Bar Bulletin

Bar Bulletin

Profile / Karen Sutherland: Bar Talk Memories and More!

Profile / Karen Sutherland: Bar Talk Memories and More!

December 2021 Bar Bulletin

By Karen Sutherland

This issue of the Bar Bulletin contains my last Bar Talk column, so the Bar Bulletin editor asked me to share my experiences.

I am not the only person who has ever written Bar Talk (it has been around since September 1982), but I definitely am the longest-tenured Bar Talk columnist. My first Bar Talk column was in August 1993. The articles in The Seattle Times that month provide some insight into what was going on back then: “Dozens of cats vying to be judged Socks Clinton’s look-alike . . ..”1 “Stocks had a chance to do something they haven’t done in nearly 20 months — set records highs in four straight sessions.”2 “The Boeing Co. eliminated 1,129 positions in Washington during August, lowering employment here to 91,386 . . ..”3 “Should reparations be paid to the nations and descendants affected by the African slave trade?”4 1993 is also the year that the Doom computer game, the Jurassic Park movie, and Microsoft Windows NT were released, and it is the year that Apple shipped the first Newton.5 Closer to home, the King County Bar Association commissioned a coffee table book of its history, “From Profanity Hill: King County Bar Association’s Story,” which is still available on the KCBA website.6

“When Bar Talk began, the Bar Bulletin used black and one other color for the front page and the other three pages that were printed on the same page plate (the same sheet of paper). The rest of the paper was just one color — black — unless someone bought an advertisement that had color in it. When our publisher at that time (Rotary Press) moved to a new full color press in 2002, we started using full color photos and color in graphics. To celebrate, the editor changed the masthead and updated the little graphics that ran with some of the columns. For Bar Talk, that meant a full-color photo of my smiling face and a colorful graphic of people sitting on bar stools. At some point the people on the bar stools wandered off and have not been replaced. As far as I know, no one misses them.”7

Unlike some other local publications that have “around town” type columns, Bar Talk does not include photos of people who are mentioned in the column. The decision not to run their photos predates my role as columnist, but I assume it is because there isn’t enough space to run photos of all the lawyers who appear in Bar Talk.8 I put a note about this in one of my columns and gave people fair warning that if they sent me a photo, it might get used for some other purpose like an art project.9 True to my word, a couple of years ago I was inspired by Halloween to use the eyes from some of the photos people sent to me in mixed-media encaustic (wax painting) collages. 

For the first several years that I wrote Bar Talk, most of the news I received arrived by U.S. Mail or by telephone. After I wrote my columns, I would put them onto 5 ¼” floppy disks and deliver them to the editor (a file transfer protocol known as “Nike net”10). Eventually, Al Gore created the Internet11 and then the news for Bar Talk, like pretty much everything else, started arriving via email. 

In addition to letters and emails, I would gather information for Bar Talk from newspapers, LinkedIn, blogs, and websites. Before the pandemic, I would also learn what was going on in the legal community by seeing people in person at Bar Association functions, CLEs, and other events such as the City Club Civic Cocktail programs at the now-closed Palace Ballroom in Belltown, lectures at Folio: the Seattle Athenaeum in the Pike Place Market, community meetings, and events at the Seattle Public Library. 

“Bar Talk used to be longer and included more information about where people went to school, which caused an ongoing debate about the grammatical correctness of the phrase ‘graduated from’ and the use of ‘U-Dub’ to refer to a well-known local university. At some point we decided that our readers probably are not particularly interested in knowing where everybody went to school so most of the information about education is no longer included, which effectively ended the grammar debate.”12 

The part of writing Bar Talk that I enjoyed the most was hearing from people about the milestones in their lives, such as starting new jobs and receiving honors and awards. I have really missed that since March 2020 when most in-person events were cancelled and I no longer had occasion to run into other lawyers in office buildings, coffee shops, and at parties, open houses, and other events. The pandemic has made it much harder to learn what is going on in the legal community. 

Looking forward, as I mentioned in this month’s Bar Talk, I plan to do more with my latest creative endeavor, which is cartooning. It’s fun to set up photo shoots and write dialog and make comic books, and the folks who read them tell me they enjoy them as well. With my newfound spare time, I would also like to get back to some of my other art projects such as collages and encaustic (hot wax) painting, and possibly return to blowing glass too.

In addition to the creative endeavors, I enjoy being the Chair of the Employment and Labor Law Practice Group at Ogden Murphy Wallace, P.L.L.C., where my practice primarily focuses these days on employment and labor law, workplace investigations, and COVID-19. I also plan to continue doing community and pro bono work and to keep writing articles for the Bar Bulletin on employment law or whatever else strikes my fancy.

Please stay in touch — I’d love to hear from most of you even if I am no longer writing about you, especially if you have creative endeavors similar to mine that you’d like to share. And be sure to send your Bar Talk news to the new columnist, Ruth Harper at ruth.a.harper@outlook.com. 

1 Seattle Times, August 5, 1993.

2 Seattle Times, August 21, 1993.

3 Seattle Times, August 27, 1993.

4 Seattle Times, August 29, 1993.

5 https://www.computerhistory.org/timeline/1993/.

6 https://www.kcba.org/About-KCBA/KCBA-Store.

7 This paragraph is from an article I wrote for the September 2017 Bar Bulletin, but I figured it is unlikely anyone would notice or remember it.

8 I borrowed part of this paragraph from the article I wrote for the September 2017 Bar Bulletin too.

9 See the July 2015 Bar Talk column: “If you send Bar Talk a photo, it may end up getting included in an art project, as the Bar Talk columnist enjoys making collages.”

10 https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Nike%20net.

11 “During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country’s economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.” Wikipedia, citing “Transcript: Vice President Gore on CNN’s ‘Late Edition.’” CNN. 1999-03-09. Archived from the original on 17 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-22.

12 This paragraph is also from that article I wrote for the September 2017 Bar Bulletin.

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