How I Got My Job: Catherine Larson, Strong & Hanni

What do you do? 

I am the Managing Shareholder of Strong & Hanni law firm. My practice includes approximately 10 percent administrative functions of the firm and the remainder practicing in the field of medical malpractice defense. I have been a practicing attorney with Strong & Hanni for almost 20 years.

Where are you from and where did you go to law school?

I am originally from Northern California. I relocated to Utah after high school and obtained by B.S. in Nursing from the University of Utah in 1982.  I later obtained my J.D. from the S.J. Quinney School of Law in 1993.

What kind of activities did you do in law school?

I was a non-traditional law student, having experienced and worked in a career prior to law school.  I was also married and had one young child during my law school days.  Thus, much of my time in law school was devoted to attending classes and studying.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t much time left for extracurricular activities, although I was a member and participated in the Health Law Coalition.

How did you first make contact with your employer and how did you get this job?

I first made contact with Strong & Hanni through the College of Law’s on campus interview program. Since I was a Registered Nurse and my intention with law school was to practice in a field of health care, I sought out Strong & Hanni as it had an excellent reputation in the community for its medical malpractice defense work.  I interviewed for a summer clerk position for my second and third years of law school.  I worked part-time during the school year and full-time during the summer after my second year.  While a summer clerk, I performed a variety of tasks for most of the twenty-plus attorneys in the firm.  However, I knew that medical malpractice defense was my passion and I approached one of the senior partners (who happened to be one of the premier medical malpractice attorneys in the city) to advise him that I was very interested in pursuing the same field. I naturally gravitated toward this practice area. At the time I was initially hired as an associate with Strong & Hanni, the firm did not have organized practice groups.  However, within a few years, practice groups emerged, including a medical malpractice defense group. My inclusion in that practice area was a natural fit and I’ve been practicing in that field ever since. 

My position as Managing Shareholder is more recent.  My predecessor held the position of Managing Shareholder for several years.  He was called to serve for his church and the necessity arose to replace him. I, along with several of my colleagues, was considered for this position.  I was asked to serve in this position and became very overwhelmed with joy. I felt honored that my predecessor and colleagues had faith in my abilities to manage the law firm.  I have held this position for almost three years.

What does your typical day involve for you/your work?

My practice is primarily civil litigation.  I spend most days working on litigation issues to prepare medical malpractice matters for arbitration, mediation and trial.  I spend a great deal of time counseling health care providers about the litigation process.  My time involves preparing for and taking a lot of depositions, handling administrative hearings on malpractice matters, preparing and responding to discovery requests, strategizing the defense of malpractice cases, medical and legal research, speaking with expert witnesses and trial preparation.  My responsibilities also include administrative matters, such as managing financial issues in the firm, monitoring and counseling attorneys and staff, and coordinating administrative functions of the firm. 

What are the best (and worst, if you want) parts of your job?

The best part of my job is having the opportunity to help my clients.  Health care providers are often unfamiliar with the legal process and they need considerable advice and counseling during the litigation process.  I tell every client at the initial meeting that I expect to carry the burden of the litigation for them and to help make this process as least intrusive on their lives and career as possible. I look at every case individually and strive to achieve the most optimal outcome for every client.  Expressions of appreciation are welcome and serve to rejuvenate my belief that I am successful in performing a service for my clients.  I also strive to educate and mentor young attorneys on methods to become successful in their careers.  

What tips and advice do you have job-seeking students and/or alum?

Be willing to accept that you may not know exactly what kind of law you want to practice in the future.  Be willing to be flexible, open minded and adventurous when it comes to practice areas. As a nurse, I had a very good idea of where I wanted my practice to go, but that isn’t always the case.  Be willing to work hard.  Practicing in a law firm has many rewards, but also many demands.  It is extremely important to recognize your strengths and weaknesses and work to develop yourself into a well respected member of the legal community.  Don’t be so eager to achieve success that you lose sight of need to develop skills and enhance your professional growth.  Be willing to learn the business of law as your career develops.  Strive to understand that as a young attorney your work is more than one project after another.  Be willing to learn how your work affects the financial well-being of the law firm, how it affects the client, and how it affects your professional development. Be willing to learn, take advice from mentors, develop good practice habits and never lose sight of ethical boundaries. Most importantly, learn good time management skills. A good work-life balance is essential to being a success, both in your career and in your personal life.