Lawyer seminar travel

The story of the cutest worst hotel and a sample product liability complaint


Speak in Sun Valley at Idaho Trial Lawyer Convention in the morning.  Then on a panel in the afternoon. Leave at 3:30.   This means I cannot fly direct to LAX because that plane is gone.  Instead have to fly back to Seattle to then fly to LAX.  Arrive at 10:45 p.m.  Taxi to The Line Hotel.  Arrive at 11:30 p.m.

There’s a reason for the name of this hotel.  There is a line wrapped around it.  Slide through crowd of young people.  Hotel lobby is pitch dark and throbbing with people and music.  I don’t mean the club area to the side of the building.  Or the bar past the front desk.   I mean the actual lobby.  As soon as I walk inside am surround by clubbers.  Which if I hadn’t gotten off an airplane I might have been more pleased with.  But I am a grump.

Wait for front desk to check a woman’s purse so she can dance unencumbered. They give her a bag tag.  My turn finally.  Pretend smile.  Check in process occurs via sign language and reading each other’s lips.  It is too loud to speak.  Go up to 5th floor.  Open door.  Very hip.  Stripped to concrete walls.  Lots of outlets for electronics.  Low slung furniture. Bathroom vanity hits me mid thigh.  Really tall people would have to bend over double to turn on the faucet.   I am 20 years too old for this hotel.  Okay.  Maybe 30. Ceiling to floor window fronts Wilshire Blvd.  The main street.  Look outside.  Can see and hear everyone in the line and every car cruising the strip.   There is also a joint in the road that makes an extra special crunch sound every time a car passes over.

Consider going downstairs to change rooms.  But am too irritated.  The cacophony of sound bounces off the unforgiving gray cell walls.  I look up the white noise station on Pandora.   Waterfall.  No.  Rainforest.  No.  Settle on Springtime showers.   Turn it on via little portable speaker.  It can’t drown anything out.  Pull out  iPhone ear buds.  That doesn’t work.  Pull out running ear buds that fit a little tighter.  That doesn’t work.  Turn up the white noise.  Hello.  Loud white noise is not white noise – it is just noise.   This means that I stay up the entire night.  The party road does tone down around 4 or so in the morning.  But by then I’ve given up.   They are going to get a bad review on Trip Advisor.

Next morning walk from the hotel to Southwestern Law School.  7 blocks away.  It is already 75 degrees.  The school is in a magnificent art deco building.  Take the elevator up.  Am speaking to the National Police Accountability Project.  Spend a delightful three hour morning presenting on voir dire, opening and case themes.  Afterwards one of the attendees asks for a sample complaint.  I write complaints like opening statements.  Filled with details and structured the way that makes the most sense to me.  So here it is.   Complaint FINAL

Photo:  At Southwestern Law School getting ready to speak to NPAP

Lift off for Taos in Sonoma


Steve Gursten:  I’d like you to consider joining the TAOS group.

K3:  What kind of a group is it.

SG:  Plaintiff lawyers who have become friends and share advice.

K3:  Steve thanks for asking.  Honestly, I belong to enough groups.

SG:  This is unlike any group you belong to.  We are small but geographically diverse.  This is a real personal group where we are friends.

K3:  That’s really nice of you Steve, but due  to my schedule I’m not sure if I have time.

A couple months pass.

Diane Gober:   Hi Karen – Steve and I would like to invite you to attend the TAOS meeting in Sonoma this fall.

K3:  Hi Diane and Steve – Um…That is so sweet of you.  But.. I don’t drink wine.

DG/SG:   No problem there is so much else to do there.  You will love this group.  It is wonderful.  We have such great times together.

K3:  Can you share the list with me.

DG/SG:  Sure here it is.

K3:  (Impressed).  I know a lot of people on your list.  What a great group.  I’m not sure about Sonoma.  It looks like everyone is a couple, I don’t drink wine or play golf, or spa, and am a vegetarian.    Maybe I should wait for the next meeting. 

DG:  Oh of course you’ll fit in.  Not everyone is a couple.  You can sightsee and go on hikes.   I always order vegetarian options.

