Mary Kathryn Kurth: Excellence through Service and Compassion
Mar 30, 2021
March is Women’s History Month! In celebration and recognition of the fantastic female attorneys at Edwards Kirby, our blog writer sat down with each of them to learn about their experiences as women in the legal profession and their advice for younger female attorneys entering the profession.
In our final installment, we interviewed Mary Kathryn Kurth, an attorney at Edwards Kirby who specializes in cases involving catastrophic injuries and medical malpractice. Recently she has been recognized as one of Best Lawyers 2021 “Ones to Watch” for Appellate Practice and Medical Malpractice Law, and she was selected as one of Business North Carolina’s “Legal Elite Young Guns” for 2021. Additionally, for the second year in a row, Super Lawyers named her a “Rising Star” in the profession.
What does it mean to you to be a woman in the legal profession?
It means going above and beyond. As women in a historically (and presently) male-dominated profession, we must go above and beyond to stand out on the merits of our work. Through that hard work, there is great satisfaction and reward. Women have made significant inroads in the legal profession in recent years, but there remains considerable work to be done. I am definitely proud to be a woman lawyer, and I hope that I am playing a role in the advancement of women in the legal profession.
Why is it important for women to be represented in the profession?
It’s important that women be represented across all professions. As attorneys, we are not only fighting for justice for our clients, but we are also called on to be counselors for our clients. When people turn to us, they are often going through one of the most difficult experiences of their lives and need advice, as well as an advocate. It’s important for those clients, particularly our female clients, that they can identify with us.
How has being a woman shaped your experience in the profession?
Being a woman inherently shapes all of my experiences. As a lawyer in a male-dominated field, it has made me more determined to work harder and go the extra mile. As a (brand) new mother, I’m working on balancing the demands of my professional life with the demands of my home life (and the demands of a very needy infant). This is a new and challenging experience, perhaps my most challenging experience ever. It definitely makes me respect professional mothers even more.
Who were your female mentors or role models when you were beginning in the profession?
Honestly, I didn’t have many female mentors early in my career, but I had outstanding male ones. There’s often a misconception that your mentors should look like you or have similar backgrounds. Having mentors early on with different experiences from my own helped me become a better lawyer.
My current female mentors are my colleagues, Kristen Beightol and Cate Edwards. I consider myself lucky to work with them every day! They have been wonderful mentors as I’ve grown as a lawyer. Cate has really exemplified what it is to be a mother and a lawyer—she somehow makes it look easy! However, my biggest role model is my mom. Throughout my entire life, she has worked incredibly hard and provided me the best example of what it is to be a professional woman.
What can the legal profession do to attract more women?
The practice of law is seeing a positive change towards more gender equity—law school admissions are actually female-dominated currently. Increasing attention to supporting women once they enter the profession is equally important. Groups like NCAJ’s Women’s Caucus and the NCBA Women in the Profession Committee are critical for creating opportunities for women attorneys to grow in the profession and build their professional network.
What advice do you have for young women interested in a legal career?
Don’t be afraid to speak up and be heard. While it is a historically male-dominated profession, there is a place for you at the table.
What do you do outside of work?
Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my family, gardening and enjoying all of the wonderful parks and green spaces in the Raleigh area.
If you were not a lawyer, what would you be?
I think I would either be a teacher or do something in the non-profit realm. I love volunteering, so I think I would have loved to make a career of that.
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