Meet Karen Tarrant | NAWBO

Meet Karen Tarrant

Karen Tarrant
Partner, Tarrant & Liska, PLLC
At Tarrant & Liska, PLLC my partner Melanie Liska and I are committed to helping you solve your legal problems.  The areas that we practice in are business law, real estate, estate planning, wills and trusts, probates, guardianships, conservatorships and trust administration.  We are creative problem solvers with decades of practice, a breadth of legal experience and a commitment to personal attention and service.
Tell us about your business journey/experience. Is there a surprising tidbit we can share about you or your history?
Looking back on my life, I realize that I am entrepreneurial.  That is not something I knew about myself in law school.  NAWBO helped me realize the truth about myself.
 I like to solve problems, do something well and have an opportunity to be creative.  Being an attorney is a good profession for those traits.  However, to rise to the most prestigious positions in my industry, in addition to intelligence and awesome legal skills, you have to be willing to work insane hours and be extremely focused on advancing yourself professionally.  I am a hard worker but I only admit to work alcoholic tendencies. I do not do professional advancement well and am often distracted by things I care about outside the profession.  NAWBO has helped me learn to value these traits.
Being on my own or with one or two partners has its challenges but I think it was the right career path for me.  It also allowed me to start an on-site day care operation at my office when my children were little that definitely served me and my children well.  Nothing like that would have happened if I had stayed in a traditional firm when my children were little.
I am proud of the younger women who I see in my profession breaking glass ceilings and thriving.  I am glad that they are able to do it within the normal professional structures in a way that I was not able to.  This will give them more power and also change the profession for the good.
Why did you decide to own your own business?
In 1982 I was tearing myself apart.  I was a new mother.  I had an aging mother 120 miles away that I was trying to assist.  I was in a difficult marriage.  I was a junior partner in a growing medium sized firm in St. Paul.  One snowy day in March, as I was preparing for a trial, I called home to check with my Hmong nanny on how my son was doing.  During the phone call there was a crash and I could hear my son screaming.  I asked the nanny if my son was ok and she said "No,"  in broken English.  I threw some papers in my brief case, grabbed a cab and fishtailed home in the storm.  We ended up in a hand specialist clinic sewing the tip of my son's finger back on. 
It was then that I realized that if I did not make a change in my life, I was going to end up in a hospital of some description or worse.  Staying with the firm was important to me but last on the list of priorities.  So, I decided to "hang out my shingle."  I traded money and prestige for time and control.
When and why did you join NAWBO-MN?   
In 1977 I was a young attorney who had recently moved to the Twin Cities from Chicago.  I was with a medium sized St. Paul firm and was the only woman attorney.  I had also been the only women attorney at the firm I had been with in Chicago and of my class of a little over 100 students at the University of Chicago I was one of 14-17 female students.  So, when one of my firm's clients mentioned that there was a group of women who were forming Minnesota chapter for an organization called National Association of Women Business Owners, I thought, "I have to be part of that."  I went to a meeting and have been a member ever since.  The way I describe it is, It is one thing to tell yourself that you are the wave of the future.  It is another thing to walk into the room and see the wave.
NAWBO-MN has provided me with exposure to intelligent, competent, entrepreneurial professionals who have expertise in all the kinds of practical experience necessary to run a small business.  Law school does not teach you how to find clients, advertise, network, manage staff, find an IT vendor.  It has also been wonderful to have a safe, non-competitive place to share the anxieties and joys of being an entrepreneur.  That the others are women, facing similar challenges and with similar socialization is of course very important.  If there comes a time when NAWBO is not needed by women, that will be good.  But until then, I recommend NAWBO without reservation.
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