This goes on for a few more weeks.  DG is optimistically indefatigable. 

K3:  Okay Diane and Steve – I’m coming and will bring my daughter.  Thank you so much for inviting me.

DG/SG:  You will have a great time.

Am then bombarded with menus, venues, directions, options,  notices of whose attending, and loving emails of friends greeting friends.  Diane may be the best party planner I’ve ever known.

A few weeks later:

SG:  I found a great way to introduce you to the group.  I’d like you to speak with me on blogging.

K3:  Don’t want to steal your thunder.  This is your time slot  to speak.  Am content to be the newbie, sit back and watch.

SG:  No I insist.  This will be fun.  As a matter of fact – let’s blog about our talk to Taos on blogging.  My blog is (see the Blog section) 

And before we know it here we are.  On our way to TAOS in Sonoma.

Photo:  Cristina and I on a bumpy prop plane bound for Sana Rosa.  She’s typing volunteer lists for the SCIAW Greenlake Walk & Roll Oct 19.   I’m typing this blog.

The Super Duper Convention Attendee


Meet The Super Duper Convention Attendee.  In this case, Mel Orchard at the Wyoming Trial Lawyers Convention in Laramie.

Objective evidence:

  1. Lanyard around neck from convention sponsor
  2. Name tag attached to lanyard
  3. Major series of ribbon badges attached to name tag extending about two feet
  4. Suit and tie – meaning he is a speaker
  5. Type A personality front and center

Photo:  Mel Orchard Wyoming Trial Lawyer, taken by me.

Why do people sue?


Am in Louisville, Kentucky preparing to give a speech at their annual convention.  Two people have randomly greeted me in passing and said “you have a hard act to follow – all the speakers have been great.”   Should have known this would be prophetic.

Do not like to give recycled speeches. Do not like to memorize anything.  Need to FEEL in order for the words to flow well.   Lately have been interested in exploring how to reach jurors regardless of their political or religious leanings.  Accessing shared core human values.  So the topic is a bit obtuse.  Particularly where here, am not teaching how to do something in particular – like give an opening or closing statement.

Cristina has come along on the trip.  She is one of the reasons am so interested in this topic.  Her political beliefs are the opposite of mine. Yet love her to pieces and we rub along just fine.  Ask her what is the number one question you would want to know as a juror.  She answers:  why do people sue.  Why indeed.

This is how the speech starts.  Ask the audience to give non-lawyer/non-legal answers to the question: why do people sue.

Several attorneys valiantly try to answer in regular human being terms.  But can’t.

  • Because our system of justice has determined that …  No. That is legal.
  • To stand up for their rights…No. That is legal
  • It is a legitimate way to obtain revenge and pay back… Better.  But still legal.

The audience looks expectantly at me for the answer.  Surely I have it.  But no.  Don’t give them the answer because this is an obtuse subject.  Plus – don’t know the answer.

Continue through the presentation.  Can feel that the overwhelming response is…uuuh.  Many are likely playing fantasy football on their computers, reading the news and checking email.

The problem is that am not giving “a magic bullet.”  Don’t have a solution that if applied will win all cases.

Travelled across country to give a speech that no one gets.  Blech.

Cristina sits through the speech (and confirms  later that fantasy football was indeed being played).  Ask her if anyone gave the right answer to the question – why do people sue.  She says no.   Ask her what the answer is.  She says:

Because they can.

Photo:  Before the speech (they were too polite to leave in the middle of it).

Going straight

DSCN0922-thumb-300x375-8857Downtown Salt Lake City feels like several different worlds.  To the right and across the street is Temple Square complete with amazing church spires set within the background of a mountain range.  I’ve never seen so many men in suits and ties.

To the right is the old Union Station which is now part of The Gateway.  This is where all the shops are.  A whole lot of ’em.  And a movie theater.  Not quite so buttoned up here.  Don’t feel quite so alien.  Need to kill some time before the movie starts.  So  walk into Salon H20.   Can’t tell you how long it has been since I’ve been a salon.  You’d feel sorry for me.

