls and little birds and baby fish in the water. I don’t know what to look at first.
I try to disregard but there it goes again.
She keeps hitting my behind with her paddle. Tries to push me forward. Tells me to put my feet on the floor instead of her. But I don’t want to. I lurch to the right. The kayak is tipping because I weigh 28 pounds dry. And I’m wet. So she better leave me alone. My hind feet make their way back onto her thighs. And I decide to tolerate the bumps.
A group of four people in different colored kayaks are coming by. They are smiling and pointing at me. They get closer and say they thought I was a little kid until they got closer. She makes pretty with them. I’m focused on a bird and ignore them.
Next up are a couple in two kayaks. The man has a benji dog on his prow who is not wearing a life vest. Which is lame. In my opinion. They wave. She makes pretty with them too. And I act supercilious.
She’s doing a pretty good job of paddling until we get stranded. The water is low from lack of snow melt this year. We are not moving. Stopped on pebbles. She stands up and gets out. I do too. The water feels good. It hits me just below the knees which is not very high. I prance around in it. She starts pulling the kayak. We have a good ways to go. The river has been slow up to this point. Now it’s moving at a good clip. She gets to a part where the water is about a foot deep and tells me to get back in. But I don’t want to.
There’s a bird who is catching baby fish. I am transfixed. Imagining how wonderful it would be if she would let go of the leash. I would then skim over the water to the bird. And then get it. I’m not sure what I would do if I did get it. Since I’ve never gotten one before. And I don’t think she’d be happy with me. But I don’t care. And then she is ruining my day dream. Tugging at me and saying: Nala get in.
By now I’m wrapped around and under the kayak. She has to untangle me. I jump in. But the bird takes off. So I jump out. The kayak goes backwards and gets stuck on the pebbles again.
She tries to push us forward with the paddle but we are too stuck. She tries to push with her arms but that’s a fail. She has to get out again and pull it along. Gets back to the spot she thinks will work. Gets in. I’m still watching the bird and pull her backwards. Predictably she falls out of the kayak into the water.
This whole getting unstuck business goes on for about ten minutes. This is a long time for a human when there are people who have set up camp along the shore on the other side and you are their entertainment. Me, I don’t care. A second bird has now joined the first.
Eventually she gets us out of there. I’m firmly planted on her thighs. We go for a bit longer until we get to another point where she’ll have to get out again to pull us. Instead she decides that’s enough. So we turn around and go back the easy way. Downstream. Back to the cabin.
I try not to chuckle as she drags the kayak back up the hill in that bikini. Run in a perfect loop around her legs. Watching as my leash gets tangled. And almost drops her to her knees.
Photo: Me on my kayak trip on the Wenatchee River.
Pick up mom from Shoreline. It is 58 degrees out and she is in a faux fur black maxi coat with brass buttons. She bought it for $25. Half off at the consignment store. Brand new from Sears.
Take her to late lunch at Din Tai Fung University Village. Hour and a half wait. Meet up with my brother Greg and his wife Laurie. We say forget it. Go to Boom Noodle. Eat lunch. Not as good as Din Tai Fung but quicker. Greg and Laurie take Nala for doggie sitting play date. I drive with mom to the movie theater at The Landing in Renton. My sister Jenny pulls up. Out jump her boys Ben and EJ. We eat popcorn and watch Paddington Bear. Quite delightful.
Movie ends. Jenny retrieves the young ones. Take mom back first to get Nala then back to Shoreline. It is a bit of a haul. She talks nonstop. Her memory has been returning.
MFK: You know when I was in the Bureau of Mines (she was a chemical engineer), I was third in command in case someone had to push “the” button.
MFK: Yep. At one point, everyone got a promotion. I was waiting for mine. I was seven months pregnant with you. Boss said – well, you’ve got me over the barrel. If I give you a promotion (and raise) how do I know you’ll even come back. I said – if you don’t give me a promotion and a raise I will leave right now. I wasn’t going to let him get away with treating me like that. Just because I was a woman and it was 1960. Not to mention the Chinese part. The next day he gave me a promotion and a raise.
K3: Smile. (No response necessary).
MFK: His name was Ken K__ K___. That’s when I decided if he could live with those initials then so could you. (Laughing raucously). Anyway you’re just K cubed.
K3: (Thinking, ah so there was a scientific reason beyond all of this). That’s real nice mom.
MFK: So the next day he gave me the raise. I had you. And then a year later we left for Europe (for your dad’s post-doctoral program in Zurich).
Photo: Mom (Mary Fung Koehler) and I in Switzerland
Motion to permit Skype testimony at trial: newMtoallowSkype
Wake up at 6:45. Laze around. Tonight is Hollyball. Wonder what else is on schedule. Open calendar. “9:00 a.m. hold for Court of Appeals Argument.” Whaaaaaaaaaaa
Text John 7:27 – is there an argument today.
Texts back 7:29. Yes at 9:30 at first & union.
