Unexpected Paths to Success
Karin Hoops Berg, 2017 Alumni Achievement Award winner, David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies
Karin Hoops Berg (BA ’98, JD ’03) is an award-winning partner at Katten Muchin Rosenman, a top national law firm. If you had asked her to predict her future during her time as an undergraduate, or even during law school, however, she would have guessed something different. But learning to be flexible has been a hallmark of Berg's life and career.
As an International Relations student at BYU, Berg participated in a study abroad program in Vienna, Austria. Having a German mother gave Berg a special interest in Germany and Austria, but she didn’t have the experience she expected. While she had anticipated staying with a traditional LDS Austrian family, she was placed with a family whose father was a Nigerian refugee. Living with this multicultural family helped her to gain a greater appreciation for other cultures and a new perspective on the world, as well as to dispel the tunnel vision that sometimes come from a narrow set of experiences.
Berg never thought her experiences would include the law. While working for Franklin Covey, and then a startup tech company while her husband Joe earned his MAcc, Berg reflected on the positive interactions and conversations she was having with the lawyers she met. She realized that the legal aspect of business was what she really enjoyed. Together, Berg and her husband decided that law school was the right choice for their family. It was a total departure from their earlier plans and what people expected from them, but they adapted to the new direction.
Looking for jobs after completing law school didn't turn out to be any easier, or any more predictable. After being turned down for 99 other positions, Berg was finally able to secure a job in Chicago doing bankruptcy law, a place and specialty she hadn't anticipated. But she knows now that it was the best thing for her family. “I know we were supposed to come to Chicago,” she says.
That confidence is important given the cultural resistance she and her husband face regularly, another unexpected part of Berg's journey. “We have run into people . . . who think that he's lazy. They’ve told him, ‘So are you lazy? Why do you stay at home and make your wife work?’ I mean, it’s just interesting the things that come out.” But Berg and her husband have never let misunderstandings keep them from following the inspiration they've received from the Lord, or from giving Him their best.
These days, in addition to her law practice, Berg helps refugees and immigrants with their documentation, is involved in the Turnaround Management Association, is the chair of the Chicago Network of the International Women’s Insolvency and Restructuring Confederation, and serves on the Kennedy Center Advisory Board. She has also been a volunteer leader organizing events in the Chicago area as a board member of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society Chicago Chapter. She is a Young Women’s president and loves cheering her children on at lacrosse and soccer games.
Looking back, Berg wouldn't change a thing. She acknowledges the role her BYU experience has had in grounding her and helping her grow. The big lesson so far, she says, is to be confident and be flexible, and you will be able to handle whatever comes your way.