There is still a lot of sexism and racism. Don’t let it define you. Define yourself. I actually had an older woman partner tell me that if I really wanted to be a partner in a large law firm, I shouldn’t have kids. I was maybe too naïve about the mommy track that might still exist in firms across our nation.
Pursue you dreams even when no one else thinks they make any sense. Some folks in my life thought it was nuts to spend time writing a mystery novel. But at the end of the day, we are each charged with pursuing our own dreams, whether our friends and family like those dreams or not.
As a part of my series about “5 things I wish someone told me when I first became an attorney” I had the pleasure of interviewing Karen Perry.
K. A. Perry is an attorney and the author of a new environmental mystery called “The Green Beach File.” It is a fun and thrilling read for all who consider themselves outdoorsy and environmentally aware. Whether one is a knowledgeable hiker who aspires to climb Mount Everest, or a nature lover who likes watching the birds , you will enjoy this mystery.
K. A. Perry also has her own law firm and spent over a decade practicing environmental law with a large firm in Connecticut. She is a past Chair of the Environmental Section of the Connecticut Bar Association, and has presented and spoken at numerous waterfront, land use, and aquaculture conferences. A graduate of the University of Connecticut School of Law, she holds a Bachelor’s degree in economics/math from Union College. Her undergraduate economics theses was presented at the Caltech Institute of Technology as part of a national symposium.
K.A. Perry lives in a small town in Connecticut with her family. She has been an active member of the community, serving on numerous boards and commissions, and has been a former Chair and member of her local school board. She also has a teaching certificate in high school mathematics and over the years has taught math intervention.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. What is the “backstory” that brought you to this particular career path in Law?
I have 4 children. It is outside the “norm” for a female attorney. To raise so many children, I took some time off of the typical large firm career path. But even when I went off to law school, I already knew that I wanted to practice environmental law and I knew I was interested in mysteries. During breaks from college I worked in an independent bookstore and as I shelved books, I would think a lot about writing a mystery novel, or a series of novels, and having my own spot on the mystery shelf.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your law career?
Suppose I told you that someone I knew once had a client actually try to bribe a state employee with a bag of cash over an environmental permit. Connecticut is not exactly the Wild West, and bribery is a crime. We like to think of our republic as pure, and our government as functional, but I realized if its happening here in an educated, sophisticated state, there is probably much more of that sort of thing afoot than I would like to believe.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m working on Book 2 in my “Green” series of environmental mysteries. Folks who have read the first novel are curious to learn what happens next to my main character Jenn. She’s pretty unique, with her pet trees, her many drinks, and her noticing nature in every scene. Plus, she has a love interest, and since we are all romantic at heart, folks want to see what happens next.
In my firm, I am helping lots of clients with some more non-environmental and traditional legal work, like refinancing due to the low interest rates, buying and selling homes, and estate planning. The pandemic has really stirred up many more legal issues for folks’ everyday lives.
What are some of the most interesting cases you have been involved in? Without sharing anything confidential can you share any stories?
Imagine someone offering you a million dollars to do absolutely nothing! In a certain beach community on the Connecticut shore, would you believe me if I told you that one client offered a million dollars to the neighbor across the street to not enlarge their home, to not mansionize it like so many homes on the shoreline? It was an offer of a million dollars to not act. But the neighbors turned the offer down, expanded their home anyway, and thereby blocked some of the client’s view of the water.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
I’m inspired by authors who leave you thinking about their novels long after you have put them down. Weeks, months, years, and you still sometimes have a flicker of a thought about a particular novel, and what the author meant, or why something happened, or wonder what happened to a character next. That is inspiring to me. Those author’s stories are so deeply imbedded in your brain that you cannot even distinguish them in your mind, that the story was just fiction, that it was just a book. How does one do that? Appeal to someone’s mind so strongly, and get so stuck in it, that the author’s work is carried along through someone else’s mind.
What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in law?
Take it where you want to go. In the end, we write our own stories, choose our own paths. The sooner, the younger, the more strongly you take hold of your own life and take it where you want to go, the happier you will be.
If you had the ability to make three reforms in our judicial/legal system, which three would you start with? Why?
What a mess. In the end we are all human, and all the systems and bureaucracies we create are human and are full of mistakes and hypocrisies, just like us.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I spent a few years teaching high school mathematics part time to the kids who struggle with math, and I still tutor students. It is very rewarding and might bring more goodness than my time spent volunteering on community boards and commissions. Kids need steady constant support, and when they get what they need, they thrive.
Plus, my mystery novel is educational about beaches and who owns them. It contains a strong environmental conservation message that brings goodness to the world. Some of earth’s treasures are so beautiful they should be open and accessible to all of us, not just accessible to those with exceptional wealth.
I know this is not an easy job. What drives you?
I think having lost my brother when I was 20, I have some kind acuteness as to the shortness of life. I try to make the most out of ever day.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.
- There is still a lot of sexism and racism. Don’t let it define you. Define yourself. I actually had an older woman partner tell me that if I really wanted to be a partner in a large law firm, I shouldn’t have kids. I was maybe too naïve about the mommy track that might still exist in firms across our nation.
- Pursue you dreams even when no one else thinks they make any sense. Some folks in my life thought it was nuts to spend time writing a mystery novel. But at the end of the day, we are each charged with pursuing our own dreams, whether our friends and family like those dreams or not.
- Sometimes it’s better to apologize than ask permission. If one sits around and waits for every action one takes to be okay, to be reasonable to others, to be acceptable, you might just miss the opportunity of your lifetime.
- Use the “once” rule when it comes to handling things. It’s an old effectiveness tip. Read it and deal with it “once,” in the moment, rather than read it, set it aside, and then have to reread and deal with it later.
- At the end of the day, you are your own judge. Don’t be too hard on yourself, but don’t be lazy either. Nothing will get you farther in life than plain old fashioned hard work.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Delia Owens. She’s the author of “Where the Crawdads Sing,” which has had tremendous success. I think we have a common love of nature, and both interweave it into our writing. It would be fun, and she might have some good advice for me.