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Kathryn Canale: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started

While I truly believe the United States has the best judicial system in the world, I think that our Court system is inefficient and would like to see the entire system overhauled to be more efficient, allow better and equal access, and see the technology updated so that the judicial system has technology worthy of […]

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While I truly believe the United States has the best judicial system in the world, I think that our Court system is inefficient and would like to see the entire system overhauled to be more efficient, allow better and equal access, and see the technology updated so that the judicial system has technology worthy of the 21st Century.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Kathryn (Kamil) Canale. Kathryn is a trial attorney who has defended clients for more than 20 years in business, employment (employer side) and civil ligation matters. She is known for her ability to find creative solutions to complex legal problems.

Ms. Canale is admitted to practice law in California and before the Supreme Court of the United States. Growing up, Ms. Canale lived all over the United States and Europe. She graduated from the University of Evansville in Indiana with a BA in International Business and Marketing. She also ran Division I Cross Country. After college, she obtained her law degree from California Western School of Law in San Diego. During law school Ms. Canale fell in love with the Sunshine State and decided to make it her home.

Ms. Canale has won numerous jury trials on behalf of her clients. Most notably, she was lead trial counsel in a jury trial on behalf of a large cosmetics manufacturer in a products liability case where it was alleged the product contained asbestos. Plaintiff claimed the product caused her cancer and demanded over $30 Million. After a several month jury trial, the jury found in favor of Ms. Canale’s manufacturing client.

In addition to the practice of law, Ms. Canale sits of the board of directors of Paws for Life K9 Rescue, a non-profit organization that pulls dogs from local shelters and places them with incarcerated trainers throughout the California State Prison System. The dogs are provided basic training prior to adoption or proceed with further training to become PTSD service dogs for military veterans and first responders.

She is also active with the National Association of Women Business Owners, is a member of “The Hive,” a national legal think tank comprised of women attorneys, and the Association of Southern California Defense Counsel.


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?

Growing up, I thought I wanted to work on Wall Street. I went to college and studied Business. When taking a Business Law class, the professor approached me and asked if I’d like to be her assistant. I said yes and, after working and learning from Professor Howard for three years, my interest in and love for the law was born. In law school, I did an internship and then worked for the General Counsel for a large construction company, who made me do both transactional work and litigation. Turns out, I found the litigation work much more interesting…and here I am.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your law career?

One night, my husband and I went to dinner with an older couple we met at charity function. The older gentleman, Mark, was a very successful attorney in the music industry and his wife, Sona, was also very successful in her own right. We had a ball talking and laughing over drinks and dinner. As dessert came, the conversation turned to more serious, and suddenly Sona leans over the table and says to my husband, “I’ve dying to ask you since we met — do you ever win an argument with your wife? In over forty years of marriage, I’ve never won an argument.” My husband, went red, shook his head and said, “I don’t even try anymore — I can’t win. She’s always ready with a comeback” Sona laughed so hard she almost fell out of her chair.

To this day, when my husband tries to argue with me, I just say “Remember, you can’t win,” and the situation is diffused and we have a good laugh.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I recently began co-hosting a pod cast, Three B’s on the Law, with two of my attorney friends, Susan Dawson and Trisha Barita, to talk about legal and business issues all over the country. We are currently recording episodes and hope to launch by mid-July. Pod casting is new to me and I was unsure whether I would even like doing the pod cast, but it turns out it is really fun and there are so many interesting legal and business issues affecting employers to talk about right now.

What are some of the most interesting cases you have been involved in? Without sharing anything confidential can you share any stories?

There have been so many. Any litigator will tell you that the case they are currently preparing for Trial is the most interesting case. You become immersed in the facts and witnesses of the case so that you can bring the case to life for the jury. One experience stands out though.

A few years ago, I was lead Trial Counsel on a products liability case. The Plaintiff alleged that my client’s talcum powder contained asbestos and caused her mesothelioma. After weeks of Trial, the jury was finally out. I felt the trial went well and that I had done everything I could possibly do to tell my client’s story and explain that the talc did not cause the cancer. At the same time, a similar case was being tried downstairs in the same courthouse, that went to the jury at the same time. Our jury was out for one day. Then another. For me, waiting for the jury is the worst part Trial.

On the third day, the jury in the case downstairs came back with an $18 Million dollar verdict for the Plaintiff. That did not boast my morale. As we waited in the Courtroom for our jury to return, the Plaintiffs and their attorneys began to talk about how they would spend all the money they were about to get. They discussed their elaborate vacation plans and cars they wanted to buy.

