Keri started with Marler Law Partners in July 2019 after working with the Legal Services of Southern Missouri, where she practiced family law exclusively.
Continue reading below to learn more about how she started her career, her guilty pleasure TV shows and more!
What made you pursue a career in law?
“People ask me when I knew when I wanted to be a lawyer, and they never believe me. When I was 6 or 7 years old – in 1st grade – I came dressed in a suit with my dad’s suitcase. I wanted to be a lawyer and that never changed for me. I don’t remember what it was at such a young age that made me want to be a lawyer; probably because I’ve always liked to argue.”
“I think the point at which it became a reality was towards the end of undergraduate, I had decided to get my master’s degree, knowing I wanted to go to law school after that. I thought having a master’s degree would help prepare me for law school and my legal career.”
What drew you to family law?
“Whenever I was getting my masters in political science at the University of Memphis, I was a paralegal supervisor at a huge personal injury law firm. So I went into law school thinking I was going to do personal injury. My first clerkship was at one of the largest personal injury firms in St. Louis.”
I really wanted to meet people and go to court with clients and have that interaction. And at the firm I was clerking at they said I’d be sitting in the office most days drafting settlement packages. So my law school had an online portal of internships and one of them was for one of the family law firms in St. Louis. They wanted someone to come in and clerk and the description said, ‘Meet with clients, Sign clients up.’ It was a lot more one-on-one. I applied for the job and got it. “
“My internship at the personal injury firm was a sweet deal. I got that job, I was allowed to stay on all through law school and I was guaranteed a job right after law school. I was only in my first year of law school at the time. I gave that up to go clerk at this family law firm because I wanted more client interaction.”
What is the most satisfying part of being a family law attorney?
“The most satisfying part for me revolves around children. I do Guardian Ad Litem work where I represent children. I also represent parents. Any time I’m able to keep children in a safe, happy environment and do something that is going to benefit a child’s life, that to me is the best part of my job.”
“Most of the time, these children are the ones we REALLY should be fighting for and they are really getting a tough break and have no say so in the matter. Anytime I can use my voice to make their voice come out, I do.”
What advice would you give someone pursuing a career in law?
“The biggest piece of advice I can give, especially in the family law world, is to listen. I think a lot of lawyers like to hear themselves talk. But I think you do a better job if you quit talking and listen to the client and learn why they feel the way they feel.”
“On the front end, I try to let my clients express to me all their worries, their fears, what they are happy with or not happy with because I think the more we listen to our clients and THEIR experiences, the better we will be able to do on their case. “
So outside of work, what are some of your favorite pastimes?
“I live in Poplar Bluff, so I love going to the river with my fiancé and family and just relaxing on the boat.”
“I am OBSESSED with true crime podcasts, which Sara [Marler] and I have in common. Anything to do with true crime, I love.”
“I also have a guilty pleasure show, 90 Day Fiancé.”
Is there a particular true crime story you are obsessed with the most?
“I am absolutely obsessed with the ‘West Memphis Three.’ Essentially, back in the early ’90’s, there was a bunch of ‘Satanic Panic’ and three little boys were murdered and hogtied. These three 17-year-old boys went to prison, one on death row, with no forensic evidence, no anything. Basically, based on the fact that they were into the occult. They were in prison for 20 years and got released 10 years ago on an Alford plea.”
“I got to meet Damien Echols, one of the West Memphis Three. I have a book that he kept on death row, signed by him.”
What is your ideal day off of work?
“Not in the United States – traveling somewhere, probably on a remote beach in Greece or something. I love to travel. I lived in Spain for three months when I was studying abroad one summer and that was probably my favorite place I’ve been. I loved the culture, I loved the food, I loved the music and the art.”
If you could be a celebrity for one day, who would it be and why?
“RBG all the way! Have you seen the necklaces she wears?! She’s so fabulous. What I love about her is she’s a Supreme Court Justice but doesn’t take herself too seriously.”
If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you want to be instead?
“I’d probably be an Interior Designer. My fiancé and I own vacation rentals in Branson and I decorate them all myself.”
What is your favorite thing about your co-workers?
“It’s really a family here – everyone is thick as thieves. I don’t dread coming into work – there’s no drama. We get along and have group texts. I’ve never had that at other workplaces. Everyone gets along and really cares about each other.”
What are your favorite musicians/songs?
“I’m a huge fan of Dave Matthews Band, Jack Johnson, Red Hot Chili Peppers, that’s kinda my go–to. Every once in a while when I’m in a mood, I’ll do some rap. I’ve done karaoke a few times; it doesn’t usually go over too well. I usually do Shania Twain’s “Man! I Feel Like a Woman,” just because it’s an easy karaoke song.”
What are some of your favorite local businesses/restaurants?
“I like Twelve West in Farmington. Sara [Marler] recommended it to me! In Popular Poplar Bluff, my favorite restaurant is The Wine Rack.”
What’s a fun fact you’d like your clients to know about you?
“I’m an only child, only grandchild, and only great-grandchild. I was also born on my father’s birthday, so he never got birthdays after I was born. I am a first-generation college student.”
What lawyer stereotypes do you find to be true? Untrue?
“True [stereotypes]– I would say we all like to talk a lot. Or at least litigation attorneys do. We’re ALL Type A personalities.”
“And not true [stereotypes] would be that lawyers are always serious and don’t have a fun side. We like to let loose too!”
What trends have you noticed in your practice area? What are the biggest changes since you’ve started?
“For family law specifically, we’ve seen a move from your traditional Siegenthaler, which usually means the mom has primary custody and the dad has one day a week and every other weekend. And now, you’re seeing more equal parenting time. I mean the laws literally changed [in Missouri] to say that both parents should be involved.”
“We’re seeing a lot of folks come in for modifications. But it’s difficult because the laws for modification haven’t changed. Something significant has had to change between the last judgment and this judgment that makes it better for the child for you to get more time. Courts won’t just accept the argument that the law has changed, so I want to renegotiate. But we still are able to help a lot of people that come in [for modifications], and we are usually able to find something that helps them show a change in circumstance.”
If Marler Law Partners were to compete in an Olympic sport together, what would it be?
“I’m trying to think of a sport that does well with a lot of different personality types. We’d make a hell of a bobsled team!”
Who is your favorite attorney in Missouri and why?
“Lew Polivick, he’s now the deputy director of Legal Services for Southern Missouri. He has been practicing for 30 years but he is the most humble – he knows everything about every area of law. If you ever have a question, not only will he answer your question, but also he will talk you off the ledge. He does so much for the community of southeast Missouri.”