Karen Watkins has handled appeals in the state courts of appeals in Texas for more than 20 years and has been recognized as a specialist in civil appellate law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization since 2005.
Karen is a partner in a law firm that is more than 80 years old, McGinnis, Lochridge & Kilgore, LLP. For the last several years, Karen has chaired the firm’s Appellate Practice Group and has assisted the firm’s trial lawyers with jury charges and legal arguments. Texas Law & Politics has included Karen in the civil appellate section of its “Super Lawyers” publication every year since 2005.
Before joining McGinnis, Lochridge & Kilgore, Karen spent her first year after law school serving as a briefing attorney for a justice at the Third Court of Appeals. During that time, Karen learned how the Court worked and why lawyers believed it to be one of the best appellate courts in the state. When Karen left the Court to join McGinnis, Lochridge & Kilgore, the Court had issued opinions or had drafts of opinions in all the cases assigned to her justice’s chambers during the year.
Karen has 6 years of experience serving as a member of an administrative court. In 2001, the Supreme Court of Texas appointed Karen to its 12-member Board of Disciplinary Appeals. This board has all the powers of both a trial court and an appellate court and decides cases in which clients allege their lawyers have violated professional rules of conduct. In her final year on the Board, the other members elected her to serve as their Chair. Karen was the youngest lawyer serving on the Board at that time and is the only woman ever to have served as the Chair of the Board.
During her service on the Board of Disciplinary Appeals, Karen also helped organize and incorporate the National Council of Lawyer Disciplinary Boards (“NCLDB”), and served as its President from 2006 to 2007. Through NCLDB, the disciplinary boards of various states and the District of Columbia exchange information about the enforcement of rules governing lawyers’ professional conduct. In 2010, Karen was proud to be named a “Master of the Bar” member of the Robert W. Calvert Inn of Court. The American Inns of Court are designed to promote discussion among judges and lawyers of all levels of experience about enhancing the ethics and professionalism of the Bar.
Formal and Informal Education
Karen has always been a hard worker. She got her first job when she was fifteen and worked throughout her high school and college years. She did not neglect her studies while working, though.
Karen earned a full-tuition National Merit Scholarship to Baylor University, from which she obtained a BA in general business in 1984, becoming the first person in her family to graduate from college. Karen was then awarded a graduate fellowship and spent two years in an English literature program, first tutoring and then teaching writing and research while taking her own graduate-school coursework.
By the time Karen had completed her coursework in literature, she decided not to wait any longer to go to law school. She applied to and was accepted by Baylor Law, the school Karen believed would best train her to try cases. While at Baylor Law, Karen became a member of the Baylor Law Review, the Order of the Barristers, and one of the school’s nationally recognized mock trial teams. She graduated with her Juris Doctorate in 1990.
Service to the Community and the Profession
Karen has long believed that the ability to read is critical to a person’s ability to improve her own life. To help foster literacy, Karen joined the board of directors for Reading is FUNdamental of Austin (now a part of BookSpring) in 2001. While serving on the Board, Karen helped raise money for the organization by writing grant applications. The money Karen helped raise bought books to be donated to children who might never otherwise have owned books. Karen continued to serve on the board until 2006, and served as the President of the Board in 2004.
Karen has been a member of the local bar association since joining the law firm in 1991. She served as the Chair of the Civil Appellate Section of the Austin Bar in 1998-99 and is a member of the State Bar’s Civil Appellate Section. Karen is a life fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation, a founding fellow of the Austin Bar Foundation, and an invited fellow and board member of the Travis County Women Lawyers Foundation. The last two of these foundations use the fellows’ contributions to improve the Austin community.
Karen lives in Austin. Her mother lives north of the Third Court District and is retired after more than 20 years of clerical service with the City of Irving Police Department. Karen’s father recently passed away, after many years of private aviation instruction and airplane sales work. Karen is a middle child, with an older sister who lives in Seattle with her husband, and a younger brother who lives in Murphy, Texas with his wife, three dogs and two cats. Karen’s nephew is an officer in the United States Navy, and her niece lives in the Houston area with her husband. Karen is very proud of all three of these members of the next generation. When she has spare time, Karen likes to read, travel, go to the theatre, listen to new kinds of music, and spend time with family and friends.