A frightening car crash led to law school, a major in German and a life in the law

I was interested in a legal career from a fairly young age, but it was an accident in the summer after my senior year of high school that solidified my decision. My best friend and I were returning from a movie, when a drunk driver sped through a yield sign and hit my car head-on. The car flipped completely upside down and my friend and I ended up in the hospital.

We were both extremely fortunate to walk away with some scars and a story to tell. Back then, we did not have victims’ advocates or anyone to guide us through the legal process. No one kept us apprised of what happened to the man who hit us that night, or whether he faced any consequences for his actions at all. I thought that there had to be a better way and how invaluable it would have been to have a knowledgeable advocate to rely on during such a scary time.

So, I decided that law school was for me. But, first, I needed to get through my undergraduate studies and pick a major. Some of the best advice I received was from a high school mock trial coach, who told me, “There are a lot of different types of lawyers out there, Kristin. You don’t have to be a political science major. Pick a major you actually enjoy that involves a lot of reading, writing, and public speaking. It will serve you well.”

I decided to be a German major, figuring that making legal arguments probably could not be any more difficult than giving a presentation in a completely different language. My German grandmother was both pleased and baffled by this choice. When she came to the US as a very young woman on her own, learning English and fitting in was necessary for survival. The idea that her granddaughter could benefit professionally from earning a degree in German was a novel concept for her. I think of her each time I counsel one of our German-based clients or attend one of our German American Chamber events.

As my high school mock trial coach pointed out, there are a lot of different types of lawyers out there. What type did I want to be? Luckily, my pre-law advisor at Wofford College placed me in an internship with a labor and employment firm that would become my professional home. I was immediately hooked. Having crossed a picket line with my parents to accept an academic scholarship from my dad’s employer at age seventeen, it was a natural fit. More than two decades later, I am still very proud to call FordHarrison my professional home.