Judge David Keenan is a King County Superior Court Judge, former civil litigator, and former federal law enforcement agent who serves on the Washington State Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Board. Judge Keenan was born into poverty, grew up on public assistance, was arrested and charged in juvenile court, and dropped out of high school after repeated suspensions. But the story didn't end there.
- What is your current role and practice area?
I’m a trial judge in King County Superior Court. I’m assigned to the Civil Department, which can include nearly any kind of non-criminal case.
- Since hindsight is 20/20, what is one thing you would have done differently in law school?
I worked full-time during the day while attending law school at night. It would’ve been a grind either way, but I wish I’d spent more time with my family.
- What is something you wish you knew about the practice of law during your first few years of practice?
Remember that the work will still be there tomorrow. As a lawyer in 2015, I took two days of vacation the entire year and worked all but three weekends. Looking back, I didn’t need to work as much as I did.
- What is the best advice you've received about networking?
Sign up and show up. I live and give this advice. Many people sign up for things—committees, boards, projects—but many of those folks don’t show up. It is remarkable how far you can advance and how many healthy relationships you can build by volunteering and following through. If you sign up but don’t show up, you’re worse off than if you’d never signed up to begin with—people won’t take you seriously.
- What is one myth you’d bust about being a lawyer?
I’ve spoken with many law students and new lawyers who think that it’s okay to focus solely on their careers in the early years; that’s a myth. If you’re a law student, you have enough education to volunteer in the community. If you’re a lawyer, that license means you should be out advocating in some capacity for the causes and communities you care about—starting now.
- What is one prediction that you would make about the future of law?
The current public health crisis is making clear that there are many things that lawyers and judges do in person that could be done remotely. This crisis is also more fully exposing tremendous gaps in our legal system when it comes to serving marginalized communities. I cannot predict, but I certainly hope that we can learn from this crisis and use that learning to make justice more accessible.