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June 01, 2018 Did You Know?

When I Was a New Lawyer: Kathleen Strickland

Kathleen Strickland, then and now.

TortSource interviewed Kathleen Strickland about her legal career path and ABA involvement, and she shared some key points of advice for new lawyers.

What inspired you to become a lawyer?

I felt my education was not complete after college, and because I did not want to become a teacher, flight attendant, or nurse, I pursued law school. I was also interested in medical school—an interest that served me well in the development of my legal career. At that time, there were so few women in law school that it made me wonder if I made the right decision. But I loved being in court, so I decided to pursue this career so I could go to court and try cases.

What did you do prior to becoming a lawyer?

I had summer jobs as a camp counselor with the Girl Scouts, at SeaWorld, and as a law clerk at the Grand Jury Intake Section of the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. I continued that work in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in law school, working at the San Diego U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office where I spent the entire summer in court in an international drug trafficking trial. It was a wonderful experience.

How did you become involved with the ABA?

I joined the ABA/TIPS in 1988 when the first wave of asbestos cases was in the courts and I wanted to get together with other lawyers who were also trying these cases to share experiences and talk about the medicine, the experts, and more. TIPS had the programs. I joined TIPS, and for years actively participated both as a speaker on panels and in planning the annual programs for TIPS’s Toxic Tort and Environmental Law Committee—when that committee first started.

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

You find colleagues from across the country practicing in the same area, and you can locate and exchange information on expert witnesses, sample motions, court rulings on similar issues, and expert witness depositions from prior cases, as well as obtain referrals. You also can make lifelong friends in TIPS.

What early career practices led to your success?

I tried cases as an assistant district attorney in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. In college and law school I had watched jury trials. I was fascinated with trying cases. I worked hard, and tried lots of cases, which amounted to 150 jury trials to verdict before I decided to try my hand at civil practice. I have tried to pass that experience on to younger lawyers. For over 30 years I have taught trial advocacy classes at Hastings, Stanford, and the University of San Francisco Law Schools.

What is your advice for dealing with difficult partners, colleagues or counsel?

Listen to others and work hard. Partners will respect your work ethic, which will garner results. Information is the key to success. The more you know, the more you can share that information with others, difficult colleagues and partners, in a teaching tone, not in any arrogant fashion. They will come to respect your opinions garnered from your hard work.

What is your advice for a new lawyer seeking to acquire, retain, and nurture client relationships?

I would join TIPS and get to know colleagues in the area of your practice and be an active member. Whether you join ABA/TIPS or a local bar association, be active and work. That really is how people get to know you. Keep in touch with college and law school friends, as they may able to be a source of referrals. For clients, be their trusted advisor, available 24/7 without the clock running. And don’t be afraid to try a case. It is fun. Believe in yourself that you can do it. The work will come. And always be true to yourself, trustworthy, and sincere.

What challenges you the most?

Time management. Trying to run the office, work on my cases, work on ABA projects, and still have time for family and friends.

What gives you the most satisfaction?

Teaching (juries about your case and law students about how to try a case), resolving difficult cases as an Early Neutral Evaluator for the federal court, teaching the younger associates in my office the practice of law, watching the new TIPS Cybersecurity and Data Privacy Committee grow and prosper, and babysitting my granddaughter.

Kathleen Strickland’s Advice for New Lawyers:

  • Follow your Passion. This is a career, not a job. Be passionate about representing your clients and your case.
  • Teach your points, whether trying a case or arguing a motion.
  • Cross-Examination: Secure the golden “nuggets” you will use in closing argument to argue about the credibility of your witnesses.
  • Work hard, including researching everything on the issue, to be prepared. Preparation brings confidence.
  • Respect—the law, the court, opposing counsel. Be courteous to court staff.
  • Be Yourself and take a deep breath.
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Kathleen Strickland

Resident director and partner at Ropers, Majeski, Kohn & Bentley PC

Kathleen Strickland is resident director and partner at Ropers, Majeski, Kohn & Bentley PC in San Francisco, California, where she focuses her practice on class action, complex commercial litigation, and mass torts. She is the chair of TIPS’s Cybersecurity and Data Privacy Committee and can be reached at [email protected].