Finding Balance

Attorney Robin Runstein is a woman who wears many hats. As the only criminal defense lawyer at Kell, Alterman and Runstein, she maintains a heavy trial practice that includes family law and personal injury cases. Runstein balances a demanding workload with the needs of her two sons – and her penchant for competitive soccer. Interestingly, the various parts of her life seem to intersect more and more.
“I’m starting to get more business through soccer. One of my larger cases, a referral from a Jewish doctor in the community, is a connection because my kids play soccer. Another one of my bigger cases is someone whom I played against for years.” Runstein jokes that it can be a bit uncomfortable being hired by the competition. “That’s the problematic part – she really wants to kick you.”

Since soccer is such a great source of business for Runstein, she now finds herself conducting herself differently on the field. “I try and play a clean game, or I’ll talk to the referee in a different way than I would have 10 years ago. You never know when someone is listening – someone who is going to hire you.”

Runstein, a longtime Portland resident, is the granddaughter of Shaarie Torah members. She grew up listening to the trial stories and closing arguments of her father, Ted, who is the longest-tenured partner at Kell, Alterman and Runstein. “He had a passion for it. Deep down, I knew that’s what I wanted to do because my parents did this and loved it.” After clerking in a practice that focused on workers’ compensation, Runstein moved to a downtown office full of like-minded defense attorneys. “You’ve got to be compassionate and be willing to try new things. The entire office was formed of all these people, and I just loved it.” Although Runstein originally planned to focus exclusively on criminal defense, she was soon tapped for her expertise in a family law case.

“My daycare provider was getting a divorce,” she explained. “I got a flavor for it (family law), and I just loved it. There were aspects of it that were so similar to criminal defense. After that, more cases like that came, and I just decided to include them in my practice. It’s worked.”

A typical workday for Runstein varies. “I’m a single mom of two boys. Sometimes I have to be in court at 8:30, so I rush the kids off to school and then I’m back in the office. Or I have to pick somebody up at 11 for a dentist appointment, or I get in really early so I can leave early to take my boys to soccer. Although the practice allows me to do what I need to do, if I have a trial schedule I’m totally focused and that’s all I do.”

Runstein also makes time for Jewish holiday celebrations with her family. Runstein says she’s finally found her work-life balance. She advises young professionals and lawyers not to lose the op- portunity to spend time with their children. “The ability to be the best in your field will be there, but one day your kids will be grown and gone. We have a lot of working years, but our kids are only little for 18 years.”


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