Originally from Glendale, California, Karl Kime grew up in Southern California and practiced law there for 20 years, primarily in the area of litigation.. Always an avid reader, Karl wanted to be a writer during his formative years. He graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Philosophy and Theology from Loma Linda University. Karl obtained a Master’s program at Claremont Graduate University to continue his Philosophy studies, and was accepted into the Ph.D. program where he completed approximately two-thirds of the class requirements. Mr. Kime was realistic about the job market, however, and decided he needed a more stable career path. He applied to law school and was accepted into the UCLA School of Law. He was elected a member of the UCLA Law Review, where he was a member for two years. He began his legal career with Morrison & Foerster in Los Angeles, specializing in labor and employment litigation and handling harassment and discrimination cases.
Presently, Karl Kime can lay claim to many years of experience as a litigator and mediator, having worked for various firms in the areas of insurance litigation and asbestos defense litigation, employment, business litigation, contracts, corporate formation, partnership and partnership disputes, among many other areas. He also served on a mediation panel for the federal court and the Los Angeles Superior Court. Additionally, Karl has experience teaching mediation courses and conducting client mediations, as well. In 2009, Karl relocated to Coeur d’Alene and broadened his legal expertise by handling transactional work with a private equity firm. When that firm’s Coeur d’Alene office closed in 2020, Karl Kime made the decision to open his own firm, Kime Law & Mediation, PLLC.
What do you love most about the industry you are in?
One of the things that I do enjoy about the law is researching and thinking about novel solutions to clients’ problems. Sometimes the solution or tactic for a legal problem does not occur to immediately. Often I have the enjoyable experience of having something akin to an epiphany regarding a case. Suddenly the solution appears as if out of nowhere, but in reality it comes from having researched and thought about the case for many weeks and immersed myself in all of its issues.
Another aspect of the law I enjoy is writing. I wanted to be a writer in my younger years. My goal was to become a professor of philosophy and write books. Law is a way of doing that. You have a problem, and you’ve already learned a lot of theory, then you research it and you write it up. It’s almost like being a professor because you have to persuade and inform and do so in an intellectually defensible manner. With respect to my profession, what I enjoy most is what most lawyers traditionally don’t enjoy at all, and that is research and writing. That is truly what wins or loses most lawsuits: the written briefs and the quality of the writing and presentation.
How do you motivate others?
I try to motivate others by example. Perhaps I’ll use my children as an example. I have three kids, two girls and one boy. I have tried to motivate them by not being heavy-handed. I’m certainly not a helicopter parent. I allow them to pursue the things that they enjoy, but I give a nudge here and there, plus guidance and the benefit of my own personal experience. Then I let them ruminate on their choices. So, my method of motivating other people is not to be heavy-handed. I like to set an example and let them figure out what they want, but also give them advice derived from my own experience.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I’m a bookish guy. When I was younger, I read a lot of literature, and now that I’m older I read a lot of law, history, and philosophy. I enjoy the world of ideas intensely and that’s what keeps me motivated. Also, I love all kinds of art. And I’m a classical music enthusiast. Sitting beside me right now, I have hundreds and hundreds of classical CDs that I’ve collected over the years. Of course, now CDs have gone the way of the Model T, but I still have them and listen to them. Music transports me.
Then there’s interacting with my children, as well as my close friends. It’s possible that I love my kids too intensely sometimes, but they have surpassed every wish and goal that I have had for them. They amaze me.
I used to be quite a hiker. I hiked Mount Whitney, which is the highest mountain in the lower 48 states. It’s 14,501 feet, or so, in elevation. When I was forty years old, I made it a goal. Here’s a little story: when I was eight years old, it was 1969 and Apollo 11 had just landed on the moon. It was July. I remember it like it was yesterday. Our family camped at the portal of the Mount Whitney trail. At that point, I was too young to climb it, but I went to the store at the portal and saw a little round patch that was embroidered with the phrase ‘I climbed Mount Whitney’ and it had a picture of Mount Whitney and the elevation. I said to myself, “someday, I’m going to do this.” Well, I got caught up in other things. It took until I was forty years old to actually accomplish that. It is 11 miles each way. You climb up from 8,000 feet to 14,500 feet. When I got down to the end of the trail, I was so thrilled that the first thing I did was go to that same store to see whether they still had those patches. Indeed they did. They were in a pile right next to the cash register. At age 40, I finally got my “I climbed about Whitney” patch. Sometimes goals take a long to achieve, but when they come, they are no less exciting for having happened later than one might have originally planned.
