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Kathleen Holmes


Williams Mullen
8300 Greensboro Drive, Suite 1100
McLean, VA 22102

Phone: 703.760.5236

E-mail address:
[email protected]


University of Virginia, B.A. 1984
University of Chicago, M.S. 1986
George Mason University School of Law, J.D. 1992

Professional/business/civic/nonprofit organizations in which you are/have been involved and positions held:

Virginia Women Attorneys Association
– Director, 2005-present
– President – 2008-9
– Immediate Past President, 2009-present
– President, Northern Virginia Chapter, 2005-6
Turning Point Suffragist Memorial, Committee member
Success in the City, Charter member, Events Committee
Holmes Run Valley Civic Association,Treasurer
Corcoran Gallery, Business and Professional Women Special Interest Group, Member
Women in Technology, Member

Who were the important mentors you have had and how did they impact your career?

The first was my grandfather, John Cahill. He never finished high school, but clerked at a law firm to support his mother. He read the law and passed the bar exam at 19 – but couldn’t get a license to practice until he turned 21. He maintained a family practice for another 50 years, memorized any number of passages from Shakespeare and numerous jokes, and taught me the importance of silence.

Judge Brinkema opened my eyes to the possibility of working as a trial lawyer. The opportunity as a clerk to talk with her about the trials she presided over and the manner in which cases were presented, along with the observation that sometimes the Judge and her law clerks were the only women in the courtroom, all showed me that there was room for me in the well of the court.

My sister, Mary Jo Milone, who died of lymphoma five years ago, perhaps had the most profound influence on my career. When, after the first round of chemotherapy, her cancer went into remission, and she lived out the things she most wanted to do – taking a trip to Ireland with her family, planting a beautiful garden, making a big deal out of each holiday. When the cancer returned, she kept living the same way. What most folks characterize as a “struggle” with cancer, really was her triumph over it – life, after all, is not a dress rehearsal. I try to remember that each day.

What do you consider your biggest personal and/or professional accomplishment and why?

What I am most grateful for is that my children enjoy spending time with the “clan” – their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, cousins’ cousins and so on. It is my hope that seeing me with friends and family with whom I laugh, cry, commiserate and share has encouraged my daughters, Helen and Caroline, to create their own circles and join those of others to carry them through life with the same joy I’ve experienced.

What advice would you give to a young person graduating from college this spring?

Dream big, focus your goals every day, be adaptable, and hire women.

How do you achieve a balance between your professional life and your personal life?

It took awhile, but I decided to let go of the guilt and to instead just enjoy being where I am at the moment. To that, I also have learned that sharing my workload, enlisting help, and communicating plans and expectations seems to spread more happiness than saying, “I need a 48 hour day.”

When you were growing up, what did you want to be?

Everything. I had a plan to study architecture, become a practicing architect for a few years before proceeding to law school (perhaps during my architect years), practicing law and starting a business – all while raising a family. Politics and international diplomacy, I decided, would have to wait for retirement years.

What is your favorite book or movie and why?

I can’t claim that Sabrina (the Humphrey Bogart/Audrey Hepburn version) is my favorite movie, but it does contain one of my favorite scenes. David, the playboy, challenges his hardworking mogul brother, Linus, and asks why he works so hard – doesn’t he have “all the money in the world?” Linus responds, “If making money were all there was to business, it would be hardly worth going to the office. Money is a byproduct…A new product has been found, something of use to the world. So a new industry moves into an undeveloped area, factories go up, machines are brought in, a harbor is dug, and you’re in business. It’s purely coincidental, of course, that people who never saw a dime before suddenly have a dollar, and barefooted kids wear shoes, and have their teeth fixed, and their faces washed. What’s wrong with the kind of urge that gives people libraries, hospitals, baseball diamonds, and movies on a Saturday night?” As a lawyer in Virginia’s best business law firm, I get to advise people with that same urge who pursue that dream. Thinking about that scene always makes me smile because I remember how blessed I am that I get to help in the development of those industries and the “coincidentals.”

What are two things about you that not many people know?

One. While I was still in law school, my uncle, who practices in Philadelphia, took me to federal court there where we watched a naturalization proceeding. Because it was the first order of business on the court’s docket, the law clerk called the court to order by rapping her desk with a gavel and stating to the public, “Oyez, oyez, oyez. The United States District Court . . . is now in session. . . .” My uncle suggested to me that a federal clerkship would be a job worth having. While I no doubt nodded in quasi-agreement, my overriding thought was, “Not me. There is no way could I stand up in the front of a courtroom and address everyone there.” Just a few years later, I was clerking for the Honorable Leonie M. Brinkema, calling the courtroom to order.

Two. Within a month of marrying my husband, we traveled to visit two of his dearest friends. One lived in a seaside mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. The other lived in a trailer without running water not far from Franklin, West Virginia. Any wonder we’re still married after 23 years?

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