Actually feel just as out of place in the salon as I do hanging around BYU.  Try not to gape at all the goings on.   Hair gets washed and then it’s on to Natasha from Russia.  She’s been here for 11 years.  Quite the beauty wearing an outfit pretty much like mine.  Sweater tights and a sweater tunic.  Except hers is brown, belted and she’s wearing high heel wedge boots that go over her knees.  Plus she has the type of haircut you see in a mod magazine.

I tell her to trim it straight across.  She doesn’t argue.  It must not be too uneven because it only takes about ten minutes.  She asks if she can blow it out.  Sure.

Curly hair is part of my identity.  People know me by this hair.  When I was in junior high and high school, I tried everything to make it less puffy.  My friend Liz and I wore stockings on our heads at night (a few of my mom’s African American clients revealed that technique).  It didn’t really work but we tried.  I used a Super Max – a hair dryer with a built in comb.  This would make it kind of straightish.  But by the time I reached the bus stop, Seattle drizzle poofed it right back up.  In college it grew down to my waist and the weight of it somehow kept it straighter.  But ever since, frankly, I’ve just let it be.

Natasha spends thirty minutes blowing it out.  I can’t imagine doing this everyday.  It violates my two minute hair rule.  Finally she finishes and voila.  Here it is courtesy of my camera in the bathroom mirror of the hotel.

Lawyer tips: how to avoid boring your seminar audience


(c) 2010 Jay Flynn

Cartoon by Jay Flynn, personal injury attorney, artist, friend.

If you are sitting in the audience, watching yourself give a presentation, would you be inspired and eager to hear more?   Let’s be frank here.

There is a tendency to focus on pleasing ourselves when we give a speech.  Maybe it’s because we need to do everything possible not to show our fear. Or we are trying to look good and smart.  When we focus on self, we channel our energy and efforts away from our audience.  In return, our audience will go to sleep.

Most lawyers who speak at seminars are very well prepared.  It is not a question of whether they know their stuff.  Instead the question is – can they please be better teachers.  More entertaining.  More interesting.  More engaging.

JD Schramm, Director of the Mastery in Communication Initiative at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, suggests that we start by writing down the “heart of our content.  How will we shape it?  What flow makes sense?  What matters most to my audience?  What aspects must be included and what elements are optional if time allows.”

Another strategy is to first figure out the opening line.  The grabber.   Then let the flow unfold in a way that will hold attention.

Do not start off by re-introducing yourself and explaining the background of what you are about to do.  Delve right into your speech.  Start off with a story (but please avoid war stories – these generate the most complaints).  Pose a provocative question.  Use a great visual image.  Begin with something funny.  But beware.  Jokes are often very difficult to pull off unless they come to you second nature.

Here is a list of suggestions to help optimize your presentation:

  • Look at the audience.  Really look and relate to them.
  • Ramp up your personality.
  • Don’t stand at the podium.  Ask for a cordless microphone and prowl the stage
  • If you find yourself speaking in a monotone – snap out of it
  • Don’t speak in a monotone
  • Don’t speak too quickly in attempt to cram everything into your time slot
  • Ask the audience questions and interact with them
  • Don’t fuss around with equipment.  Either know how to use it, find someone else to do it for you, or don’t use it
  • If you have been given a boring topic to speak on – get permission to change it
  • Don’t read aloud case names and legal citations or other extreme details.  Those should be in your paper.
  • To ground the speech, choose a theme.
  • Consider a metaphor or other linguistic construct.  (i.e.  I have a dream…)
  • Don’t try to model yourself after MLK or anyone else.  Be the best version of yourself.
  • Jazz up the order of the speech.  Don’t be overly logical.
  • The audience’s time is precious.  Make every word count.
  • We are conditioned from a young age to make sense of the world through story telling.  So tell a story. (Without beating your drum).
  • Speaking some legalese is fine with a lawyer audience, but it can become toneless and boring.  Use vivid, concrete, emotive language.
  • If possible perform a demonstration.  Choose someone from the audience to assist.  Or do a solo act.  Kinetic, interactive, demonstrations are audience favorites.
  • Use Powerpoint the right way.
  • Do not read your outline or paper
  • Practice makes as perfect as it can be.  There is no substitute for preparation.

