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December 11, 2018 Did You Know?

“When I Was a New Lawyer”: Jennifer Kilpatrick

TortSource Interview with TIPS Leader Jennifer Kilpatrick
Jennifer Kilpatrick, then and now.

Jennifer Kilpatrick, then and now.

TS: What inspired you to become a lawyer? And what did you do prior to becoming a lawyer?

Kilpatrick: I was inspired to become a lawyer because I enjoyed reading and writing when I was growing up and I loved public speaking (and still do). Before becoming a lawyer, I was a full-time student. I went straight from college to law school and began practicing law with a law firm in New Orleans immediately after law school graduation.

TS: How did you become involved with the ABA?

Kilpatrick: I became involved with the ABA in 1999 when I was working at my first job out of law school. My boss worked on some cases with Mike Drumke, and I ended up working with him on some of those cases. He encouraged me to get involved, and after I attended my first meeting I was hooked.

TS: What is the benefit of a new lawyer becoming active with the ABA?

Kilpatrick: The ABA offers a wealth of resources and opportunities for new lawyers. Through my involvement with the ABA, I’ve spoken on and moderated CLE panels, published articles in my field, gained leadership experience, developed new clients, and met colleagues and lifelong friends. I’ve even secured two jobs from my ABA contacts!

TS: What early career practices led to your success?

Kilpatrick: When I first started my legal career, I tried to ask as many questions as I could and engaged experienced attorneys in conversation about the issues in our cases. While I did a lot of research and writing and took a lot of depositions, I gained a greater depth of knowledge and fresh perspectives on my cases by discussing the issues with attorneys who had been practicing longer than I had. That also ended up helping me in an unexpected way: once I’d had those discussions, the more experienced lawyers were more interested in working with me because they knew how involved I was in the workup of the cases.

TS: What challenges you the most?

Kilpatrick: The most challenging aspect of the practice of law is that you’re never really done. My litigation practice has kept me on my toes for the past 18 years. Even when a case is resolved, I still think about what went well and how I can improve in the future. And as a single mom, juggling the demands of a law practice with raising my son is a daily challenge, but it’s one I’m happy to meet.

TS: What gives you the most satisfaction:

Kilpatrick: I’m most satisfied when I get to work on challenging cases and can collaborate with other smart lawyers who are willing to use their knowledge, skills, and creativity to get the best results.

Jennifer Kilpatrick’s Advice for New Lawyers:

  • Don’t be so intimidated by experienced lawyers that you’re afraid to ask them questions. They were new lawyers once, too. Asking thoughtful questions can help you build relationships with more experienced members of the bar.
  • Always be prepared, and start preparing earlier than you think you need to. If you have last-minute emergencies arise (whether work or personal), you’ll be glad you already started.
  • Get involved in bar associations, and get to know your colleagues. They can be a wonderful resource for practice-related tips, business referrals, and a boost for your spirits on the tough days.
  • Sometimes the practice of law can be extremely challenging, especially when you’re a new lawyer. Don’t lose faith in yourself. You’re smarter than you think.
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TortSource Interview with TIPS Leader Jennifer Kilpatrick

Jennifer Kilpatrick is of counsel with Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila LLP in Chicago, Illinois, where her practice focuses on toxic tort litigation. She is a member of the TIPS Council, chair of the Women Trial Lawyers Committee, and past chair of the CLE Board and the Toxic Tort and Environmental Law Committee. She may be reached at [email protected].