Trial Pros: Farella Braun's Karen Kimmey
Law360, New York (May 10, 2016, 10:28 AM ET) --
Karen Kimmey is a partner and trial lawyer at Farella Braun & Martel LLP in San Francisco. She handles a variety of commercial disputes, with particular emphasis on complex contract, fraud, unfair competition and negligence claims. She also has experience in class actions, intellectual property and products liability matters, defending clients in the biotechnology, software, manufacturing and entertainment industries. She is frequently called in to take over on matters from other law firms as they approach trial and require courtroom expertise.
Kimmey’s recent experience includes serving as national coordinating counsel in a series of products liability claims relating to residential gas delivery materials; obtaining a unanimous verdict in a three-week patent trial that upheld the validity of her client’s technology patents; obtaining full relief for a major biotechnology company in an arbitration of a technology licensing dispute, including an award of attorneys’ fees; and serving as lead counsel to a real estate investor in complex, multi-state litigation involving claims of fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and violations of RICO.
Q: What’s the most interesting trial you've worked on and why?
A: Early in my career, I was part of the trial team in a four-month long commodities fraud class action trial. Because class actions so rarely go to trial and our theories were somewhat novel, we were forging new ground daily. As a junior associate working with our most optimistic partner and our most pessimistic partner, I was never sure whether we were about to win or about to get our heads handed to us. We ultimately settled in the middle of the night before closing arguments.
Q: What’s the most unexpected or amusing thing you've experienced while working on a trial?
A: In a recent trial, I was sent down to prepare a third-party witness we expected to be helpful to us, and I anticipated putting on the stand the next day. A few minutes into the meeting, it became clear to me that the party had completely switched positions. We had to quickly figure out a strategy to prove our case without that witness while trying not to tip off the other side to what had happened.
Q: What does your trial prep routine consist of?
A: Like most lawyers, I like to feel in control and very well prepared. I generally do a mental walk-through of what I expect to happen at each stage of the trial and try to anticipate the different ways the case could go. For example, I will often have colleagues play the role of a hostile witness and encourage them to surprise me (by varying from their deposition testimony, by volunteering something I hadn’t expected, etc.), so that I can have a strategy in place. At the end of the day, however, it is impossible to anticipate everything that might happen at trial — that’s what makes trial so exciting. So, once I feel well-prepared, I make a point of finding at least a few minutes to take a walk, listen to music or do something else that clears my head and helps me relax enough to be able to respond to whatever may be thrown at me.
Q: If you could give just one piece of advice to a lawyer on the eve of their first trial, what would it be?
A: Remember that every trial has to tell a human story. Even if it is a complicated business or technical case, jurors will bring to the case their own experience of human nature. Be able to tell your story in a few simple sentences that resonate with them. Practice telling that story to others (friends, family) in simple terms and then work your trial strategy to make sure everything is consistent with that theme. And then remember to breathe, and enjoy it. There is nothing like the satisfaction you can get from fighting for your client in the courtroom.
Q: Name a trial attorney, outside your own firm, who has impressed you and tell us why.
A: I have been privileged to work with a number of wonderful trial lawyers. In particular, I have enjoyed partnering on matters with lawyers from other firms, including recently Bill Goines of Greenberg Traurig and George Riley of O’Melveny. Bill has a natural, credible style in the court, and George is razor sharp with an ability to explain a complex patent dispute in understandable terms.