My name is Karen Thompson and I have worked as a trial attorney for over 20 years. I grew up in Houston, Texas. I graduated magna cum laude from the University of Texas at Austin. In 1989, I got my law degree at the Law Center at the University of Houston, where I was Casenote and Comment Editor for the Law Review, and graduated with honors. I passed the Texas bar exam when I was eight months pregnant and the proud mother of a three year old boy.
People ask me, where did you get the idea for the Cowgirl Attorney? When I put on that hat, I feel like the cowboys that I watched on TV movies every Saturday morning who stood up to the bad guys. Now instead of bad guys in black hats on horses, we are bucking a complex legal system that throws people down and stomps on them. The Cowgirl Attorney is here to help folks understand the system and make informed legal choices, without emptying their wallets.
Q&A With Cowgirl Attorney:
Why did you decide to start the Cowgirl Attorney video legal consultations?
It costs people too much to learn the law from a lawyer when you are paying them $200 to $300 an hour. Over the years I have seen more and more everyday Americans caught up in the legal system , struggling to understand their rights, and trying to do it themselves. The Cowgirl Attorney is here to help.
Why did you decide to go to law school?
My Aunt Libby lost her husband in a car accident and had to support her four little kids by herself. My aunt told me that I had better find a way to support myself because you never knew what could happen. I took it to heart. I started out as a teacher and loved it. I thought a trial lawyer did the same thing, explaining the law to the people on the jury like a teacher spoke to her class. For a while I wanted to be a police officer but my mother was afraid it was too dangerous and she was probably right.
Nowadays people laugh when you tell them you went to law school because you wanted to help people. Everyone thinks lawyers are just out for the money, and picture mostly men in conservative business suits and ties, and there are plenty of those. I always felt like I had infiltrated the practice of law. I would look around the room where there were six lawyers taking a deposition and I didn’t look or act like the other lawyers.
What challenges did you face as a busy mom going to law school?
I studied all the time when my first son Eric was little. He was only three when I started law school. I studied all day from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm like a job so I could focus on my son in the evenings, eat dinner as a family, read him a story , tuck him in, and then study some more. I graduated with honors and I was an editor on the Law Review. Law school was the hardest thing I had ever done and I was so glad when it was over. I studied all summer in the Texas heat and took the Texas bar exam when I was 8 months pregnant with my second son Travis. Those big loose graduation robes worked great for me. My parents and my four year old son Eric were there to watch. Eric still remembers the funny robes.
What was it like for your sons having a lawyer for a mother?
My sons got a lopsided view of lawyers. When my son Travis was in kindergarten, I took him to the courthouse to see where I worked. I introduced him to one of the judges who let him sit on the bench and watch the proceedings. When we got home he said, Mom, I didn’t know men could be lawyers too! I have always represented individual Americans, not corporations. I learned early on to listen carefully to what my clients had to say about what happened to them. My kids say they heard way more stories than their friends about the dangers of growing up, like diving into the shallow end of the swimming hole and breaking your neck, and living the rest of your life in a wheelchair. Or speeding on black ice and your car spinning out of control. Or rollerblading down the ramps of a downtown parking garage on a quiet Sunday, out the exit onto the street, and getting hit by a car. I used every bad thing that happened to other people as a teaching example in hopes they would not make the same mistakes.
Why did you decide to start the Cowgirl Attorney videoblog?
It costs people too much to learn the law after they have broken it. Over the years I have seen more and more everyday Americans caught up in the criminal justice system and struggling to understand their rights. I saw my kids’ friends getting into trouble with the law for things they didn’t realize were illegal, just being teenagers, careless or reckless, and not thinking about the consequences.
Would you give us some examples?
I knew a nice teenage girl who paid for her own clothes by babysitting. One day while babysitting, she told herself the kids would enjoy going for a ride and took them with her to a big sale nearby. She left them locked in the car for ‘”just a minute.” Twenty minutes later when she returned to the car the police officer was writing her a ticket. She discovered that it is illegal to leave children under a certain age in a car. The horrified parents found out and never asked her to babysit again. My neighbors came home from their romantic anniversary weekend getaway, to find out their children had a party while they were gone that got out of control when uninvited guests crashed it. Other neighbors, awakened by loud music, called the sheriff who discovered underage drinkers. Not only did the parents have to deal with law enforcement, but one of the young guests was injured and her parents sued my neighbors for a lot of money in civil court. When I was living in a small town, more than one mother, finding out that I was an attorney, called me because her son was about to have a birthday. Mom was worried that Johnny or Josh or Jeremiah was turning 18 and might be having sex with an underage girlfriend, so they asked me, “What is the cut off age for statutory rape?” I had two sons of my own, and hurried to research the law. I knew a good hard working business man who went to jail on felony charges because his friend had mailed him hash as a souvenir from Amsterdam and the FBI followed him home from his post office box.
Were all these people guilty under the law?
Absolutely! Did these people appreciate the consequences of their actions? Not at all.
How can we learn the law and stay out of trouble?
Getting cross ways with the law is like getting chicken pox; it is going to happen to you someday so you might as well be prepared. I put the law in everyday English and show you how other people made mistakes so you can avoid them. There is no way the everyday American can learn all the laws that affect his or her life. But our legal system charges us with knowledge of the law: “Ignorance of the law is no excuse. ” Parents are maxed out working and taking care of the house, the schools don’t have the time or resources to teach the law, and most lawyers do not get paid to teach you how to stay out of trouble in the first place.
Where are you licensed to practice law?
I am licensed in the state of Oregon. Every case is different. Consult an attorney who is licensed to practice law in your state. The Cowgirl Attorney gives you a heads up, get acquainted with the issues type of legal advice. I am not entering into an attorney-client relationship with any of my viewers.