For many, public service is a calling, and to look at Kate Wieking Wardrip’s legal experience is to know it’s true for her as well. From providing legal assistance to people living with HIV/AIDS and mental health disabilities to helping run a restraining order clinic for victims of domestic violence, preparing immigration paperwork with her clients, and drafting fair-housing policy recommendations for city planners, to her current work representing tenants fearful of eviction, it’s clear that working for the greater good means a lot to Kate. “I spent a summer in college at a non-profit in Fresno and had training in community development,” she said. “I became fascinated by a line of work that would let me work with people in crisis while also being smart and creative about strategies to build up the community. I get to use my head and my heart.” Kate’s work for Legal Services of Northern California qualified her for a public service scholarship through The NITA Foundation, which in turn was funded by a grant from the International Society of Barristers (ISOB). It’s been a year since she attended the Trial Skills program, so we wanted to see how the experience is working out for her and the clients she serves.
What is the nature of your work for Legal Services of Northern California?
I work in one of the regional offices as a staff attorney providing civil legal services to low-income people and seniors. Though I get to participate in the larger work of the office, most of my work is providing representation to tenants facing eviction and all other landlord-tenant issues.
How did you hear about NITA’s trial skills training?
Legal Services strongly recommends NITA’s trainings and most of my colleagues have attended at least one. I heard enough about the “learning by doing” program to want to attend even though I was repeatedly warned, “It’s not a vacation—you have to work!”
What kind of changes in your practice and work habits have you experienced since attending the NITA Trial Skills Program last year?
I feel much more confident in the courtroom. In particular, my examination of witnesses has improved dramatically. I got rid of bad habits, learned to ask better questions and through practicing at NITA, my flow is much better too. I knew I had improved when a coworker who was at trial with me to take notes (we have no court reporters in unlawful detainer court) told me he forgot to take notes because he was so caught up in my cross-examination.
What is the most important personal attribute you bring to your work?
I’m a good listener. I have learned that my clients are easier to work with and are better served if I give them an opportunity to share their story on their terms and validate the difficulty of their situation before moving into lawyer mode. I have bad news for my clients a lot of the time, and I find they receive it better and can to move forward if they feel heard.
What’s the best thing about living in Northern California?
The hiking! There are so many beautiful places to visit—the High Sierras, the rolling wine country, rugged coast, and redwood forests. Runner-up: the summer fruit.
If you had to quit your job to chase a dream, what would it be?
Hike the John Muir Trail or Pacific Crest Trail.
What’s the most recent show you’ve binge-watched?
I just finished the final season of Portlandia. Time for a visit!
What was your favorite band 10 years ago?
Emo/indie band Copeland. I was still in high school.
Got any phobias you’d like to break?
I’m afraid of conflict. My career as a lawyer is definitely making me work that one out.
What’s your favorite comfort food?
A little bowl of rice.
Lightning-round questions. Coffee or tea?
iPhone or Android?
Cats or dogs?
Sweet or salty?
Classic or modern?
And finally, what is your motto?
I’ve never thought to make one my own, but my husband says it’s “You do you, man.”
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