Karl Kime grew up in Glendale, California in a Seventh Day Adventist family. He was the first male in the family in the past two generations to not become a doctor. Always an avid reader, Karl was an aspiring writer in his younger years. He graduated summa cum laude with a Philosophy degree from Loma Linda College. Originally enrolling in a Master’s program at Claremont Graduate School to continue his Philosophy studies, Karl decided he needed a more certain path in life and applied to law school. He was accepted into the UCLA School of Law and began his legal career with Morrison & Foerster in Los Angeles where he specialized in labor and employment litigation, handling harassment and discrimination cases. He has many years of experience as a litigator and mediator, having worked for various firms in areas of insurance litigation, as well as asbestos defense litigation. In addition, he was on a mediation panel for the federal court and the Los Angeles Superior Court. He taught mediation courses and conducted mediations for clients as well.
Karl relocated to Coeur d’Alene in 2009 and expanded his legal expertise by handling transactional work with a private equity firm. When that firm’s Coeur d’Alene office closed in 2020, Karl was ready to start his own firm, Kime Law & Mediation, PLLC.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
he entire business of the firm I had been with changed. The private equity firm began investing in companies located in Southern California, and they no longer needed an office in Coeur d’Alene. When that happened, I realized that all of my years of experience in litigation and then a significant number of years in transactional work had truly prepared me to seek out my own clients and start my own firm.
I’ve always wanted to be on my own, especially now, because I have gained so much experience with so many fantastic legal professionals in previous years. I can provide legal services in the areas of employment law and insurance law at a very high level. I can also provide mediation services which can also be an excellent way to help a client meet their goals. I love mediation. I would rather solve a problem than create one. I’ve also developed my own personal style of doing things. Rather than having to follow someone else’s style, I continue to develop my own, which so far has been very effective.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Right now, I work at home because of Covid-19. I start working on my cases at 9 am, at which point I begin researching and writing. Because I am at home, I have the freedom to work even beyond normal business hours. It is not unusual for me to be on the computer until 11 pm if I have thought of a new idea that I want to pursue.
How do you bring ideas to life?
My ideas come from deep studies I conduct of legal materials. I start out knowing the basic structure of law around things, but then I hit the books—well, the computer to be precise—and research the areas relevant to the case I’m working on and it kind of gets into my head. Sometimes, I’ll be looking at a screen and I’ll have an epiphany as to what action ought to be taken in a case. It happens to me all the time. I can’t see what our position ought to be, but then suddenly I will come up with an idea in the shower, or in the car, or even watching TV, and think, “well, that’s it, that’s the idea.” I have a fruitful imagination about the law. I find that the longer I think about things, the better my arguments are. Then I cut them down to only those that are essential. So, the way I’m inspired is just by studying the material and allowing my mind to consider it, sometimes subconsciously.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I like the legal trend of remote practice. It’s good to be at the firm in person in the sense that you can bounce ideas off of other lawyers. That is, in my opinion, a law firm’s primary strength. But I have enough lawyer friends that I can simply call them up on the phone and say, “hey, what do you think about this?” And they can give me their opinion and I can choose to follow it or not. But I do like working remotely because you can get more done. You don’t have to go to the staff meetings. You don’t have to go to the partner meetings and make decisions about who to hire. Working from home provides a quiet reminiscent of a library, and you have all of the resources you need. You have Zoom. You have databases that are accessible by computer. Nobody uses books anymore, so there’s no reason to be around the law library. At the same time, if you really need to, you can get together and meet with the clients and other lawyers. I think working remotely benefits the practice of law.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
One of my more productive habits is that I constantly think about how to improve procedures and how to market my law firm. I’m only just now getting started, but I have been thinking for a very long time about what it would be like if I were on my own.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to quit worrying about things so much and quit being such a perfectionist. When I started practicing law, I felt as though I needed to know everything before taking any kind of action. It doesn’t help that law school doesn’t teach you anything practical. As a result of that, I was so nervous the day I graduated because I felt I didn’t know anything about law. I didn’t know how to draft a complaint. I didn’t know how to answer discovery. I didn’t even know where the courthouses were, how the court houses were structured, or where you would file anything. I knew nothing. It was very unlike a medical school or dental school because when you come out of dental school, you pretty much know how to practice your profession. But law has always been taught in a very theoretical way. So, I would tell my younger self to quit worrying about it. Frankly, it’s not all that difficult.
The second thing I would tell my younger self is to focus on what you really want to do instead of going through the motions, becoming tired of the firm you work for, and moving elsewhere just to get away from the place. When you make the choice to move, choose carefully. I enjoy employment law and if I had it to do over, when I left Morrison & Forester, I would have gone to an employment firm. Know what you want. Know yourself. It’s hard when you’re young, but try to know yourself and be confident and take risks, and if it doesn’t work out, be willing to move on to something else. And by then you will have learned more about what you really want to do.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I think that the procedures for the punishment of criminals in this country needs to be completely rethought. The punishments are too harsh. They do not work toward rehabilitation. The recidivism rate in prisoners is huge. I’ve read quite a number of books on this. The United States imprisons more people than any other country on earth by orders of magnitude, including China and Russia. The length of the sentences essentially destroys the person’s life and makes that person, when he or she leaves, incapable of conducting their lives. It’s very difficult to get a job as a felon.
