By her own admission, Kara D. Larson is “a terrible backseat driver.”
As assistant general counsel at Kansas City Power & Light, she spends most of her time managing people and processes, but sometimes she can’t help delving into the details of the matters assigned to the four attorneys under her supervision.
“I still want to do depos and get in front of juries,” she said. She chalks it up to her law-firm background.
Larson graduated from the University of Tulsa in 1996. She spent 10 years working for several firms, including Husch & Eppenberger (now Husch Blackwell). In 2006, she joined KCP&L and has risen through the ranks ever since.
In the roles of senior and corporate counsel, she managed five jury trials to successful outcomes and secured 13 “No Probable Cause” findings from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Missouri Commission on Human Rights and the Kansas City Human Resources Department.
As lead counsel, she helped to put in place new supervisor training, an information governance and protection regime and an ADA accommodations process.
She assumed her current supervisory and administrative duties in September 2017 upon ascending to assistant general counsel. It’s been an interesting time at the company: KCP&L merged with Westar Energy Inc. in June 2018. The two law departments’ staffing, technology, budget and outside counsel selections needed to be integrated — and Larson led the integration team.
“There wasn’t the jealousy and fear you sometimes get because, as part of the merger, the two companies agreed to no layoffs,” Larson said.
In addition, Larson has led a team charged with setting up a company-wide investigations protocol, whether the compliance issues are related to
#MeToo, environmental complaints, theft of service or something else.
Those are all her larger projects. On a given day, though, she may be forecasting a five-year budget, helping to draft a presentation to the board or talking to her lawyers about what outside counsel the company should hire for a certain case.
“I like the variety,” she said.
Larson has been an active member of the Women’s Energy Network at KCP&L, a female-employee resource group. Part of her contribution there has been the development of an informal group-mentoring program: Groups of six or seven women from entry-level to executive positions get together once a month for about a year and discuss assigned topics.
Outside of work, Larson has been involved in the Association of Women Lawyers in Kansas City by assisting its fundraising committee.
Larson also is entering her sixth year on the board of SAFEHOME, which provides shelter and community services for survivors of domestic violence. She recently served as the board’s chair, and she also led the committee tasked with finding a new CEO for the organization.
“I know a lot of women who’ve been survivors of domestic violence,” she said. “Frankly, it’s something that presents itself to women of all backgrounds — and the problem is getting worse.”
Larson’s advice to women just starting out in the legal profession: “Be open to every opportunity that comes along. Stay curious and excited about what you’re doing. And always find the positives in a situation.”