Karen's Open Road
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American Bar Association
catholic church, childhood, choice, family, gender, helping profession, limited, military, women
Karen Mathis grew up in Rhode Island in a military family and community. She was also raised Catholic and was told that if you weren't going to be a mother you could be a nurse, teacher, or nun. But Karen already knew what she wanted to be when she grew up: a lawyer. Although during her time as a young woman, female lawyers were unheard of. So, Karen did not know of any female lawyers in her life, but she grew interested in the profession after reading books with lawyer characters. She knew that she wanted to help people through the law. Karen was the first in her family to go to college and graduate from law school, nonetheless. Karen attended the University of Denver and then the University of Colorado Law School on scholarship. After working for big law firms after graduating, in 1989, Karen left to start her own successful firm. For 30 years, Karen served as a member at the American Bar Association, and in 2006 she was elected as its president—the third female to take that position. Karen is also active in youth development and founded the Commission on Youth at Risk at the American Bar Association. She is also the president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.