Senior Managing Partner

 Karen Koehler
About Karen Koehler

In the mid-2000’s an opponent told me that other defense attorneys were calling me The Velvet Hammer™”.   When asked why he said: because you smile so sweetly while you are hammering us into the ground.  I thought that was funny and adopted the name.

My parents are my role models. My microbiologist professor father is intellectually curious, meticulous, has an amazing memory, and received many teaching awards. At the dinner table, he dissected our food – explaining the anatomy of what we were eating. My chemical engineer-turned-lawyer mother was a fireball who fought over everything she possibly could and had no respect for authority if it contradicted her own sense of right or wrong. I once saw a lawyer kick her briefcase in court and without hesitation she shoved him.  The judge scolded them both.

At the age of 13, I decided my destiny was to become a lawyer.  I worked as a paralegal for my mom through college and law school. One of her business clients nicknamed me “Lightning” because of my quick comebacks and writing speed. In law school my fellow students would sit in the law library until midnight draining thermoses filled with coffee.  It was still the disco era and I spent most evenings out dancing to Prince.  The summer of 1985 I studied for the bar exam a few hours each afternoon while tanning on my deck.  Madonna had burst upon the club scene and my hair was huge.  I took the bar exam with several hundred others at the Seattle Center.  There was a separate room for people who wanted to use an IBM Selectric. My goal was to be the first one done with every test.  The click clack of the typewriters filled the room. Not once did anyone beat me. I had just turned 25.

A year later I married.  Went on to have three beautiful inside and out children – Cristina, Alysha, and Noelle.  Worked for an insurance defense firm and then for Tom Chambers who became my mentor in plaintiff law before ascending to the State Supreme Court bench.  In 1996, I began practicing law with Pat LePley in Bellevue and in 2000 became a single parent.  In 2004, Pat decided my enjoyment of big messy complex cases required more support than our small firm could provide.  He prodded me to move over to the Stritmatter firm.  That same year I received the President’s award from the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association (now Washington State Association for Justice).  In 2005 received its Trial Lawyer of the Year Award and served as President from 2007-2008 while my girls were in junior high and high school.

Being a lawyer is part of my soul.  My work is part of who I am.  The stories of my clients will never leave me.  The child who could not bear to see his father take his last breath… The son who waved goodbye to his mother as he headed off to school, not realizing that would be the last time he would see her… The teenager on a school trip who woke up to see bones coming out through her skin…  The young man struck down and killed in front of the police who had been ordered not to enter the Mardi Gras riot zone…The siblings who were in the hospital for so long that they had to postpone the funeral for their parents by a year… The eighth grader sitting in the rear passenger seat when the bumper from another car went through the vehicle and into her lovely face… The Boeing worker whose leg was almost torn off from the impact, fragments of bone lying in the street… The maintenance lead burned to death by an acid solution… The widows who created shrines in their bedrooms for their beloved spouses…The sister who saw her baby sister die.    So much preventable sorrow.

My job is to make sure that wrongdoers are brought to justice and that the lives and losses of my clients are fully honored and respected.  I love my job.

Note: Like every person, each case is unique. Prior case results should not create expectations of an outcome in any individual case.

