August 12, 2007
There was the time when a Snohomish County judge mistook her for, well, she's not sure. She just knows that he absentmindedly asked her if she belonged in the courtroom during voir dire, the process of selecting a jury.
Karen Koehler had just started conducting the selection.
There were the times when doorbell solicitors assumed she was the help at, not the owner of, her Sammamish Plateau home. Other attorneys, too, occasionally made assumptions about the lawyer who looked younger than her years and seemed too friendly for the fray.
Maybe it was because in court, with jurors, she often smiled big as if she had just passed the bar. Or took her baby daughters to work. Or nursed them there. Or laughed when they played personal injury lawyer, mimicking their divorced mom.
The assumptions, for whatever reason, don't much bother her. She knows an assumption given can be an advantage taken.
Like she needed another one.
Koehler, the newly elected president of the Washington Trial Lawyers Association, and winner of the state's Trial Lawyer of the Year in 2005, already is considered one of the best plaintiffs attorneys in Washington. Called smart, passionate and tough by opponents and colleagues alike, the 47-year-old said she loves the competition in trial.
The better her opponent is, she said, the happier she gets. "I like to go up against people who are challenging," she said.
The next challenger could prove among the toughest: Fickle Washington state voters. Koehler, as head of the trial lawyers group, is leading the charge to pass Referendum 67, a November ballot measure opposed by the insurance industry.