Representation Profiles: Rebecca Koval

Welcome to the latest edition of HHK’s blog series dedicated to giving you up close and personal insight of the people behind our one hundred thirteen year old institution. The individuals we profile here have dedicated themselves to continuing Hinman, Howard & Kattell’s motto … Achieving clients’ goals since 1901.

RAK-300x225.jpgRebecca Koval is an Associate Attorney with Hinman, Howard & Kattell and is a member of HHK’s Real Estate, Corporate Law and Credit Union practice groups.

How long have you worked at HH&K?
I’ve been with the firm for one year and two months.

What are your practice areas?
Real estate, corporate law and credit union law.

When did you first decide you wanted to be an attorney?
Senior year of college I had a bit of a meltdown. I believed I really had two options, pursue my Ph.D. in English or go to law school. I picked law school because at the time I thought I would have better luck finding a job.

Looking back on your first year of practice, what advice would you give a new attorney just starting their career?
If you don’t have good people skills, now is the time to learn them, especially when you are working in a firm and dealing with so many different personalities. It is absolutely essential to be able to get along with everyone. You must also have a willingness to ask for help. When you start out you don’t know anything - law school doesn’t prepare you for the actual practice of law – and you need to rely on people around you to succeed.

Has there been anything during your first year of practice that has surprised you?
Idealistically I did think law school was going to prepare me for practice but it really didn’t. I learned how to read and analyze cases on Lexis, but that’s about it. Initially it was a real struggle for me to ask for help – but you learn quickly to do so.

What has been the most challenging part of practice so far?
Because I’m so new, adjusting to the work schedule. It is one thing to study for tests in neat little pockets of time or to complete a project within a certain period; there are designated vacations when you’re in school and a smattering of holidays when you’re working.

The firm's real estate practice covers a large area of all of New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. What is the farthest you've traveled for a real estate closing?

Buffalo.

Did anyone give you any advice regarding practice that you find particularly valuable?
Lillian Levy told me: “You need to grow a thick skin immediately. There is nothing to be gained by taking anything said to you personally”.

You were the attorney advisor for a local high school mock trial team. How was that experience?
I participated in mock trial in high school. It was nice to be reminded of the experience, seeing the excitement on the student’s faces when they are just learning about the law. That part is fun because you remember a time when the entire process was new to you. By the time you actually start practicing law – especially if you are a trial attorney - you realize that you hardly ever go to trial, so mock trial provides unique opportunities.

Is there anyone at the firm who has served as mentor to you?
Megan Curinga and Lillian Levy. From the beginning, access to both women was never an issue. They always made themselves available to me. I was very comfortable going to them with any questions – whether about the practice of law, life at the firm or about life in Binghamton in general.

What is your favorite HH&K tradition?
I loved my name plate scavenger hunt. I came to work one morning and there was a riddle on my desk with a stack of paper behind it. It was a history of the firm written by now-deceased attorneys at HH&K. I had to read everything and then go to Joel Patch’s to take a test. Once I passed the test, I was given a clue to the next locations … that lead to a series of clues throughout the office. The final clue lead me to my name plate - which was under my desk the whole time. All the clues and riddles were tailored to the firm, its history, its attorneys, etc.

If you could switch places with anyone at HH&K for a day, who would it be and why?
Lillian Levy. It would be nice to not be questioned about anything I say. Everyone looks at her as the voice of authority, so when words come out of her mouth people just nod and accept.

You're involved with the Alumni Admissions Program at Washington and Lee University. What is your involvement and why did you choose to become a part of the program?
Even though alumni interviews aren’t required they are encouraged. When the man in charge of the Southern Tier region found out I was in Binghamton he asked if I would cover Binghamton to Syracuse and I jumped at the chance – I like to get to know people and why they are interested in my school. I usually meet for coffee or lunch; I find out what they are looking for in a college and assess whether Washington and Lee would be a good fit.

I love to hear how they found out about the university initially. I remember when I got the first mailing - probably junior year - I read it, learned about the honor system, the speaking tradition and told my parents it wasn’t possible that this place actually exists. We went to visit and I fell in love with it.

I’ll never ask potential applicants where else they’ve applied. I’ll ask if they’ve applied to smaller liberal arts universities or larger research schools. If what they are looking for is clearly not a liberal arts college, it shows that they haven’t done any research and they’re wasting my time. Also, the art of writing is not dead – no one should underestimate the power of a thank you note.

What is the Binghamton University Forum?
It is a community based organization affiliated with the University. There is an event or lecture series once a month where different speakers give a short presentation on their respective fields. One particularly memorable event gave me the opportunity to meet a documentary film maker who had produced a film about 9/11. We got to see a clip of his documentary and talk to him afterward.

What has been your experience living in Broome County?
This is the most beautiful place I’ve ever lived, which is saying something since I went to college in the Shenandoah Valley. There is nothing like autumn in Broome County. It is a riot of color on every hillside. The weather wasn’t an adjustment for me – I’m from Buffalo. I also really like the community. I think you have to earn people’s respect here to be accepted but once you do, opportunities to make connections are everywhere.

What are your hobbies?
I love running. I’m a voracious reader – you’ll always find me with a book. I enjoy being outdoors as much as possible, hiking and taking nature walks. I like any kind of cultural event – musicals, classical concerts, etc. I went to a lovely concert at the Anderson Center with Lillian that featured a piece by Beethoven, my favorite composer.

What is the best concert you've ever been to?
Bruce Springsteen. I went when I was twelve and the experience was unforgettable. The man has boundless energy – he played for three and a half hours.

What has been your favorite vacation spot so far and where would you like to go in the future?
Although it wasn’t really a vacation, I went to Sydney, Australia – my dad was working there and my mother and I went for a month one summer – and we did everything. We went to the Outback and all these different zoos. I got to hold Koalas and feed kangaroos. At Taronga Zoo as long as animals aren’t aggressive they aren’t penned in so you walked around with them. For me it was a totally different culture but I knew the language and understood a shared history. The trip was a great introduction to the world beyond America.

In the future I’d love to travel more in Europe. I’ve only been to Ireland and Italy. I would love to see St. Petersburg before it disintegrates.

Tell me one thing on your "bucket list" that you'd like to accomplish in 2015 … how about in the next 10 years?
I’d like to learn to cook something other than pasta. I’d love to be able to cook enough dishes so I could host a dinner party - appetizers, main course, dessert, everything.

As for the next 10 years, I really want to learn how to speak another language fluently.

You're an avid reader. What has been your favorite book you've read in the past year?
The Fault in Our Stars.

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