Southern Hospitality AAJ Style

After the seminar ends the fun is just begining.  Adam Malone and his wife Barbara have invited us for supper.  We get on a bus and are taking out to his home.  We are greeted with amazing food and Magic Charlie.


AAJ Brain Injury Seminar – The seminar

DSCN0900-thumb-250x451-8524Last time I look at the clock before sleeping, it’s 3:30 am.  That’s actually midnight-ish Seattle time and makes sense.  Best way to avoid jet lag is simply to ignore the clock as much as possible until get home.  Second best way is to mentally minus 3 hours for the next 2 days.  Except for getting up.  Have to get up in time to give speech.  Set wake up for 8:00 am which is 5:00 but who’s keeping track.

Phone rings at 8.  Pick it up and stay in bed til 9 which is 6.

Thrown on black jacket, shirt and knit skirt with a peplum.  Shoes with little flowers. It’s winter but we’re in Atlanta so no stockings hurray.  Hustle down to seminar by 9:30 which is 6:30.  Open door.  Michael Freeman, epidemiologist is in the middle of explaining causation analysis.  Hi Karen he says.  Hi Michael.  Nice to be called out for being late by the professor.

Put stuff down.  Go next door to exhibitor room for breakfast buffet.  Fill bowl with berries – oh so healthy and yummy.  Add muffin for counterbalance.  Come back with food, chew and listen.  Have heard Michael talk about this subject several times.  This proves to be a charm because he makes sense to me today.  I get it!  Well kinda. Enough to know how smart he is.   Fortunately, will be at a seminar he’s doing again in May.  Repetition appears to hold the key.

Do my thing. The audience is in a competition.  We are talking about non-perfect clients and polarizing the case.  Trying to find out who has presented the most difficult plaintiff ever.  There is a clear winner.  A case from the 90s.  Drugs, suicide attempts, convictions, jail…The story is so remarkable you’ll just have to get it from the seminar tape.

Then it’s lunchtime!  Which means am having second breakfast because it is 12 minus 3 which is 9.  Walk with Stewart Casper, Adam Malone down the street to a sports bar.  Black bean veggie burger delicious.  Meeting people and getting to know them over a meal is the best thing about going to seminars.

AAJ Brain Injury Seminar – The Taxi Driver

DSCN0894-thumb-300x391-8517Get off the plane in Atlanta at 9:00 pm.  We are at gate E1.  Follow the sign that says Ground Transportation.  And follow it and follow it. E1 is the far end of E.   Down the hall Up the escalator.  Down the hall. Finally get to D.   Down the escalator.   Down the hall.  Up the escalator.  Hey wait a minute.  Realize should have gotten on the train.  E is at one end – ground transportation at the total opposite.  Get on crammed train.  C, B, A, T then destination.  Good thing got on the train.  Get off train.  Walk outside to the taxi stand.

Stand at my assigned spot number 4.  The guy behind takes my cab.  Taxi official woman hails the next cab.  Driver takes my bag and puts in the trunk.  I get in.  He closes van door.  Gets in the car.  Says two words to me:  good evening.  Greet him back.  That’s it.  No more words.

Sit back and look out the windw.  The music comes on softly.  Country music.  Oh well, at least it is soft.  It doesn’t really bother me.  Eventually start looking around in the cab.   The driver is African American.   He’s sitting on one of those beaded seat covers.  I can see it looping over his headrest.   On his rear window mirror hangs a large wooden cross with Jesus.  And earbuds.  There’s a blue and white bumper sticker on his consul that says:  Muslim and American.  Sitting on the top of the passenger side dashboard is a white porcelain figurine.  You are probably wondering about the theme here.  Cross.  Muslim.  Well, this little statue perfectly completes  the tableau.  It is a girl with cascading golden locks and angel wings sitting demurely on the back of a  unicorn.

We get off the freeway and are sitting at a stoplight.  He rolls down his window as we begin passing through.  He’s reaching out the window.  A man walks up.  The driver hands him a couple dollars and the man thanks him.  I smile in wonder at the gentleman who is driving this taxi.  My mouth stays curved upwards until we reach the hotel.  Sign his slip.  And say goodbye.


