Kate Battuello, KCBA’s incoming president for 2016–17, personifies that person “who is very successful in many different types of activity.” She has held almost every imaginable legal position, from legal aid advocate, partner in a major firm, running her own firm, legal scholar and law school teacher, to assistant attorney general, and, since last October, director of external business relations at UW’s School of Medicine.
Throughout these many career twists, Kate’s buoyant personality coupled with an innate ability to build consensus have served her clients well. Her friend and colleague Steve Ellis says she has the “litigator’s ability to summarize discussions at a table and to keep them moving forward in a positive manner.” She excels at defusing tense situations. Ellis noted that her hallmark smile never wavers, even when things are not always going well. He concluded: “Kate is a consummate professional.”
Kate’s path to the presidency includes her nine years of service on the King County Bar Foundation, including the presidency, making her well-grounded in the work of the bar, including the Foundation’s twin pillars of diversity and pro bono programs. That was a path shared by Steve Rovig, who after service on the Foundation became KCBA’s president in 2014–15.
Rovig saw Kate’s leadership skills firsthand, noting in particular her co-chairing (with new KCBA Second Vice President Harry Schneider), the Foundation’s 125th Anniversary Endowment Campaign. Rovig said he was “awestruck” at the way the leadership team made the endowment soar.
Although the endowment was established decades ago, it had languished for years. Bringing together a strong team, with Kate and Harry’s efforts (part cheerleader/cajoler, part organizer), they soon exceeded the $1-million goal. “The bar is the richer for it,” Rovig wryly noted, adding, “The endowment campaign was a textbook exercise that shows what kind of a strategic thinker Kate is.”
Fellow Foundation member Colleen Kinerk echoes Rovig’s praise for Kate’s work on the Foundation, stating that not only was Kate usually the first to raise her hand for a difficult or less glamorous task, but “she always brought out the best in other people.”
Rovig goes on to note Kate’s continued contributions after joining Rovig’s executive team as second vice president. He came to value her thoughtful, practical advice and her guidance to him personally. One area of particular note was Kate’s leadership of a newly rebooted Amicus Committee. The first request came from the bar’s pro bono program on a landlord-tenant case. They quickly put together an amicus brief that was filed with Division I. Rovig proudly reports that KCBA’s position was in line with the Court’s ultimate decision, which cited KCBA’s amicus brief with favor.
KCBA had made a real and meaningful impact on a key legal issue for tenants. Shortly thereafter, a second amicus brief was filed in another housing case. As outgoing KCBA President Kim Tran noted recently in recapping the accomplishments of last year, “The two briefs filed in the two years since the relaunching of the Amicus Committee matches the number of amicus briefs filed in the prior 20-year period.”
Kate reports that she is excited to continue Tran’s work on creating the Juvenile Justice Reform Task Force, which will be launched this fall. The Task Force’s important work is to look at legal barriers that contribute to racial disproportionality in the juvenile justice system and hopefully come up with recommendations for consideration by the KCBA Board. Other ongoing projects include reforms to the state’s initiative and referendum process, implementing recommendations from a three-year project of a subcommittee of the Public Policy Committee.
In addition to supporting these member-driven initiatives, Kate views the president’s foremost obligation to be an ambassador for the bar, and to be the person who works very hard to understand what members’ needs are and to advance those objectives. One of Kate’s overarching goals is to improve communication with bar members, including reaching out and building relationships with the various minority and specialty bars, in order to work together on common issues.
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