Kathryn Burmeister is an accomplished attorney, author, speaker, coach and founder of Burmeister Law Firm. Today she joins Bridget Fitzpatrick, host of The Female Founder on ASBN, to discuss the difficulties she faced in her early career, and how she overcame her own obstacles to becoming the lawyer she always wanted to be.
Burmeister’s inspirations to become a lawyer appeared in her childhood, after she read “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee and “Letter from The Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King Jr. Moved by their influential depictions of racial discrimination and legal injustice, she pursued her career with relish, getting her first law firm job in high school, culminating in her current position as head of her own personal injury practice.
However, despite this apparent success, Burmeister had to overcome difficult internal and external struggles to get where she is. In her first role after passing the bar, she served as an attorney at a personal injury firm. Tragically, only a short time after she began, the firm was forced to restructure after one of its partners committed suicide. It was revealed that this individual had been stealing money from the company, meaning its team had to balance the consequences of his actions, the future of the business and their current caseload.
Despite losing nearly all of her coworkers, Burmeister was determined to make things work. Sticking with the firm’s sole remaining partner and lone paralegal, she proceeded to sift through the company’s massive caseload. She noted that this period was one of the most difficult she had ever experienced. While she was determined to right the wrongs of her former partner, and remained committed to her clients, she explains that one of the key reasons she remained was her imposter syndrome. Fearing that any failure would be attributed to her lack of ability, she forced herself to continue working despite knowing it was unsustainable. Despite her efforts, the remaining partner, understandably impacted by the tragedy, had a harder time staying motivated. Matters came to a head when he took an unannounced vacation, abandoning an important client in their time of need.
Suddenly she realized, despite the stress, frustration and anxiety, that she had underestimated her own strength. Even though she was still a fresh lawyer, she had already arisen to challenges few others in their legal careers would ever face, and proven her worth. No longer worried she would be labeled as a fraud, she confronted the partner and quit her position. In two weeks, she founded her own personal injury firm with a new network of clients, where she continues to represent them in cases against massive insurance corporations and hospital administrations.
Burmeister wants people to remember that they aren’t required to stick to a status quo, noting that people regularly underestimate their ability to change things for the better. However, she cautions against complacency, which can cause issues to reach a boiling point, much like she experienced as a young attorney. Instead, Burmeister recommends that those who experience challenges to always monitor their emotions to see when action is needed. Above all, she hopes that her story inspires others to realize their own worth, and to change their lives for the better.
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