Check out a recent interview by Super Lawyers about my blog. Yes, I'm a lawyer. But I'm also a human being. I have a doggie named Nala, three daughters, eat brown sugar cinnamon pop tarts for breakfast, and wear jeans as often as possible when not in court.
Favorite Quotations

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
— Nelson Mandela

Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you've to say, and say it hot.
— D. H. Lawrence

Why slap them on the wrist with a feather when you can belt them over the head with a sledgehammer.
— Katharine Hepburn

Truth, when not sought after, rarely comes to light.
— Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Hold fast to dreams For if dreams die Life is a broken-winged bird That cannot fly.
— Langston Hughes

There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart.
— Jane Austen

Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality. — Edgar Allan Poe

If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything, wouldn't you, at any time? And you would achieve nothing! — Margaret Thatcher

Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.
— Dr. Suess

Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.
— Abraham Lincoln

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. — Desmond Tutu

True eloquence consists in saying all that is required and only what is required. — La Rochefoucauld

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. — Aesop

The thing you fear most has no power. Your fear of it is what has the power. Facing the truth really will set you free. — Oprah Winfrey

If you're not failing every now and again, it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative. — Woody Allen

The soul never thinks without a picture. — Aristotle

To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man. — William Shakespeare

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. — Muhammad Ali

Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change. — Stephen Hawking

It is better to have less thunder in the mouth and more lightning in the hand. — Apache proverb

People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they're not on your road doesn't mean they've gotten lost. — Dalai Lama

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
— Anne Frank

Learn to laugh; it is a discipline to be mastered. Let go of the everlasting burden of always needing to sound profound. — Richard J. Foster

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. — Albert Einstein

Believe, when you are most unhappy, that there is something for you to do in the world. So long as you can sweeten another’s pain, life is not in vain. — Helen Keller

Remember that lost time does not return. — Thomas á Kempis

If thou faint in the day of adversity thy strength is small. — Proverbs 24:10

Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense. — Gertrude Stein

It is harder to crack a prejudice than an atom. — Albert Einstein

The right of trial by jury shall be preserved. — 7th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

I'd rather die on my feet than live on my knees. — Ludacris

And the trouble is, if you don't risk anything, you risk even more.
— Erica Jong

Words are chameleons, which reflect the color of their environment. — Judge Learned Hand

You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefullness, But still, like air, I'll rise. — Maya Angelou

The moment that justice must be paid for by the victim of injustice it becomes itself injustice. — Benjamin Tucker

He who keeps his eye on results cannot give himself wholeheartedly to his task, however simple or complex that task may be. — Howard Thurman

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. — Mahatma Ghandi

Life is painting a picture, not doing a sum. — Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr

The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it emotionally. — Flannery O'Connor

We must adjust to changing times and still hold to unchanging principles. — Jimmy Carter

To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul. — Simone Weil

It is not the level of prosperity that makes for happiness but the kinship of heart to heart and the way we look at the world. — Alexander Solzhenitsyn

It is high time that the ideal of success should be replaced by the ideal of service. — Albert Einstein

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference. — Elie Wiesel

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody. — Bill Cosby

The time is always right to do what is right. — Martin Luther King Jr.

I had rather attempt something great and fail, than to attempt nothing at all and succeed. — Robert Schuller

It is very easy to break down something. You can take a stone and throw it through that window; that is easy. Try fixing it, and that takes longer. It takes longer to help someone who has been broken. That’s the work you’re doing. — Desmond Tutu

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. — Annie Dillard

Mine honor is my life; both grow in one; Take honor from me, and my life is done. — William Shakespeare

To straighten the crooked you must first do a harder thing – straighten yourself. — Buddha

A thought is an idea in transit. — Pythagoras

Fall seven times, stand up eight. — Old Japanese proverb

No generalization is wholly true, not even this one. — Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Of what use is eloquence? He who engages in fluency of words to control men often finds himself hated by them. — Confucius

There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. — Martha Graham