the Office

Karen loves to hike, ski, and is a movie fanatic. She has a Brittany Spaniel named Nala who she runs with every day.
  • Trial Lawyer of the Year, Washington State Association for Justice (WSAJ), 2005
  • Named as Top 10 Super Lawyer in Washington State, Super Lawyers, 2014
  • Named as Top 100 Super Lawyer in Washington State, Super Lawyers, 2007-2018
  • Named as Top 50 Women Washington Super Lawyers, Super Lawyers, 2003-2018
  • Named as one of the top 500 leading Lawyers in America, Lawdragon Magazine, 2007, 2011, 2014, 2015
  • Listed in “The Best Lawyers in America”, Best Lawyers publication, 2006-present
  • Top Trial Practice Blawg, American Bar Association, 2011, 2012
  • Rated AV, Martindale-Hubbell (highest available rating)
  • American Association for Justice (AAJ): Board Member (YY??), Washington State Delegate (2008), Chair Moto Vehicle Highway and Premises Section (2003-2004), Vice Chair Moto Vehicle Highway and Premises Section (2001-2002), Washington State Delegate Minority Affairs (2001-present), Co-Chair Spinal Cord Injury Litigation Group (YY??), Executive Committee Member Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group (YY??)
  • Spinal Cord Injury Association of Washington Executive Director and Founder (2010-2017)
  • Washington State Association for Justice (WSAJ): President (2007-2008), VP Legislative (2005-2006), VP Development (2003-2004), VP Public Affairs (2002-2003), VP Continuing Legal Education (2001-2002), Chair Insurance Section (2000-2001), VP Membership (2000-2001), Board of Governors 8th District Representative (1999-2000), Chair Law School Advocacy Committee (1996-2006)
  • Washington State Bar Association (WSBA): Chair Executive Litigation Committee (2008-2009), Vice Chair Executive Litigation Committee (2007-2008), Secretary/Treasurer Executive Litigation Committee (2005-2007)
  • American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA)
  • Voir Dire, December 2010
  • Washington Motor Vehicle Accident Litigation Deskbook, Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) chatper author “The Jury Trial”, 2009
  • Fun with Karen, John and the WSTLA Team, Trial News, October 2007
  • Letter from Chair, American Trial Lawyers Association (ATLA), Automobile Accidents, Highway & Premises Liability Section, Vol. 10, No. 2, Winter 2003
  • Litigating Major Automobile Injury and Death Cases, Thurston West Publishing, 2006
  • Litigating Minor Impact Soft Tissue Cases, Thompson West Publishing, 2001
  • Handling Motor Vehicle Accidents, Thompson West Publishing, 2008
  • Uncut and Uncensored Debrief on 1873, Trial News, April 2008
  • The Value of Dissent, Trial News, March 2008
  • Our Heroes the Humans, Trial News, February 2008
  • Ode to Gerhard & Larry, Tiral News, December 2007
  • President’s Column: The Firm, Trial News, November 2007
  • WSTLA honors efforts to preserve the civil justice system, Trial news, September 2007
  • Alvin Anderson Award Recognizes Stritmatter Kessler firm for Campaign Leadership, Commitment to Civil Justice System, Washington State Trial Lawyers Association, March 2006
  • Proud to Be a Trial Lawyer’s Daughter, Tiral News, September 2005
  • Art of Advocacy, Trial News, 2002
  • Words of Wisdom to Young Lawyers: Humility is an important trial skill, Trial News, March 2000
  • The Enhancement of Danger Theory, By Karen K. Koehler and Michael E. Withey, Causes of Action Treatise, 2003, Thompson West Publishing
  • Chapter author: Washington Civil Trial and Evidence Manual Voir Dire to Verdict, 5th Ed. 2004, Litigation Section WSBA, By Karen K. Koehler
  • Life Care Plans and Catastrophic Injury Cases, AAJ, New Orleans, March 2016
  • Direct Exam, Washington State Association for Justice, Seminar Web, Webinar, March 2016
  • Depositions, King County Bar Association, Seattle, Washington, March 2016
  • Do’s and Don’ts of Visual Presentation, July 2015, AAJ, Montreal
  • Making Your Case with Defense Experts, Washington State Association for Justice, December 2015
