Caitlin Demo 2013-03-06 00:29:56
It is at a young age, that we begin asking children what they would like to be when they grow up. As young adults, we steer them into career development classes and have them take aptitude tests. It is an essential part of American life. We are defined by what we do. We are the nation built on the shoulders of the workingman. As such, our career path becomes a significant role in our happiness, in our sense of self-accomplishment. In June of 2011, Katherine Kraus opened the doors to her law practice. It was a lifetime of hard work, determination and perseverance that brought her to that moment of accomplishment. In everyone’s life there are those that offer doubt or uncertainty. Kraus faced more than one person who told her that she couldn’t accomplish it, that she couldn’t become a lawyer. Never doubting herself, her personal drive propelled her ambitions into reality. Now, as she sits behind her desk in her own law firm, she is completely content. She knows that she has become what every aptitude test would’ve told her she should be. Although she works late nights and weekends, she admits to never being happier. As a family law attorney, Kraus handles cases on divorce, decision-making rights, child support, grandparents’ rights and domestic violence. While criminal lawyers see bad people on their very best behavior, Kraus is faced with good, hard-working, honest people at their worst. There is something so personal and devastating about being faced with losing money or your children. It is a moment in anyone’s life that can bring out his or her own desperation. In those delicate fields of law, Kraus understands that the key to serving your clients is the ability to listen. “I won’t do a half-hour consultation,” began Kraus. She knows that it takes time to detail out the context of a person’s family situation. Since this is such a personal matter, it takes guts to spill all the dirty laundry we try keep hidden behind doors. That is why Kraus generally sits down for an hour or two hour consultation. “Everybody is so different. You really have to listen and know what the issues are to help them,” she said. With each new case, Kraus is approached by a different individual with an entirely new set of circumstances. They have a different life, a different family, a different relationship and different problems that drove them to her doorstep. It is with this in mind, that she sits down to listen. As humans, we all make mistakes. We all hit a moment in our life when things could have turned out better. In those moments, we have to turn to someone for help, and we hope that they do not condemn us for our choices. “I’ve had experiences similar to some of my clients,” Kraus said, “I don’t judge them for the things that brought them to me.” Kraus has seen her share of judgment. She entered adulthood as a struggling single mother, working hard to provide for her family. She knew that school was the answer to her needs. She wanted to provide her family with a better life. After getting her GED, she began attending classes with the aspiration of attending law school. In 2007, she graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science in justice and social inquiry. Along the way, she had many who advised her that law school was an impractical ambition. They pushed her to lower her sites to something more practical, more achievable. Determined to accomplish what she had set out to do, she ignored them and applied to law school. Walking into her first year of law school as an adult, a mother of three, she had a sense of appreciation that her younger classmates couldn’t understand. Everyone puts value in education, but it is those who have experienced life without it that can see its true worth. “I appreciated a career more,” Kraus explained. “I had a ton of jobs, but never a career before.” With the help of her children, Kraus graduated from Phoenix Law School in 2010. Balancing schoolwork and long study hours with a family and a full-time job was more than difficult, but with the help of her two oldest children she managed. Looking back, Kraus sees law school as training for being a lawyer. It’s the same long hours, the same skills for researching and the same dedication that makes a lawyer successful. Kraus did have some help, though. Her fiancé, Robert helped her prepare for the bar exam. “I wouldn’t have passed without him,” she admitted. In addition, she has turned her family law practice into quite the family affair. Her sister, Marilyn Stueland works as her legal assistant. With a background in biology and a history with the Arizona Humane Society, Stueland brings a different set of skills to the table. “We balance each other out,” she admits when asked about working with her sister. She helps keep the details in line, while Kraus works on the cases. Kraus’ daughter, Gabrielle Crawford also joins the team. While working toward her degree in child psychology, Crawford helps her mom part time with all her pro bono cases. Since Kraus began her life as an attorney working as a fellow at Community Legal Services, she has continually worked to give back to society. Community Legal Services (CLS) is a program dedicated to providing strong legal help to those who cannot afford an attorney. The staff members work hard to assist the lower-income community. As Kraus began her career working alongside these remarkable individuals, they have greatly shaped the way in which she practices law. As she started out, they were an encouraging group of mentors. Kraus looks forward to the day when she can emulate them. Her admiration for the staff of CLS is not one-sided. Managing attorney, Patricia Madsen, describes Kraus’ time with the group, “I was impressed with her tenacity and positive attitude. If I had to describe her in one word, it would be ‘fearless.’ When she finished her fellowship with us she immediately started her own practice. She is such an inspiration to others.” While managing her own firm, Kraus volunteers for the Family Law Assistance Project (FLAP) twice a month. FLAP is a project under CLS devoted to providing the community with legal advice. Volunteer attorneys sit in a room and answer questions for individuals who are representing themselves. Each individual is given a half-hour consultation with the volunteer lawyer. Kraus was honored this year with the FLAP, For Love of Justice Award and was also named FLAP Attorney of the Year. “It feels good to have people appreciate what you do,” admitted Kraus. In addition to her volunteer work with FLAP, Kraus takes on domestic violence cases through the Volunteer Lawyers Program (VLP). She is honored to watch women who come to her grow into their own. In the beginning, she has seen women who are “too scared to fill out their own paperwork.” She works with them and often refers them to Fresh Start. One of her main goals in working as an attorney is to help people help themselves. While Kraus works with VLP to help with domestic violence cases, she is pleased that operating as a solo practitioner hasn’t closed any doors. Kraus works with all varieties of cases. Her practice is not limited to one area of family law. She works with women on domestic violence cases and is also pleased to see the progress men are gaining with the family courts. Sixty years ago, women were stay-at-home moms. Now, “both people are working and both people are taking care of the kids,” so it makes sense that the law should adapt with the times. It is partly this opportunity for progression and change that brought Kraus to the practice of family law. It is an everevolving thing, just as the family is an ever-evolving unit. As her own family grows, adding three rescue dogs and two grandchildren, Cameron, 5, and Jeremiah, 1, Kraus is pleased to provide them with a good life. If you asked her family or her friends they would tell you that she is not the same person she was. Just as Kraus is able to watch her clients gain confidence, so has her family witnessed her growth. She is still amazed sometimes that people look to her as an authority. Modestly, she strives to improve her practice and her ability. A few months ago, Kraus moved to a bigger and better office. As her practice grows, Kraus keeps her head down on her cases. You’ll often catch her working long weekends and odd hours of the night, but she does it with a smile. It is her “positive outlook on life that really helps [her].” To this day, Kraus values her career as much as the day she stepped into law school. Today, she is proud to introduce herself: Katherine Kraus, family law attorney.
Published by Target Market Media . View All Articles.