Try not to have a holy cow fit. The word “hold” on a calendar is used when we are not certain of a date so hold it until confirmed. The world hold threw me for a head fake.
Text John 7:34. Send me the files.
He does. I read them. Garth wrote them. I know the issues very well and there’s not much case law. Still… brain must go into warp speed. And does.
7:55 – 8:20 – get ready, feed nala, take her potty, grab some fruit, head out, mentally bounce through issues, calm down.
9:00 – park, look at breakfast options in “fresh” deli part of lobby. Reject pre-packaged muffin idea. Go to convenience store which has lemon luna bar. Wolf it down.
9:15 – ride up escalator to appeals court. Look up case. We’re number one on docket. Go thru security, let them dig through purse, high heeled booties set off buzzer. Get the once over treatment from the guard.
9:30 – say hi to Rory the defense lawyer. COA commissioner enters. We rise and begin.
10:00 – we finish. Have not broken a sweat. Enjoyed the adrenaline. The positive endorphin rush from fighting for clients.
10:30 – back at office. What else is on calendar. Take a peek. Oh great. Another set of meetings double booked. Sign this. Sign that. Draft that. On the phone with 3 computer screens going. Another typical day.
2:30 – leave. Proud of self. Goal was to leave by no later than 3. Push self out of door with a little help from Nala.
2:35 – get home. Take Nala potty. Walk up to front door. Leaves are everywhere from dratted street level neighbor’s maple. She hasn’t raked them pretty much all year. Which means I have to. Can’t help it. Get blower out and blow them back onto her part of the sidewalk. This means they’ll be back on mine later tonight. Still feel temporarily satisfied.
3:00 – throw on work out gear. Do a few more emails.
3:15 – head out door with Nala and run around wind blown neighborhood.
4:30 – back home. Holy heck. Am done two hours before hollyball begins. This is a record.
4:35 – feed nala, move laundry from washer into dryer and start a new load. Turn on Pandora funk 70s-80s channel. Loud.
4:45 – shower.
4:50 – look at clock. Still feels too early. How long can it take to get ready. Dink around.
5:15 – use hair dryer. This device is used perhaps once a month for about a minute just to get things going. Today actually dry most of hair with it. Let’s discuss hair. First of all, there are going to be people at the hollyball who have spent the afternoon at the salon. My hair on the other hand, has a bit more…natural…character. As you may recall, it caught on fire last month. And I used scissors to chopped off roughly 1 to 3 or 4 inches depending upon which side was less burned than the other. In addition, Joy, the only person who has ever colored my hair, moved at least temporarily to be with her sister back east several months ago. This means hair has some silver bits and pieces floating around. Which I suppose adds to the whole holiday sparkle theme.
5:25 – hair is dry.
5:25 – 5:35 – put on some eye makeup.
5:35 – do not have a personal shopper or dresser. Am just a wee bit not a Kardashian. Have an outfit in mind. Hopefully it will work out. This does not involve a designer label like YSL, Gucci or Prada. First, comes the velvet leggings by BCBG. Have had these for three years and wear them rarely. So they’re in good shape. A few months ago bought BCBG tux jacket at super sale. 90% off or something like that. Cost almost as much to dry clean as it did to buy it. To tie everything together, last week went shopping with Cristina for a sparkly top. Tried Nordstrom and other decent stores. But there was nothing quite right. Had aha moment – forget the grown up stores. Let’s go to the teen stores. Forever 21 to be exact. Cristina found sparkly shirt. $12.99. So today, put it on. Its a little big. Quite low in the front. Consider tying straps up more. Looks bunchy so don’t. Put on tux jacket. Sleeves too long. Tailoring would have dwarfed the purchase price. Roll up sleeps in an 80s way. Inspired by the pounding funk. Zip up velvet tassle booties. Vintage prada satin party bag have had for about 20 years.
6:00 – 6:30 – voila. Am done. Take picture. Post on FB. Steven comes to get me. Arrive at four seasons. And hollyball the night away.
Photo: selfie with Nala
Saturday morning. Am going through and dumping old files. The box catches my eye: “Business Junk – Old School Records.” All neatly organized. Typical.
Find a two page writing sample entitled: “Where will I be in ten years. Karen Kathryn Koehler. English 181 Milbauer, May 9, 1979.”
This would have been typed on an IBM Selectric. The three pages of onion skin paper are a bit wrinkled.
The 54 year old me reads what the 19 year old me has to say. Oh the arrogance of youth!
The teacher docked me for poor punctuation. Never mind the run on sentences.
Where will I be in 10 years? It’s a question I hardly ask myself as I am young and still not worried about my future. Yet, when I examine my past upbringing, present living situation, and various expectations of life, I find I can pretty accurately predict what my place in society will be by that time.
My past plays an important role in determining my future. I am the product of a family in which I was the oldest child. Not only did I have my younger siblings to boss around act like a queen to, but I also had a substantial amount of responsibility placed upon me by my parents, which included setting a proper example for the rest of the kids, and often being placed in charge of things, like cleaning up the living room. To my childhood under these circumstances, I attribute my current ability to be authoritative and my general nature of being very self-assured.
