It’s All About Puzzles And People
Katherine J. Hornback says she is drawn to litigation because she enjoys working with people and taking on the challenges of the legal puzzles presented in her cases. She likes the fact that each case is always different with different clients and different legal puzzles.
Hornback is an associate at Reinhardt & Associates, PLC, in Lexington. Her practice areas are insurance defense, employment law, personal injury, general civil litigation, federal crop insurance and administrative law. One hundred percent of her practice is devoted to litigation.
“The people part of my practice is a lot more important when you’re presenting a case to a jury. A lot of times people in employment law get really legalistic and really technical about ‘Oh, I didn’t get someone to sign a piece of paper that was the write-up.’ That’s important, but I also think when you are presenting to a jury other questions are also important. Did they appreciate they had a place to take a claim? Did the company take the steps to fix the problem he or she reported? It’s very much about your people who are testifying. What was the intent? What was the motivation? You can have all the paperwork you want, all looking good and well-documented, but if evil intent is documented you’re in trouble. That’s the puzzle I like to put together,” she says.
Hornback also enjoys counseling face-to-face with different employers about how to solve those puzzles effectively. She says, “There are a lot of people out there who will sell you a bill of goods. What it comes down to in the heat of the moment is what needs to be documented and what things are not really that important. Whether matters are inter-personal and can be taken care of in a quiet conversation or must be handled more formally.
From Playing Lawyer To Practicing Law
“I was a huge ‘doll girl’ when I was very young and I loved to play lawyer with my dolls. I liked to read and to write and all those things are a part of what lawyers do. I thought that was cool,” Hornback says.
This early interest was piqued when, at her father’s suggestion, she interviewed District Court Judge Julia Tackett for a seventh-grade school project. “I was impressed with her office, the rows of legal books and with the intelligence and openness of the woman herself.”
Her family always called her Kit and although she wanted to be known as Katherine when entering the legal field that did not work out. “When Supreme Court Justice James Keller addressed me as Kit during a Supreme Court Argument, I knew the nickname would stick. And I’m more than happy with that, I know of no other Kentucky lawyers named Kit.”
Although becoming an attorney competed in her mind with journalism — each career uses some of the same techniques, she says — she chose the law as her profession.
Hornback says, “My first year of law school provided on-campus interviews, and I accepted a job with a firm and worked there for about ten years. Craig Reinhardt, the main attorney I worked with, said, ‘I’m going to leave. Why don’t you come with me?’ We left in March of 2002 to form our own firm. We had a temporary secretary who had worked with us before came and helped us out in the beginning. We began growing almost immediately with new employees and associates.”
Today her specialty is employment law, working primarily for defendants, businesses and individuals, although she has represented some plaintiffs in administrative hearings and unemployment hearings. “Most of all, I work with sexual harassment and racial discrimination as well — mostly defending companies,” she says.
Practicing The Art Of Listening
Hornback has acquired a lot of trial experience for a young attorney. For example, in her first year in practice, she handled 25 trials in the district and circuit court. She says, “They weren’t all just ‘baby trials.’ They were all subjugation trials. They were just like larger trials — you needed a jury, you had to go through all the evidence, all the questioning of the witness, everything was the same, but just on a smaller scale.”
“I love it. You have to think on your feet. You have to be quick and calm. And you have to listen and know your case really well because crazy things come at you in the middle of a trial. You may have done the best job in the world of trying to figure out everything, but there’s always a little kicker that comes in and you wonder, ‘What is that? Where did that come from?’ Sometimes they’re good kickers, ” she says.
She cites as an example a time when a witness made a wise comment about the case, which made her reevaluate her approach to the jury. After considering the comment, she developed a more powerful and effective approach to telling her client’s story. “That’s the part that I like. I can think now I can explain why this happened this way and why my folks are not at fault.’ I like the challenge of that. It’s always a rush when you have to get up in front of people and present your case.”
Personal And Professional Achievements
Hornback, a Kentucky native, earned her bachelor’s degree in Political Science/Journalism from Miami University in 1991 and her Juris Doctor from the University of Kentucky College of Law in 1994. She was admitted to the Kentucky Bar Association and admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in 1995. She is a member of the Fayette County and Kentucky Bar Associations, the past Present of the Kentucky Defense Counsel, past President of the Fayette County Young Lawyers Section, and is past President of the Kentucky Young Lawyers Section. She served on the Board of Governors for the Kentucky Bar Association. She is a Fellow of the American Bar Association and in 2003 she received the Outstanding Young Lawyer Award from the Fayette County Bar Association.
Hornback and her husband, Jason, have one son, Zach. Together they enjoy bicycling, swimming, playing basketball in the back yard, walking through the nearby park, and playing the “obligatory golfing with Daddy thing” on Father’s Day. She is an avid tennis player and plays on USTA Leagues.
Her community service includes working with the Kentucky Defense Counsel, which recently won the Rudolph A. Janata Award from DRI The Voice of the Defense Bar™ for the “outstanding state or local defense bar organization that has undertaken an innovative or unique program contributing to the goals and objective of the organized bar.” She is currently working to establish a Woman Lawyers Section for the Kentucky Defense Counsel to encourage female counsel to develop deeper working relationships.
She is active in First United Methodist Church where she teaches Sunday School for kindergarten through second grade age kids. She is also the chairperson of the Staff Parish Relations Committee, which is the church’s hiring and firing committee. Hornback is also involved in volunteer work at her son’s school where she is the Chairperson for the Fun Day committee, organizing volunteers to distribute popsicles and referee water balloon tosses.