- As I was reading his obnoxious email, I felt a PING in my heart. It was the string of our friendship breaking.
- And so I did what any modern American would do. I unfriended him. Instantly on Facebook
- This is the first time, I’ve ever ended a friendship emotionally and then confirmed by the delete key. It is somehow affirming.
Photo: Me and the former friend back when he used to work for my lawfirm.
I have admired (borderline worshipped) Paul over the years for his skill in trial. Several times I’ve gone to watch. What struck me, was the way he so gracefully prowled the courtroom floor. And owned it.
For the past almost 30 years, our state trial lawyer’s annual convention has featured the Luvera Seminar. Paul moderated the program based upon ten minute presentations. If you went over – DING. The timer went off. If you didn’t do a good job – ouch. And even if you did a good job – one never knew how Paul would react. All of this fear, uncertainty, and mastery combined to create a highly anticipated program.
The first time I spoke at the seminar, it was on spoliation of evidence. My focus was not simply to survive the experience. I wanted to impress Paul.
Over the years, Paul has sent me books and quotes or articles he thinks I’ll like. He is always learning and thinking and wanting to grow more.
This year, Paul decided to end his seminar reign. The association invited me to take over the permanently named Luvera Seminar. This is what Paul initially wrote:
“…I was very flattered regarding the name of the program and thrilled you were doing the program at the convention in my place. I told Gerhard (the Executive Director) you had that ability to run the program with observations and advice that people would like. You know that I admire your continuing search to improve your skills, your courage in meeting challenges and your potential for even more greatness as a trial lawyer. I am not one for false praise and you have been on my short list of attorneys from whom I expect great things even with a glass ceiling in this profession.”
Today in the mail was a package from Paul. A vintage yellow Sunbeam quartz timer with a note:
“Hi Karen – Hanna Reisner, the first Executive Director of WSTLA gave me this timer more than 25 years ago to time talks. I pass on this gift which I used at all of the convention Luvera seminars, or if you prefer, for cooking at home!”
Sometimes I need to pinch myself. This is one of those moments.
Photo: Mailing wrapper of Sunbeam timer and Paul N. Luvera’s note.
P.S: Here’s his blog.
We are up at the mountain. John, my then husband, his best friend Dale, and me. Our mission – teach John to ski. He is a basketball player. This means skiing has not been encouraged over the years by his coaches.
After finding gear that actually fits, we mosy on over to the base of the lift. Dale and I are shouting out instructions and words of encouragement.
Predictably, not long into it, John topples over.
I say – just flip your leg over, keep your ski tips pointed slightly up and parrallel and then using your poles just pull yourself up.
I get down on the snow next to him, do the manuever and pop up. See, do it just like that, I say.
Over and over this pattern goes. Dale by now has left the scene (traitor).
John is starting to sweat and finally tells me to go away and leave him alone.
I ski off in a huff. From the lift watch him take his skis off, stand up and put them back on.
As you can see by the picture, I had been skiing pretty much as long as I’d been walking. I was experienced and had good technique. I was not just giving verbal instructions, but got down and demonstrated. Multiple times. And John was extremely athletic. So what was the problem.
Well, for starters on a good day, I was almost 5’4. And John was 6’8.
Among other things, my skiis and poles were two feet shorter.
Here’s the point.
We humans learn through emulation. We identify someone who has a skillset we admire. And then we try to follow their example.
The trial lawyer culture is premised on this learning model.
But at the end of the day, imitation will only get you so far.
Photo: Baby Karen in heart ski suit, no gloves, wooden skis with interesting straps and apparently, snow boots.
Mary Fung Koehler is 80 today. So far, these are the lives that she has led:
- Child number 7 of 11 to immigrant parents
- Worker in the family Chinese restaurants in Chicago during the depression
- 3rd female to graduate from the University of Illinois in chemical engineering
- Employed as a chemical engineer
- Married to Jim and a wife for almost 3 decades
- Mother to Karen, Debbie, Susan, Jennifer and Gregory
- Law student when pregnant with Susan, Jennifer and Gregory
- Practicing lawyer in Lake Forest Park for 2 decades
- Real estate agent
- Predictor of IQ’s – the most famous being that Greg’s dog Izzy’s IQ was higher than that of George W. Bush.
- Dowsing fanatic and believer in all things intuitively magical.
MFK taught us to stand our ground. To fight for what is right. And that women were just as capable as men, if not better (she was and is a bit of a female chauvenist).
Happy Birthday Mom!
Photo: MFK on graduation day from UW Law School in 1968 standing in front of our garage. I was 8, Debbie 7, Susan 3, Jenny 1 and Greg was 7.5 months in utero.
“Hi, I heard from so and so that you would be a good person to talk to about (fill in the blank with something about the pracitce of law). Do you have time to talk to me.”
Regardless if I do or don’t, I never say no. And always do it in person.
Whether it is a 7:30 am breakfast at CJ’s, lunch, or a visit to the office, when young people seek me out personally to ask for advice or input, I believe eyeball to eyeball is the best way to meet.
Over the years I’ve probably done this a hundred times. At least.
It started when I was part of the University of Washington mentor program in the 1990s. It was interesting when they asked, because I was an not an alumni of the law school though I went there as an undergrad. The first person I mentored didn’t even want to be a personal injury lawyer. But she was female and Asian and based upon that we were matched. In retrospect, the forced matching didn’t really work all that well. To truly mentor, there needs to be a connection that’s based on more than demographics.
The mentoring kicked into higher gear after I became a trial lawyer of the year and president of the trial lawyer association. That’s when I invented the early morning breakfast routine. That way I never had to say no. Many people met me at 7:00 or 7:30 at The Shanty for blueberry pancakes with fake butter and sugar syrup.
As many guys as gals seek me out. Most are either in law school or recent graduates. Some are still in college. Some have been out practicing in other fields and want to change directions. There are defense lawyers, those who had taken a break usually to have children and looking to re-enter, children of lawyers who know me, friends of my children, out of towners, and those who have taken classes that I taught at the U of W.
Here are some secret and not so secret tips for being a good mentor.
- The first time you connect, aways meet in person
- Do not spend the whole time talking about yourself or telling stories
- Don’t be a mentor unless it can be about more than you
- Don’t try to match yourself to someone who simply looks and acts like you
- Make sure you have something in common before you meet
- Ask a lot of questions
- Why they wanted to become a lawyer
- What their strengths are
- What their challenges are
- What they are hoping for
- What are they worried about
- Listen to their answers
- Give thoughtful, caring input
- Input doesn’t mean act like a know it all
- Input doesn’t mean tell them what to do
- Sometimes the best input after they answer a question, is to ask another one
- Humor is good
- Let them ask you questions then answer all of them if you can.
- If you are not genuinely interested, then don’t do it
- Don’t wait until you have time. You have to make time.
- Don’t expect to get anything back (but you will)
- Always pay for the meal
- Share your less than perfect self – let them see that you are human
- Do not judge them – your job is to be a sounding board and an encourager
- You already are an inspiration to them. That’s why they sought you out. No need to do any additional puffery.
- Listen to the good, bad, and ugly stories they have to share about things like how they are being treated by their bosses (all of whom you know); then don’t ever repeat them
- Cloak what they say with full confidentiality
- For every bad thing they share; share a bad thing that you’ve gone through and are better for
- Refer cases to them
- Feel free to blur the professional lines by inviting them into your real life
- Introduce them to others who can be friends or professional connections
- Let them talk to your kids
- Let them be mauled by Nala
Photo: Liz, Ada and Olga having breakfast at my house.