  • Novel Claims, Belli Seminar, Montreal, July 2015
  • Defense Medical Examinars, AAJ, Webinar, July 2015
  • Voir Dire in Auto Cases, AAJ, Montreal, July 2015
  • Common SCI defenses, AAJ Jazz fest, NOLA, May 2015
  • Using Metaphors Allegories and Similes in Closing, Orlando, February 2015
  • Big Picture, Little Details, Iowa Trial Lawyers, SEAK, Des Moines, Iowa, November 2014
  • Trial Technology, Washington State Bar Association, Seattle, July 2014
  • Using metaphors, allegories, and similes in closing, (hosted in Seattle), Nevada Trial Lawyers Association, Oct. 2013
  • Persuasive PPT at trial, Colorado Annual Convention, August 2013
  • Traumatic Brain Injury and Spinal Cord Injuries, San Francisco, AAJ Annual Convention, July 2013
  • Persuasive PPT at Trial, San Francisco, AAJ Annual Convention, July 2013
  • Using metaphors, allegories, and similes in closing, Belli Seminar, San Francisco, July 2013
  • Big Picture Little Details Laramie, Wyoming, WYTLA convention, June 2013
  • Persuasive PPT at trial, Vancouver BC Trial Llawyers Association, Feb. 2013
  • Persuasive PPT at trial, Vermont Trial lawyers Association, Vermont Trial Lawyers Association, May 2012
  • Persuading jurors with morality based themes, North Dakota Trial Lawyers Association, May 2012
  • Proving invisible traumatic brain injuries, AAJ Midwinter convention, Phoenix Feb. 2012
  • Morality based closing arguments that persuade in trying times, Indiana Assn for justice, Nov. 2011
  • Opening statement Trial Advocacy program, WSBA, Oct 2011
  • Persuasive themes and techniques in brain injury trials, NABIS, New Orleans, Sept 2011
  • Persuading jurors with moral argument, Kentucky Assn for Justice, Sept 2011
  • And then the Jury Clapped…How to Present Extremely Demonstrative Evidence. Annual Beli seminar. NYC July 2011
  • Traumatic Brain Injury and Preexisting Conditions. AAJ Annual Convention. NYC July 2011
  • Valuation and Life Expectancy in Spinal Cord Injury Cases. AAJ Annual convention. NYC July 2011
  • Demonstration: Overcoming Defense Themes and Tactics in Opening. AAJ Annual convention. NYC July 2011
  • Understanding Diverse Cultures Perspective on Emotional Injury and Consortium Claims. WSAJ Annual Convention Whistler, BC July 2011
  • Persuasive brain injury trial techniques Utah Association for Justice 2011
  • Polarizing the brain injury case AAJ Brain Injury Seminar Atlanta 2011
  • “Opening Statement.” WSBA Trial Advocacy Program Seattle October 2010
  • “Morality based closing argument.’ Arizona Trial Lawyers Association. Phoenix October 2010
  • “Extremely demonstrative evidence.” WSAJ Paris seminar September 2010
  • “Demonstration of plaintiff closing argument in traumatic brain injury trial.” AAJ convention Vancouver July 2010
  • “Discovery in UIM insurance bad faith cases.” AAJ convention Vancouver July 2010
  • “Refocusing the jury in voir dire.” WSAJ Seattle June 2010
  • “Ethical dilemmas in traumatic brain injury cases.” AAJ Brain Injury seminar. Chicago May 2010
  • Closing argument. Mega seminar AAJ Las Vegas October 2009
  • Maximizing damages in inadequate security cases. AAJ Convention San Francisco July 2009
  • Closing argument. AAJ Convention San Francisco July 2009
  • How to try a case without a focus group. Belli Seminar San Francisco July 2009
  • Objectifying the plaintiff’s case: visual images that make a difference. Idaho Convention May 2009
  • Keynote speaker: our inspirational clients. Idaho Convention May 2009
  • Closing argument in a car crash case. Seminar Chair. WSAJ April 2009
  • “Objectifying the Plaintiff’s Case in Trial”, Iowa Trial Lawyers Convention. November 2008
  • “PowerPoint – Objectifying the Plaintiff’s Case”, national webinar. September 2008
  • “Voir Dire” – King County Bar Assn. August 2008
  • “Fighting Protective Orders in Insurance Bad Faith Cases”, AAJ convention Philadelphia July 2008
  • “Representing Minorities in the Court Room – Voir Dire”, AAJ convention Philadelphia July 2008
