Akron Attorney's Journey from Journalism to Law

CONTACT: Kenneth A. Brown, OSBA, 800-282-6556 or 614-487-4426

, OHIO (Nov. 22, 2011) Having worked 17 years as journalist, Karen Lefton left her position as a newspaper editor to enter the legal profession. When asked why she ultimately chose a career in law, she said, “The law found me.”

Lefton, a political science and English major, graduated from Miami University with the exclusive intention of becoming a journalist. “There was fierce competition for journalism jobs in this post-Watergate era, when everyone wanted to be like Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein,” Lefton recalls. 

After a brief stint at a semi-weekly newspaper located in a Dayton suburb, Lefton began reporting for The Akron Beacon Journal. Her assignments required her to write about legislative and court activity, which involved interviewing experienced judges, prosecutors and lawyers. “I was never certain that I had a complete understanding of the stories that I was trying to convey to my readers,” Lefton said, adding, “I realized I was in over my head.”

She began attending the University of Akron School of Law to become a better journalist, but never intended to practice law. However, upon graduation she decided that there was no point to having a law degree if she didn’t also have a license. She passed the bar exam and secured her license, which created several new opportunities.

Lefton’s interest in labor law made her a valuable member of The Newspaper Guild. “Because I had a law license, my colleagues mistakenly thought I knew more than they did. When it came time to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement for the guild, I asked so many questions that I found myself on the negotiating committee. It took two years to get a contract, but I carefully observed our chief negotiator, a lawyer from a major firm, and I learned a lot.”

Lefton was promoted to management as a supervisor the year after the contract was settled. Several years later, she found herself on the management side of the contract negotiating team, which led to another opportunity for Lefton to use her law degree as the paper’s labor relations manager. For the next 11 years, she worked as in-house counsel for The Akron Beacon Journal. Lefton identifies arguing a case for the newspaper before the Supreme Court of Ohio as her most memorable experience as a lawyer. In the case the Court upheld the constitutional right of the media’s access to juror lists and questionnaires. 

In 2008, she left to join Brouse McDowell LPA, a business law firm employing 74 attorneys in Cleveland, Avon and Akron. She focuses her practice on labor and employment law, including contract negotiation, grievance resolution, arbitration and First Amendment issues.
An active member of the OSBA, Lefton has served as both a moderator and a panelist for the OSBA’s annual Law and Media Conference, which brings members of the bench, bar, media, and academic communities together to discuss important media law issues.

In her community, Lefton serves on the advisory board for Women’s Endowment Fund of the Akron Community Foundation and on the boards of Project Learn, an adult literacy program, and Goodwill, Inc. She also sits on Summit County’s Public Defender Commission and the Akron Bar Foundation’s Board of Governors. Whenever possible, she mentors young professionals at the University of Akron School of Law.

Lefton resides in Akron with her husband Douglas, also a former journalist. She has a daughter, Audrey, who recently graduated from Colgate University with an economics degree and is now working as an investment analyst.

The Ohio State Bar Association, founded in 1880, is a voluntary association representing approximately 25,000 members of the bench and bar of Ohio as well as nearly 4,000 legal assistants and law students. Through its activities and the activities of its related organizations, the OSBA serves both its members and the public by promoting the highest standards in the practice of law and the administration of justice.



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