Anyone who might think business law is dry or too focused on the bottom line probably hasnt met Paula Kluksdal.
Successful and fast-rising at her Downtown Boise law firm, Kluksdal will be honored by her peers statewide March 14 when she receives the first-ever Setting the Bar Award from Idaho Women Lawyers.
And when she talks about her profession, her clients and the local legal community, the overriding emotion seems to be joy.
Its challenging, and its different all the time. Theres not a lot of time to be bored, she says. I like interacting with people, and I like solving problems. I like writing, and I love talking.
I like the advocacy part of the law. I love trying to teach my children that part of it.
Kluksdal, 40, focuses on real estate and finance at Hawley Troxell, where she has worked for nearly 15 years about half of that time as partner.
She co-chairs the banking department and last month became the first woman ever elected to Hawley Troxells five-member board of partners, which guides policies, practices and strategic planning for the 48-attorney firm.
Kluksdal started working at Hawley Troxell in November 1998 after serving as law clerk for Cathy Silak, then an Idaho Supreme Court justice.
Silak, who retired from the high court and is now dean of Concordia Law School, was one of many who endorsed Kluksdal for the Setting the Bar honor.
Paula truly exemplifies one who is devoted to her family, her community and her profession through her acts and deeds, Silak says. She has the intellect and compassion to accomplish any goal she sets for herself. I feel that she is definitely one of the premier female attorneys in practice in Idaho.
KIND OF A PIONEER With three children between the ages of 5 and 10, a high-powered career and commitments to fighting domestic violence and other community causes, Kluksdal jokes that if her life had a theme, it would be, Chaos is your friend. And she has no shortage of friends, says Nicole Hancock, president of Idaho Women Lawyers.
Shes like a magnet; youre just drawn to her. Shes a good person through and through, Hancock says. Shes the consummate professional that people can look up to and aspire to be like. Shes a phenomenal attorney, shes well respected by other attorneys, she works hard and shes not afraid to talk about the challenges of being a working mom.
Inspiring role models for female attorneys are especially important in Idaho, which ranks last in the nation for the number of women on the bench and 42nd in the nation in pay for female attorneys, Hancock says. She says the Setting the Bar Award was basically created for Kluksdal, honoring not just her achievements but the way she has traversed her careers course.
As Idaho Women Lawyers prepared for its inaugural Celebrating Women in the Law gala and sent out a call for nominations for five categories of honors, Hancock says, a flurry of nominations came in for Kluksdal in several categories.
What it really boiled down to is, shes bigger than all these awards, Hancock says. Shes really kind of a pioneer. She really helped change the culture.
So a new award was created to honor an exemplary attorney who mentors others and still has many years to contribute to the field.
Kluksdal is well known for championing the careers of other women, Hancock says.
One of those is Danielle Quade, who said in a nominating letter that Paula was a large part of the reason I joined Hawley Troxell in 2001.
She has mentored and supported all of the women in our firm and has advocated vocally to get women made partner, including me, Quade wrote. She always has time for any concern or issue facing anyone and approaches everything with a how can I help?
Kluksdal says mentoring and sponsoring are essential parts of her professional life. Asked for the distinction between the two terms, she says a mentor helps you grow in your knowledge, while a sponsor is willing to exhaust maybe some political capital to help the person advance.
She says shes been sponsored by many men and women, and she is happy to continue the chain.
Helping the community beyond her profession, Kluksdal has served on the executive committee of Idaho Partners against Domestic Violence since 2005 and is a past president of the 4th District Bar Association.
Past honors include the Idaho State Bar Outstanding Service Award in 2011, an Idaho Business Review Women of the Year Award in 2008 and the Tribute to Women and Industry (TWIN) Award from the Womens & Childrens Alliance in 2007.
Of her latest award, she says, I absolutely feel honored and humbled. I have the greatest respect for my colleagues, and there are a lot of really phenomenal women lawyers in Idaho.
And shes excited about her work as a business lawyer. I have amazing clients that have really fun, complex projects that help the community, that bring in jobs, she says. The moral imprint of those businesses is they also care about people and care about the community. You can do that and still be wildly successful.
Kristin Rodine: 377-6447