June 2013Volume 18Number 5PDF icon PDF version (for best printing)

Katherine Imp and Beauty Beneath The Dirt

In 2009, I met Kate Imp when she was a law student at University of Illinois and President of the Women’s Law Society. That year, the ISBA Women and the Law Committee held its annual networking and legal community outreach reception in Champaign and coupled our meetings with a professional development program for women law students at the University of Illinois. I was impressed with Kate as a law student and continue to be impressed with Kate’s accomplishments as a Chicago lawyer and filmmaker.

Most young lawyers find it challenging, and sometimes stressful, to begin practicing law and putting into action everything learned in law school. Katherine Imp, known to her friends as Kate, not only successfully embraced this challenge but emerged as a highly acclaimed documentary filmmaker at the same time. Her new documentary, Beauty Beneath the Dirt, was recently released to the general public in both digital and DVD format at www.beautybeneaththedirt.com.

In 2010, Kate completed law school a semester early to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (2,178.3 miles) from Georgia to Maine and, at the same time, directed, produced, and starred in a documentary film about the journey. The film, Beauty Beneath the Dirt, was a culmination of Kate’s passions and background in filmmaking, outdoor adventure, entrepreneurship, and leadership. She managed all aspects of the film’s development, secured sponsorship from 15 well-known food and outdoor clothing suppliers, launched a 50-venue national film tour, and obtained digital and television distribution. The film received critical acclaim and media coverage from numerous outlets, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, Courier Post, Chicago Tribune, and two articles in The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.

The documentary, she said, showcases their hike, along with some of the tough challenges they encountered on their trek from Georgia to Maine. “It wasn’t a vacation and it wasn’t just an adventure. It was life,” Kate noted in a recent interview for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. “As is in life, you live and grow and have ups an downs. I think we showed that in the film.” Kate said the idea to attempt the hike came to her while taking an exam during her first semester at the University of Illinois College of Law. Kate recalled that during law school final exams she wished to be anywhere else—a sentiment any lawyer can appreciate. She decided to hike the Appalachian Trail then and there.

According to the Web site, the film is about what happens when you put a lawyer, an Ivy grad and a city chick on the Appalachian Trail concluding “… there is more to us than we know….” At the Web site, you also can see pictures of their journey, watch a trailer of the documentary, buy or rent the movie and purchase other cool Beauty Beneath the Dirt merchandise.

Kate is currently an associate at the Chicago firm of Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney, Ltd. where she specializes in toxic tort litigation. She defends manufacturers against products liability and premises liability claims arising from occupational exposures to toxic tort and hazardous substances. Her litigation practice includes a particular focus on asbestos and benzene-related matters.

Segal McCambridge also has allowed Kate’s filmmaking interests to expand into a growing entertainment law practice with emphasis on branding, digital media and film production. Her clients range from musicians to producers to small-business owners. She also recently accepted a position on the Lawyers for the Creative Arts’ Associates Board.

Kate is a wonderful example of the bright, energetic, progressive lawyers entering law practice every year. These young women lawyers are molding their legal careers more effectively around their personal lives and interests confirming that perhaps you can have it all. Kate reminds me that the best and brightest are lawyers and I am grateful to be a part of the legal community with them.

Kate’s next project, Neon Picket Fence, is set to launch this summer. The web series follows Kate and her co-host, Alisa Kolodizner, as they travel around Chicago fixing Millennial problems. Kate can be reached at kimp@smsm.com. ■


E. Lynn Grayson is a Partner in the Chicago office of Jenner & Block and former Chair of the ISBA Women and the Law Committee.

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