June 2012 Bar Bulletin
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Profile / Karen Koehler

'The Velvet Hammer'

By Paul Stritmatter and Catherine Fleming


"The Velvet Hammer" is a perfect moniker for Karen Koehler. Her disarmingly soft touch belies her tough-as-nails representation of wrongful death and catastrophically injured clients.

While raising three daughters (Cristina, Alysha and Noelle), Karen has managed to raise the bar as one of Washington's top trial lawyers. Her Oprah-style trial approach has earned her the recognition of her peers as a Trial Lawyer of the Year by the Washington State Association for Justice (WSAJ).

Most recently, her 1½-year-old blog (KarenKoehlerBlog.com) catapulted to the top of the charts as the American Bar Association's No. 1 Trial Practice blog.

Karen is as technical as she is creative. Her logical German father is a retired UW professor of biological structure. Her intuitive Chinese mother is a retired general practice lawyer. They taught her to be proud of her mixed race and that it wasn't necessary to fit within a stereotype. As a result, Karen takes delight in challenging trial lawyer "norms."

"You can be serious and do a good job without having to take yourself too seriously," she says. She is on a personal quest to show the general public that "lawyers are real people too." This is what makes her blog so appealing to a large cross section of society.

"We lawyers are our own worst PR enemies," Karen says. "Look at the awful ads on everything from television to taxi cabs. The Internet is clogged with lawyer garbage. Our best hope is to stop adding to the caricature and humanize ourselves."

Karen obliges through her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, P'interest, and any other new social network device that her daughters learn and tell her about. She has changed the way the law firm of Stritmatter Kessler Whelan Coluccio (SKWC) portrays itself - from the ads she conceptualizes to the booklets she shepherds through completion.

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