Look into any successful organization and you’re bound to find at least one person who, at some time, put in a huge amount of work, thought creatively and pushed her colleagues to make that organization successful. For a surprisingly large number of organizations in King County, that person is Diana Carey.
“Diana does not let grass grow under her feet,” said Jacquelyn Beatty, Carey’s friend since law school and a fellow Karr Tuttle Campbell shareholder.
“She doesn’t like to see things just sit around and not get done. She finds a way to get things done,” explained Jim Austin, another KTC shareholder who has sat with Carey on boards and committees.
This drive is seen time and time again in her practice and in her professional and community involvement.
During high school, Carey’s father’s job with Boeing caused the family to move frequently. “I went to five high schools in three different states,” she recounted. Foreshadowing her family’s eventual move to Washington, Carey chose her college accordingly. “I took a dart on a map and said, ‘Oh, Whitman College! That sounds good.’”
She followed a nonlinear path to law. “I didn’t have any grand designs of what I wanted to do, and when I got to college I still didn’t know.” She transferred from Whitman to the University of Washington and got her teaching certificate. “It was a very poor fit,” Carey laughed. She visited a career counselor, who advised her to attend library school because of her interest in research.
After getting a masters in library science, she worked at the Seattle Public Library as a science reference librarian before moving to the Boeing libraries, which she headed. Before long, she was promoted to be head of graphics for the Boeing Company. “That was a big responsibility,” she said. When cutbacks came in the recession of the early 1980s and her job was eliminated, Carey faced going back to the libraries. Instead, she returned to the career counselor, which set her down the path to law school.
While considering the possibility of law school, Carey consulted two attorneys she knew. Their advice was not exactly encouraging. “It’s hard to get into law school and once you get in you can’t find a job,” advised the first. The second cautioned, “You know, your age and sex are against you.” Those obstacles didn’t seem so daunting to Carey. She considered her maturity and experience as assets when it came to getting a job. “Plus I was probably a little cocky,” she conceded.
You’ll notice a theme in this profile — not a lot deters Diana Carey. “She is up for any adventure,” said Kate Battuello, another of Carey’s longtime friends. During law school, Carey learned the importance of diligence in moving forward. “It’s putting one foot in front of the other,” she explained, “just figuring out what needs to be done to succeed either in a law school class or on a law school exam … and that carries over to work as well.”
Her library experience indeed proved to be an asset in her clerkship with the U.S. Attorney’s Office during her first summer of law school. “I was there during the WPPSS bribery trial and they asked if I would stay on and do research during the school year,” she recalled.
After law school, Carey joined KTC, which then had seven members on the nameplate. She spent much of her early practice doing corporate law as well as working in bankruptcy alongside the managing partner, Marty Crowder, and Bruce Borrus, head of the bankruptcy department. “In my second year, Marty came to me and said that Bruce was leaving and that I was going to be the new head of the Bankruptcy group. I said, ‘Wow! That’s great! Who’s in my group?’ and he said, ‘You are!’ so that was a bankruptcy group of one.”
It was a perfect match. Carey grew that bankruptcy group of one over the years, and its success can partly be owed to the fact that she was a pioneer in receiverships. By the time the Receivership Act was redrawn in 2004, she was well-versed in the practice. It started with the Foremost Dairies receivership in the early 1990s and the work kept coming in.
“It seemed like an area that was ripe for exploring for the right kind of situations, where a bankruptcy was maybe too expensive,” she explained. “It was kind of the wild west in those days because there was very little law, so you had to educate the judges; you basically would follow what the bankruptcy court might do and use that by analogy.”
Receiverships gave Carey an opportunity to innovate. “You could do a lot of creative things with receiverships because there was little written law. It was only a half-page statute, so you would craft remedies that seemed to make sense for the situation.”
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