Ah, yes, the hardships of cleaning up that living room.
For more insight into the analytical brain of a 19 year old future lawyer (and to see if the predictions came true) here is the full unabridged and uncorrected text:
Photo: Nala helping me to go through a few boxes of old papers.
The house is beautiful and glowing. Am standing with back to fully enclosed gas fireplace. Getting warm. Talking to Steven who is sitting by the chess board.
He jumps up running toward me. Hits at my head.
Turn around to see behind me. Whaaaaaaaat.
My hair has gotten long lately. Down to the middle of my back. Yesterday when we were at Umi Sake House, Alysha told me it was time for a cut.
This evening it is in a pony tail.
Reach up and can feel charcoal pieces here and there mainly near the bottom.
The pretty little tea light candles centered on the fireplace mantel had caught my hair on fire.
Steven says that he saw two flames shooting up about a foot behind me.
Am glad couldn’t see that.
Start to wander around. Go upstairs to look at damage in bathroom mirror. Little pieces flake out and a few clumps collect in the basin.
Text the girls the carnage in the sink. Take another picture to show them hair is still mostly intact.
Yuck. Says Noelle.
I told you you needed a haircut. Says Alysha.
Get the vacuum.
Open the doors even though it is 40 outside.
Can’t get rid of the acrid smell.
Whack at hair with scissors to make sure it is mainly straight across at the bottom.
It could have been much worse.
Photo: Hair after fire – minus about 6″ on the right side.
In 2007, when I was President of WSTLA, I wrote an article called the Value of Dissent.
The focus at that time was AAJ and my perception of its systemic problems in advancing diversity. I was not liked by AAJ leadership for being aggressively outspoken on the issue.
Seven years later, I am now not liked by WSAJ leadership for being aggressively outspoken on the issue of lawyers directly soliciting clients (which I abhor).
Another past president of WSTLA told me: sometimes people have a hard time with a woman who speaks out.” He wasn’t the only person who has shared this thought with me.
Regardless of why organizational leadership particularly dislikes when I speak up, here is an excerpt from the article WSTLA printed when I was at its helm:
The Value of Dissent
How colorless our world would be if we all had the same opinions…
In the forward to A Mathematician’s Apology (Cambridge University Press 1940) Prof. G.H. Hardy says:
It is never worth a first class man’s time to express a majority opinion. By definition, there are plenty of others to do that.
Progress is made, not by comfortably agreeing with the conventional wisdom, but by having the courage to say what no one else is saying and to say it with clearly articulated reasons that motivate people to change their opinions.
Perhaps the greatest value of dissent is “that the sponsoring and protection of dissent generally have progressive implications” for social change because “[d]issent communicates the fears, hopes, and aspirations of the less powerful to those in power.” Dissent, Injustice, and the Meanings of America. Steven H. Shiffrin. (Princeton University Press 1999).
There is a reason why law students are taught to argue both sides of a case. Lively debate is considered a fundamental touchstone to the truth finding process necessary in a democratic society. An organization that shies away from embracing the expression of dissident opinion, no matter how insulting, is an organization that risks being undermined and weakened by its own self satisfaction.
But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error. John Stuart Mill, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1947) at 15. Quoted in Justice Brennan’s opinion in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 270 (1964).
Ron Ward, a true hero for the cause of diversity, sent me this quote: “…..If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder or lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.” FREDRICK DOUGLASS, West Indian Emancipation Celebration at Canandaigua, New York, August 4, 1857.
Photo: When I was President of WSTLA with the board 2007/2008
K: Catherine – I just tried to log into the blog and it won’t let me.
C: I’ll figure it out.
C: Gently prodding: you haven’t written anything for a while, I’ve been checking the stats.
C: So glad you’re going to write again.
K: If I can get into the blog.
A couple more days pass. Glitch is fixed. Still haven’t written. Don’t feel like it. It’s summer in Seattle. Enough said.
Photo: Taken by Cristina Greig on our way back down the Falls River hiking trail in Skamania, WA.
J.R.: Hi Karen, I thought of you when reading the SuperLawyer Top 10. Are you the first woman to do this? CONGRATS!
Go to www.superlawyers.com top list for Washington. Interesting. Appear to be in the top 10. Walk down hall to Catherine’s room.
K: Someone said I made Top 10 superlawyers.
C: I told you that months ago, but you were typing and said – oh nice – and didn’t even pause.
Return to own office. Look up past 11 years of superlawyers’ existence. Two other females have made the top 10. Carolyn Cairnes, an employment lawyer in 20o4. Karen Jones, deputy general counsel for Microsoft, the last time in 2009.
Write back to J.R.:
K: Hi J.R. I didn’t even look at the list until I read your email. I wish more women were listed in the top 100/top 10. At least there’s 1 this year.
And wish it didn’t matter.
Photo: by Noelle Greig of me looking not particularly lawyer-like at Cheekwood Botanical Garden, Nashville TN