One of the reasons for that is employment lawyers have developed harmful new theories, and one is called negligent hiring. According to that theory, if you hire a felon and that felon, say, harasses some woman on the production line, usually, in the past, the employer would not have been held liable because harassing a woman is not part of the job description of the person in question. But now employment lawyers have developed a theory of direct negligence wherein the company is held accountable for not having checked the guy and his record out thoroughly enough beforehand. That makes it extremely difficult to be employed as a felon except as a mover or some very low-level nonintellectual, nonprofessional job.
I just think that the system has developed almost of its own internal power, and what I mean by that is it doesn’t change. It just runs in by itself. Judges are elected, which I think is horrible, because if they aren’t hard enough on criminal defendants, then whoever is running against them puts that up on a big billboard and then that judge loses their election. So, judges have an artificial motivation for being hard on criminals, and it’s all owing to the fact that they’re elected. That’s my view on what ought to change in criminal law and many people do not agree with me.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I still study law books. I don’t turn to the law books merely when I have to write a brief. It keeps me up on current thoughts of professors in law schools and things like that. I also continue to write and research even though, at this point, I would normally be a high-level partner at a big firm, and they generally don’t bother to do that type of thing anymore. They just brush work like that off on the associates and talk on the phone with their clients. That’s what a high-level partner does, just talk on the phone to clients, and then the low-level guys are actually doing the nitty-gritty work. I think that’s a bad way to conduct business, especially for the client, because that way it’s easy to lose track of what the current law is and how to actually perform it.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I’ve discussed a lot of ideas with a former colleague who is strong in the area of growing businesses and has very good ideas on the subject. I recently had lunch with her and her husband, and we brainstormed together about marketing strategies. There is also a relatively small group of lawyers that meet regularly in Coeur d’Alene. It’s called the First District Lawyer Group. Idaho is divided into districts, and it happens that Coeur d’Alene County is in the first district. These lawyers get together regularly for a meeting, usually lunches that involve attending a lecture. I would like to give a lecture, perhaps one that could possibly provide some continuing education credits if it is approved by the Idaho State Board.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
The worst thing I did was to leave Morrison & Foerster and go off with some friends of mine to start a practice in an area of law I didn’t like. I wasn’t realistic about what I really enjoyed and what I didn’t. I should have investigated it more. I guess I took it for granted that because these guys were nice they were going to create a practice that I enjoyed. I only spent about a year and a half at that particular firm. I look at that as a failure. It was a failure of self-honesty and it was a failure of personal strength to say, “I want to leave this group and I’m going to go do what I enjoy,” which is to practice the more human aspect of law where real people are involved instead of companies. In a case between two Fortune 500 companies, I don’t particularly care who wins. They have way too much money to begin with. But when the client is somebody who I sympathize with, or if I’m on the defense side of a case where someone is simply trying to get money they don’t deserve, I get very enthusiastic about that and I become almost like a private investigator. I investigate cases. So, that was my big mistake, and I think I’ve overcome it now. I am no longer going to take cases that I don’t want and that I don’t think can win.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I am intrigued with the idea of people being able to create their own documents. I think LegalZoom has developed an online data kind of company in that vein, and it’s done extremely well even though some lawyers think that the quality of the documents is not necessarily very high. Someone could develop an online business where you don’t even have to go to a lawyer, but maybe you could combine it, where the customer could be a little bit more self-reliant, create the documents themselves, but then maybe have a lawyer review them. That’s exactly what I’m doing with a client right now. My client is developing a document and I’m going to be looking it over to give it final approval. I think that would be an interesting idea for a new business because LegalZoom suffers a little bit from its reputation for allowing non-lawyers to finish documents without any legitimate legal advice.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best $100 I recently spent was on flowers for my property. I live in a developed community, but they didn’t do anything with one swath of ground by my house. So I’m growing a flower garden there. I planted some rhododendron, calla lilies, and some kinds of flowers that I don’t even know the names of.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I certainly use Google a lot. But the one piece of software that I use all the time is Microsoft Word, which, interestingly enough, I find inferior to WordPerfect.
There’s another one that is called Case Maker. Case Maker is a legal database, much like Westlaw and Lexus, but it’s free and it’s given to state bars so that state bar members can use it. That’s the software I use for any legal research that I need to do.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
One of the most influential books in my life was a book called Evil and the God of Love by John Hick. It’s a book on so-called theodicy, which is the question that is naturally raised when one assumes that God is omnipotent—that is to say, all powerful—omniscient, and loving. If that is the case, then how does one reconcile these deep-seated notions in Western theology with the fact that there is evil in the world?
There’s also another book that’s fun for lawyers. It’s called One L by Scott Turow, who is a mystery writer. It is about his first year at Harvard Law School. I would recommend that book to any lawyer.
What is your favorite quote?
There’s a passage out of Ecclesiastes that goes, “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, … but time and chance happen to them all.” It is a little bit of a downer quote, but I like it.
● I think that retaining the services of a solo legal practice provides a way of actually economizing a person’s legal needs because a single lawyer with the relevant expertise can devote an appropriate amount of time to a case, instead of assigning tasks to associates whose main goal in life is to simply create a higher bill for the client to pay.
● Focus on what the client really needs rather than what they may want and help them to understand what is possible under the law and what is not possible.
● What is helpful, and not done very well or very often by many lawyers, is to inform the client as to what exactly is going on in their case—don’t forget that it is actually the life of an individual you are dealing with.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.