The fifth day was excruciating. Just as the courtroom was getting ready to close for lunch, we were told there was a verdict — but it had to wait until after lunch.

I don’t remember lunch that day. I walked back into the courtroom at 1:30. The jury was brought back in. While the judge took his time looking at every single page of the verdict for what seemed like an eternity, my partner leans over and whispers, “This is going to be ugly,” as he was also expecting an enormous verdict against our client. The jury had been out so long, we figured they were arguing over how much to award.

The clerk began to read the verdict. The jury found in favor of my client right on the first question and did not even get to the issue of money. In a civil trial in California, you only need 9 of 12 jurors to prevail. In that case, 11 of the jurors sided with my client but the 12th juror was so emotional that they sat and let her explain to them why Plaintiff should get money for 4 days! None of the 11 changed their minds.

It was a good reminder that I should not try to read too much into any given situation. It is what it is.

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

Wow. There are so many, it’s hard to choose just one or two. Right now, Ruth Bader Ginsberg (“RBG”) is at the top of the list. While there are many reasons she inspires me, what inspires me most is her dedication to the law, this country and her ability to use her voice to speak for people that may not otherwise have one.

What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in law?

Law school teaches you the critical thinking and analytical skills needed to be a lawyer but it does not teach you how to practice law or run a business. Make sure you volunteer/work/intern at places that will teach you these skills along the way. It will equip you with more of the skills necessary to survive in a competitive profession.

In addition, I always try to be civil. The keyword in the last sentence it try. In this profession, it can be difficult sometimes. When I was starting out, I felt every point had to be pounded in and I had to be very aggressive to make sure my point was heard. Now, I find I get a better response from others, including judges, opposing counsel and juries, if I explain things the way I explain the case to my Momma, who is very smart but not a lawyer. I often tell her about my cases and her reaction often determines how I will tell my client’s story — which, ultimately is what you are doing before a jury-telling a persuasive story to get the jury to understand your client’s position.

If you had the ability to make three reforms in our judicial/legal system, which three would you start with? Why?

Only three? While I truly believe the United States has the best judicial system in the world, I think that our Court system is inefficient and would like to see the entire system overhauled to be more efficient, allow better and equal access, and see the technology updated so that the judicial system has technology worthy of the 21st Century.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I hope so. My “passion project” is serving as a board member and volunteer for Paws for Life K9 Rescue, Inc. The rescue takes dogs from high kill shelters and places them with inmates at several prisons across California, including the Maximum Security Prison in Lancaster. The dogs are crate and obedience trained by the inmates before being adopted out into forever homes. The program is one of the most successful rehabilitation programs in California. Not only do the men getting out of prison learn a skill that can land them employment but they learn critical life skills that prison life does not necessarily teach, like team work. The best and brightest of the dogs in the program go on to be trained to be service dogs for military veterans with PTSD. The program is a win/win for everyone involved.

I know this is not an easy job. What drives you?

That’s easy. Finding solutions that work well for my clients is what really drives me. Whether it is coming up with a creative solution to a legal problem or getting a great result in litigation, it is always the client that drives me to do better.

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.

1. You are going to work hard. There will be times where you will work late into the night and on weekends. There will be times that you miss dinner with your family. For me, this has only been a problem when I was supposed to cook.

2. Notwithstanding 1, above, you do have the ability to balance legal work and your family, friends, hobbies, etc. It’s all about balance. If I have a week that I am up to midnight every day working on a brief or preparing for Trial, when the brief is done or Trial is over, I’ll take a day or two to reflect and spend time with my family and friends.

3. Communication is key. It is important to effectively communicate with everyone in your life. If you do not communicate your needs and expectations to your colleagues, your staff, your spouse, or even your children, you are setting them up to fail. Most people can’t read your mind and you should not expect those around you to guess what you want — you should tell them.

4. Make time self-care. I don’t mean getting your eye brows waxed. Make time to exercise, play Scrabble, cook, read or do whatever makes you really happy that is not work. For me, nothing beats a hike with my husband and our dogs.

5. The practice of law is rewarding. There is nothing better professionally than winning a case or getting a great resolution for a client.

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. 🙂

It seems unfair to have to pick just one person — there are so many. Ruth Bader Ginsberg (see above) is an obvious choice. Her legal mind is out of this world. Speaking of space, Elon Musk is a close second. His creativity and innovative technology across so many different fields is fascinating. Moreover, he believes in the technology he designs and is willing to take risks to prove it works. Who else can get you to the international space station, land the rocket booster on a barge, power a city and drive you to work?

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