By DIANA SMITH, Staff Writer
Kirsten Small is an appellate attorney in the Greenville office of Nexsen Pruet. A Washington state native, Small graduated from Georgetown Law School in 1994. She then completed a federal clerkship in Greenville.
Small is a member of the South Carolina Bar’s ethics advisory committee and secretary of the trial and appellate advocacy section. She is also active in the Defense Research Institute, where she serves as a liaison for the appellate advocacy committee and chairs the networking subcommittee for the women in the law committee.
Closer to home, Small is a member of St. John of the Ladder Orthodox Christian Church, where she sings in the choir and teaches Sunday school.
SCLW: Tell us something about yourself others would be surprised to find out.
Small: In 2007, I participated in National Novel Writing Month and wrote a 50,000-word novel in one month. The joke in my writers’ group is that if you get stuck, you can always have zombies show up. There were a lot of zombies in my novel!
SCLW: What are your goals for 2011?
Small: Professionally, my goal is to raise the profile of appellate litigation as a unique practice area. The knowledge base and skills needed for really effective appellate representation differ in important ways from the knowledge base and skills needed for really effective trial work. Eventually, I’d like to see South Carolina recognize a specialty in appellate litigation, which California, Florida and Texas already do.
Personally, I’d like to finish one of my many incomplete knitting projects.
SCLW: How could law schools better prepare students for practice?
Small: I think it’s critical for law students to gain real-world experience before they graduate, whether it’s through a clinic or through an externship with a practicing lawyer.
SCLW: What is the best thing about your practice? The worst?
Small: The best part about practicing appellate law is the never-ending variety of cases that come my way – I’m always learning something new. In the past year, I’ve worked on cases involving the reality television show “Flip This House,” the Contracts Clause, Texas hold ’em poker and an automobile salvage business.
One of the biggest challenges in my practice is explaining the appellate process to my clients. I place a high value on communicating with my clients and making sure they understand what is going on in their cases. Everyone knows what a trial looks like, but the appellate process is much less familiar and more technical, and therefore a bit harder to explain.
SCLW: What is your favorite TV show, book or movie and why?
Small: Each year around this time I re-read From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden, by Amy Stewart. Not only does the book inspire me to get out into my garden, it reminds me that nothing worth having comes without hard work and a willingness to risk failure.
SCLW: What is the most unusual thing on your desk or in your office?
Small: A hippopotamus piggy bank. I have collected hippos ever since I heard the song “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” Every year there’s at least one hippo under the tree for me.
SCLW: How do you manage to take time off during the holidays/vacation?
Small: It can be tough sometimes to take time off when a briefing deadline is staring me in the face. I have found that nonrefundable plane reservations are a great incentive to get things done.
SCLW: What question should we have asked, but didn’t? Please give the question and the answer.
Small: Question: What is your favorite bumper sticker?
Answer: I have two, both of which appeal to the smart aleck in me: “God loves you, whether you like it or not” and “The closer you follow me, the slower I will drive.”
Editor’s note: If you would like to participate in a Q&A interview, contact Diana Smith at [email protected]