  • “Objectifying the Plaintiff’s Case”, Vancouver TLA May 2008
  • “Etrial 1.01” – cochair and presenter. WSTLA April 2008
  • “Art of Advocacy” – Idaho School of Law March 2008
  • “Plaintiff Direct Exam” – national webinar. October 2007
  • View Karen’s Deposition DVD, “Preparing For Depositions”
  • “Crash”, WSTLA, September 2007.
  • “Overcoming defense insurance tactics – compelling discovery”, AAJ convention Chicago July 2007
  • “Witness Preparation – Lay and Experts”, AAJ convention February 2007
  • “Maximizing Powerpoint: objectifying the plaintiff’s case”, Trial Smith national webinar. January 2007
  • “Videotape deposition of the insurance adjuster”, WSTLA. January 2007
  • “Voir Dire”, WSBA new members, Lynnwood, September 2006
  • “Being the sole female partner in an all male firm”, WSTLA, Seattle September 2006
  • “Litigating major auto injury and death cases”, Idaho Trial Lawyers. October 2006.
  • “Battling the comparative fault defense, ATLA convention” Seattle. July 2006.
  • “How The Case of Ethel Adams Changes the Law.” Belli Seminar, Seattle. July 2006.
  • “The Elements of Litigation”, chair. WSBA, Seattle. June 2006.
  • “Voire Dire”, teleseminar. ATLA. May 2006
  • “Use of Electronic Media and Visual Aids at Oral Argument”, WSBA, Seattle. April 2006.
  • “New Important Laws – Ethel Adams”, WSTLA. April 2006.
  • “Battling the “Tencer” defense, Auto Cases Seminar”, WSTLA. March 2006
  • “Perpetuating the treating doctor by videotape.” ATLA convention Toronto. July 2005.
  • “Persuading a Hostile Jury.” Wyoming Trial Lawyers annual convention. June 2005.
  • “Summation.” Damages essentials seminar, co-chair and speaker. WSTLA, May 2005.
  • Ethical considerations in representing brain injured plaintiffs. AAJ Brain Injury Seminar Chicago. May 2005
  • “Creative pretrial strategic moves.” Auto cases seminar, WSTLA, March 2005
  • “What every plaintiff’s attorney needs to know – expert biomechanic”, ATLA midwinter convention. January 2005.
  • “Using Juror Attitudes to Your Advantage”, Litigating Auto Cases: Juries, Damages and Discovery Issues Teleseminar, ATLA November 2004
  • “Strategies for seeking damages in wrongful death and survival cases”, Tort Law Update seminar, WSTLA, November 2004
  • “Depositions & Testimony: surviving on the stand”, Mental Health Professionals People’s Law School, November 2004
  • “Opening Statement in an MTV generation”, Iowa annual convention, November 2004
  • “Opening Statement”, WSBA young lawyers advocacy program, October 2004
  • “Cross examination of an expert”, ATLA New Approaches to Damages – David Ball seminar, New Orleans October 2004
  • “Demonstrating State of the Art Automobile Accidents Trial Techniques”, co-chair and program advisor, ATLA annual convention, Boston July 2004
  • “Motor Vehicle Highway Design Premises Liability Section Program”, co-chair and program advisor, ATLA annual convention. Boston, July 2004
  • “COLOSSUS” and program advisor, ATLA annual auto cases seminar. New Orleans, May 2004
  • “Mock Trial with Technology”, Seattle University Law School, March 2004
  • “Past and Future Medical Expenses: Convincing the Jury of Probable Needs”, ATLA midwinter convention. Orlando, February 2004
  • “Arguing Liability”, WSTLA Trial Stars, December 2003
  • “Opening Statement”, WSBA young lawyers advocacy program, October 2003
  • “COLOSSUS”, Bay Area Trial Lawyers. San Jose, October 2003
  • “Voir Dire and Cross Exam of the Defense Medical Examiner”, Auto Cases at Dawn, WSTLA annual convention. Sun River, Ore., August 2003
  • “COLOSSUS”, ATLA annual convention. San Francisco, July 2003
  • “Alternative Theories in Insurance Bad Faith Cases”, ATLA annual convention. San Francisco, July 2003
  • “Powerpoint in Opening and Closing”, Melvin Belli seminar. San Francisco, July 2003
  • “COLOSSUS”, Wisconsin Trial Lawyers annual convention, July 2003
  • “COLOSSUS and How to Litigate MVC cases”, San Diego Trial Lawyers seminar, June 2003