Who has been a role model to you and why?
I would say my father and grandfather have been role models to me. My grandfather has passed away but my dad is alive. My Dad is a retired physician and he’s brilliant. He was number one in his class, had a Harvard residency. But he is equally brilliant, if not more so, in all sorts of art — painting, sculpting, photography. If I got my love of books from anyone, it was him. He inspires me to embrace the value of study and thinking and art and literature.
My grandfather, my mother’s father, was a physician also, but he was more of an administrator. He was the President and Dean of Loma Linda School of Medicine for decades and has a professorial chair as well as a building named after him. He was the most gentle, kind man I’ve ever known. He was that unusual type of leader who never had any enemies, and that’s difficult to accomplish when you’re the administrator of a large Institution.
I’ve tried to model my life after both of them, even though they’re quite different. Variety of experience always informs a person better than a narrow focus.
How do you maintain a solid work life balance?
Because I live alone, it’s actually rather easy to do, especially considering COVID-19 and the fact that I’m working out of my home. But under normal conditions, I work very hard when I’m at the office. I get in and do my work. I get it done and I do it well. When I’ve done enough for the day, I go home and do the things that I enjoy and interact with the people that I want to be with.
I have never found it terribly difficult to balance work and the rest of my life except in the very beginning when I didn’t know what I was doing—which is the case with every lawyer. I think a lawyer spends the first five years of their practice just learning how to practice their craft.
Now that I know what I’m doing, I believe new lawyers should work with experienced lawyers at a firm when they start out, because people truly do not know how to practice law properly simply by graduating law school.
What suggestions do you have for someone starting in your industry?
My first suggestion would be don’t worry about the fact that you may not know much about the law. Understand how to practice law is a learning process. Throw yourself fully into that process without reservations or fears. A lot of us who become lawyers were in the top of our classes at school and always did well in whatever we tried. But when we get into law school, we realize that almost everyone there has the same stellar background. It’s a challenge, but on that can be achieved by study, practice, and, perhaps most important, making mistakes. Mistakes are often the greatest teachers.
The second thing I would say is work with a mentor who has a style that is more or less like yours. The best way to learn how to practice law in the real world is to have someone with experience guide you through the process. You need to get with somebody, one or two true experts in the areas that you want to practice, and then just open up your brain and let that person pour his or her experience and wisdom inside. One thing that I probably didn’t have enough of when I was starting out was helpful guidance from other people.
The third thing I would say is you ought to focus on the practice areas that truly interest you pretty early in your career. Now that may seem self-evident, but it isn’t necessarily so. Many people get out of law school, don’t know quite what they want to do, get hired by a big firm and suddenly find themselves in a department that they don’t even like. Focus on the things that you intensely enjoy about the law. Learn to love your area of expertise so that you can write about it, speak about it, and be enthusiastic about it with clients and other people. In other words, find a niche.
What is the biggest life lesson you have learned?
Perfectionism is a kind of evil because it makes you unrealistic about how to go about things in life, unless you are a genius. But even geniuses are not perfect. As the saying goes, don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good.
Related to that, I would say be confident. Be confident that what you produce is good enough for you, even though it may not meet some standard of perfection or later standards you develop for yourself. So, allow yourself to fail and pick yourself up and go on. I would say these are the biggest lessons I’ve had to learn. But with my experience, I find that life as a lawyer is so much easier to live. Be confident where you are and allow time to do its work. Now, that doesn’t mean sit on your rear end and not contribute to the process. You must strive and strive mightily. Be satisfied with the fact that learning and especially learning a profession necessarily takes time.
Where do you see you and your company in 5 years?
I have a 10-year vision because I wouldn’t know what to do if I retired. I would like to develop this practice and perhaps someday take in a couple more lawyers. A solo practice has is plusses — for one, you are your own boss and things get done according to your own plan. But firms offer other people in the office who can aid in thinking out a problem and help in performing the sometimes daunting amount of work required of a lawyer.
I’d like to see an increase in my mediation practice. I’d also like to further develop my litigation practice in the areas that I know about and enjoy, such as employment law, either for the employer or the employee, and general business litigation, insurance coverage, and bodily injury. That’s what I hope to do with the rest of my career.