Meet the Attorney: Dee Cohen Katz
Welcome back to our Meet the Attorney series! Today we have a very special interview with the firm’s managing partner, Dee Cohen Katz. As a well-documented overachiever, she decided to answer all of the questions that are suggested during these interviews so you can get to know her even better. In addition to the standard questions posed in this series, Dee also shares some insight on what it was like to be a leader in 2020 and how she feels about the firm’s performance during an unprecedented year.
Dee joined Walsworth’s Orange County office over 26 years ago shortly after graduating from William & Mary Law School in Virginia. Dee is an Orange County native who remained in California to attend Stanford University as an undergrad where she was active as a dancing “Dollie” with the Stanford Band and competed on their nationally ranked synchronized swimming team (more on that later).
As an attorney, beyond her managing partner duties, Dee maintains an active defense practice in the areas of toxic torts, products liability, general liability and business litigation. Dee is extremely proud to be the leader of a firm that has thrived with the changing times. Currently, she is part of Walsworth’s 74% female ownership and is a champion and advocate for the firm’s continued diversity and inclusion efforts.
See below to hear more from Dee about her life as a lawyer, managing partner and yes, former competitive synchronized swimmer:
Who is your mentor or the person you most admire?
Definitely my parents. My mom is the strongest person I know. A Holocaust survivor, she came to the U.S. from Czechoslovakia at age five after living in hiding in the woods with her family. She and my father have always been a source of unwavering support and made me feel like I could accomplish anything. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I admire my 14-year-old daughter, who is incredibly resilient, wise beyond her years, and has the most beautiful heart.
If someone were to write a book about you, what do you think the title should be?
Up until the past couple of years, it could have been “Welcome to the Tornado”. More recently, though, “Living Life with Gratitude, Love, and Passion” seems more fitting.
What does being part of the Walsworth Family mean to you?
I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities I’ve been provided, the unwavering support I have felt here for more than 26 years, and being given the chance to give back to others. I’m really proud of the way our firm has persevered and grown through some challenging times, especially over the past couple of years.
What’s the most unexpected or amusing thing you’ve experienced while practicing law and why?
Not directly related to me practicing law, but two very unexpected events happened during my first year of practice in West Los Angeles. First, the January 1994 Northridge earthquake shut down my office building for almost a week to ensure there was no structural damage. I was a brand new lawyer and remember being concerned about not being able to do my work since this was long before the days of personal laptops and home computer access. Second, I was working late on a Friday night in June 1994 (remember, overachieving first-year attorney!) at the same time that O.J. Simpson’s white Ford Bronco car chase was occurring. My office was located in Brentwood, the same city where O.J. lived, and from my office window that evening I witnessed the parade of police cars with lights flashing exit the freeway as the chase wound down.
What made you decide to go to law school/become a lawyer?
The original impetus was feeling a strong need to see more women in the judiciary. I never got to don a judge’s robe (not yet anyway!), but in some ways feel I’ve come full circle by helping to grow a firm that is women-owned and prioritizes diversity and inclusion.
How do you “recharge your batteries”?
Exercise (I currently ride my Peloton bike along with a fantastic online group of other lawyer moms, and also enjoy hiking and weight training), wine tasting (this year from the comfort of my home of course), spending time with my family and close friends (my college girlfriends implemented a weekly Zoom call during the pandemic which has been a blessing), and occasionally indulging in mindless reality television (and not afraid to admit it).
What goal(s) have you yet to achieve?
At this point in my life, I am focused on living a purposeful life where I am true to myself, continue to develop and nurture relationships, and give and receive love. Simple things bring me joy. The rest is gravy.
Anything obscure that you know “more than the average bear” about?
Interior design. I’ve always loved being able to create a sanctuary in my home. And needlepoint – a skill I learned from my mom many years ago.
What is your favorite vacation spot?
I have a real soft spot for Santa Fe, New Mexico, and have been several times. The week I spent at a Montana dude ranch a number of years ago with my daughter was also pretty special.
What do you find most rewarding/satisfying about the practice of law?
Constantly learning and never being bored a single day in my career. Collaboratively working with colleagues and clients to overcome challenges and reach great results. I was fortunate to have several mentors during the past 30 years dating back to when I clerked at a law firm prior to attending law school, so if I can similarly mentor or inspire anyone, it brings me a great feeling of accomplishment. My top reward, though, would have to be the depth of the relationships I’ve been able to develop with colleagues and clients. They know who they are.
What would people be most surprised to learn about you?
I was a competitive synchronized swimmer from age six through college. It taught me discipline, teamwork, and a love of performing (not to mention how to hold my breath underwater). In college, I was also a Stanford Dollie, one of five women who dance each year with the Stanford Band. The irony is not lost on me that my formative years growing up were spent collaboratively working with teams of women. I feel that at some level it definitely helped set the stage for my current role with Walsworth.
If you could instantly become an expert at anything, what would it be?
There are so many things I am fascinated with and want to learn. Top of the list right now would have to be meditation and mindfulness. Quieting my mind is a challenge but an area in which I’m improving. First thing in the morning, my first 10-15 minutes are spent with my thoughts and visualizing my day. Becoming a meditation/mindfulness guru sounds pretty good to me!
What was the last book you read? Do you have any recommendations?
Currently on my nightstand are “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle and “Fast, Feast and Repeat” by Gin Stephens.
What do you think of the way lawyers are portrayed on TV/in movies?
I love legal films that offer pure entertainment – Legally Blonde and My Cousin Vinny are top picks. There are so many stereotypes about lawyers, many of them unkind and untrue. I have met the most amazing people in this industry. My philosophy is that it’s better to ignore the haters, recognize it’s more about them than you, and then go out and show the world what you can do.
What does it mean to you to work in a diverse law firm like Walsworth?
Being surrounded by colleagues from different backgrounds who offer unique perspectives and life experiences, and who accept and want to learn from each other, has not only enriched my career but my life in general.
Any final thoughts?
As we have all experienced, 2020 has been unlike any other year. I never thought that I would have to go through a pandemic, let alone being tasked with leading a law firm through it with me. No business is successful without the contribution of many, and I am so proud of the way the entire Walsworth team has come together this year, not only to successfully transition and continue serving our clients, but to personally support each other. It’s my privilege to be part of this group.