Kathryn K. Durrant is a Social Security Disability attorney in Salt Lake City, Utah. She graduated from Utah Valley University with her undergraduate degree and earned her J.D. at Brigham Young University's J. Reuben Clark School of Law. We are excited to introduce her to all of you!
What have you done since law school and where do you work now:
My first job was in Utah’s Fourth District Court as a law clerk bailiff for Judge Samuel McVey. I was the bailiff when we were in court and his law clerk when we weren’t. I had to go to Police Officer Standard Training (POST) for six weeks to qualify for the job. I was there with eight friends from law school who were also going to be clerks/bailiffs. We learned criminal law and did a lot of physical fitness. I learned how to take people down, handcuff, and do pat down, along with other activities offices need to know. I had to hire a personal trainer so I could finally do the required 15 regulation style push-ups. I did 20.
The court job lasted one year. I sent out one job application a day as the job was drawing to an end. I got hired at the end of my clerkship by the Social Security Administration’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). I packed up my car and moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico. I was part of a group working at a national hearing center. I was trained for a month in Baltimore, Maryland in disability law. My work was writing decisions from the judges instructions. After 15 months I transferred to Salt Lake City, Utah to be close to my grown children. For the past year I have been in management at the Salt Lake City ODAR office. I work with staff, attorneys, and judges to schedule and hold hearings and get out legally sufficient decisions. On January 23, 2015, I was selected to be part of management at the Boise, Idaho ODAR office.
What do you enjoy most about what you do:
I enjoy working with people and knowing that we are helping people receive benefits if they are disabled or allowing them to move on if they are found not disabled. Social Security disability has received some bad publicity in the past couple of years. However, we really are making every effort to serve the public and eliminate fraud. I’m glad I can be a part of that. On the perk side I don’t have billable hours. I have a flexible work band so I don’t have to be there at the same time each day. The earlier I come in the earlier I can leave and there is overtime only if I want it. My branch of Social Security allows attorneys to work at home three days a week. Before I got into management I worked at home and it was great. I don’t worry about work once I leave the office.
Has your path in law differed from your original expectations? If so, in what way:
I did an internship or worked each each semester to help me find the type of environment I wanted to work in. I have two brothers who are attorneys and they suggested I not go to a firm. It was good advice. Government has been a great fit for me. I do some pro bono on the side. An attorney once helped me for free and I was so grateful. I’m glad I can help others like he helped me. The summer after my second year I went to India to study law. So, I was able to combine my joy of travel with the law. The judge who hired me in Albuquerque told me later when he saw I’d studied in India it caught his attention and I got the interview.
What are your future professional goals:
I would like to keep moving up in Social Security. After I’ve been an attorney for seven years (not counting clerkships) I qualify to take a test to be a judge. The test isn’t offered on a regular basis so you just don’t know when it will come up again. The last time was a four year wait. Until then I’m getting great experience in managing and writing.
How do you juggle your personal and professional lives:
My regular work hours makes this easier. Because I have been with the government five years I’ve acquired the ability to take time off when I want. I will take several days and go visit grandchildren. I don’t have court dates or deadlines to worry about.
Tell us about your family:
I have four grown children, two girls and two boys. We’ve had our struggles but have all come out on top. We all love each other, finally, and are glad any chance we have to get together. I have eight grandchildren, seven boys and one girl. I make every effort to visit the grandchildren I don’t live by so they know who I am. I’m no longer married, which was part of the reason I when to law school. I saw it as a good way to take care of myself and my children financially.
What advice would you give to other women either interested or already working in the law:
There are so many paths available to you when you are an attorney. You can leave the law for awhile and come back. You can work as much or as little in the law as you want. It’s a flexible career. Just take the bar in the state you plan to live in. You don’t want to take that test again. In federal government jobs you just need to be a member of any state bar, so you get some flexibility there. It also gives you, for lack of a better word, clout, with others. So you need to use this wisely.