  • “Litigating with Farmers: How to Hammer Farmers”, WSTLA seminar, March 2003
  • “COLOSSUS”, Colorado Trial Lawyers Blockbuster Seminar, February 2003
  • “Case of Kristopher Kime”, ATLA Litigation at Sunrise seminar. Mid-winter convention, February 2003
  • “COLOSSUS”, ICLE settlement and negotiation seminar. Atlanta, January 2003
  • “Preparing Cases to Win”, WSTLA trial stars seminar, December 2002
  • “The Rise of COLOSSUS”, Chair. WSTLA seminar, November 2002
  • “Does the medical examiner industry promote a mindset of cynicism, skepticism and suspicion against people injured in Automobile Accidentss, particularly those who suffered musculoligamentous injury to the neck and back?” Washington Association of
  • “Independent” Medical Examiners, November 2002
  • “The art of negotiation in the age of COLOSSUS”, ITLA Annual Convention, Iowa, November 2002
  • “Depositions and Testimony: Surviving on the Stand”, WSTLA Mental Health Professionals’ law school seminar, October 2002
  • “Finding Closet Skeletons”, WSTLA pre-existing conditions seminar, October 2002
  • “Opening Statement”, WSBA young lawyers advocacy program, October 2002
  • “The art of advocacy”, WSTLA convention, August 2002
  • “The art of negotiation in the age of COLOSSUS”, PATLA annual seminar Pennsylvania, May 2002
  • “Innovative Litigation Strategies”, ATLA auto cases seminar. New Orleans, May 2002
  • “Discovery in Insurance Bad Faith Cases”, co-chair, WSTLA insurance law seminar, January 2002
  • “Medical Vendors Birth of an Industry”, WSTLA, October 2001
  • “The art of negotiation in the age of COLOSSUS”, WSTLA annual convention, August 2001
  • “Demonstration of Insurance Bad Faith Trial, Participant”, ATLA annual convention. Montreal, Canada, July 2001
  • “Top Ten Insurance Litigation Abuses in Auto Cases”, ATLA annual convention. Montreal, Canada, July 2001
  • “Challenges for Cause: Removing contaminants from the jury panel”, WSTLA, June 2001
  • “Top Ten Insurance Litigation Abuses”, WSTLA, April 2001
  • “Why State Farm Paid $470,000 to Settle a Bad Faith Case in Washington”, WSTLA, March 2001
  • “How to Conduct Direct Exam at Trial”, ATLA Winter Convention. New Orleans, February 2001
  • “Claim Core Process Redesign at Allstate – Secret Unfair Strategies Revealed Part II: COLOSSUS Utilization”, WSTLA, January 2001
  • “How to Litigate with Allstate , It takes a different approach”, New Mexico Trial Lawyers Association. Albuquerque, NM, September 2000
  • “Organizing the Deposition”, ATLA Annual Convention. Chicago, August 2000
  • “PIP Abuse at State Farm: Victimizing Insureds to Maximize Profit”, ATLA Annual Convention. Chicago, August 2000
  • “Opening Statements in District Court Cases”, WSTLA annual convention, July 2000
  • “Litigating with Allstate, State Farm, and Others: It takes a different approach”, ATLA Auto Cases Seminar. New Orleans, May 2000
  • “What to Do if Your Client Declares Bankruptcy”, WSTLA, March 2000
  • “Litigating with Allstate , It takes a different approach”, Alaska TLA. Anchorage, Alaska, February 2000
  • “Dispositive Motions”, KCBA, February 2000
  • “Litigating with Allstate , It takes a different approach”, ITLA. Boise, Idaho, November 1999
  • “PI Cases We See the Most – Pre-Trial Motions”, WSTLA, October 1999
  • “Insurance Law Basics Negotiation Do’s and Don’ts”, WSTLA, September 1999
  • “Using Collateral Estoppel to Win on Liability”, WSTLA annual convention, July 1999
  • “Effective Settlement Demands in Automobile Cases”, WSTLA, April 1999
  • “Litigating with Allstate , It takes a different approach”, WSTLA, February 1999
  • Courting Diversity Among Young Lawyers, Asian Weekly, January 2009
  • WSTLA Announces New President and Awards at Annual Convention, Washington State Trial Lawyers Association, September 2005
  • University of Washington School of Law: Adjunct Professor of Trial Advocacy
  • Seattle University, J.D., 1985
  • University of Washington, B.A., 1982

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