WIA Profile: Kimberly A. Harchuck
Each month, industry news media organization XBIZ spotlights the career accomplishments and outstanding contributions of Women in Adult. WIA profiles offer an intimate look at the professional lives of the industry's most influential female executives.
How/when did you get involved with the industry?
Kimberly A . Harchuck: My mom would tell you that I always fought for the underdog. My dad would tell you that I always chose the path of most resistance. They both would tell you that I was constantly getting in trouble for asking too many questions in class. I guess you can say that I’ve always had a tendency to challenge the status quo. My family owned a small business, so I was exposed to a heavy dialogue on politics and the importance of understanding the government from a really young age. I requested Richard Nixon for my fourth grade president report, when everyone else was fighting over JFK. I was the kid who got sent to the principal’s office for asking my religion teacher to explain the pro-choice movement. I mean, how many 8-year-olds know how to spell Schwarzkopf? I think that kind of personality just organically fosters a sort of fire in your belly to be an advocate for the controversial.
In early 2010, I had just completed my LL.M. degree in intellectual property and was working for a local NPR affiliate doing licensing work. A friend from law school, Kevin Wimberly, worked for Larry Walters at the time. After already practicing in the adult industry for several decades, Larry had opened his own firm, Walters Law Group, and was looking for another associate attorney. It also happened that one of my law school professors was Marc Randazza, another industry veteran. So I had a decent idea of what the position entailed and I was extremely intrigued. During my interview, Larry said, “I can’t promise you a lot of glitz and glamour, but I can promise that you’ll see some very interesting stuff.” That was music to my ears. I had been in school for the last 23 years, literally. I was ready for everything “interesting” had to offer.
What is a typical day like for you?
Harchuck: There’s no such thing as a typical day at Walters Law Group, and I’m very grateful for that 99 percent of the time. It seems like every day there’s a new court decision, legislative proposal, or industry trend that dramatically impacts our clients. Those areas of law are always evolving, and it’s our responsibility to stay on top of that. I’m constantly checking a myriad of real-time resources to make sure we have the most current information to keep our clients up to date. Like any high-stakes job, it can get overwhelming, but I’ll take that over being bored any day.
What challenges have you confronted in your career and how have you overcome them?
Harchuck: Oh wow, how much copy space do you have for this one? Without a doubt, the greatest challenge I’ve faced thus far is resolving the dichotomy of the speed demanded by adult industry clients and the precision necessary in practicing law. Clients often want “bottom line” or “off the cuff” advice, which is understandable given the fast-paced nature of the industry. But complex fields like intellectual property and Internet law don’t lend themselves to casual advice or quick summaries. Part of advising our clients is training them to think differently about making legal decisions as compared to day-to-day business decisions that might often be made on the fly. Seemingly insignificant changes in the law — whether it’s the comma placement in the final text of a new piece of legislation, or the latest appellate court decision expanding a well-settled definition by a few words — have the ability to make or break many of our clients. I had to learn how to balance the minutia of the law versus the immediate demands of our clients. It really is a juggling act at times.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Harchuck: Probably just having the opportunity to participate in such a unique legal practice. When people find out what I do for a living, they often ask me how I find it acceptable to defend the rights of “pornographers.” I always ask how they find it acceptable not to. At the core of many legal issues involving the adult entertainment industry you’re going to find a First Amendment freedom of speech argument. To me, that means that some aspect of what I do — if I do it right — strengthens the foundation of constitutional law principles. There’s something extremely empowering in knowing that during at least one part of my day, in some small way, I helped fight the good fight. That’s the stuff most lawyers only dream about. Law school teaches students about all the lofty constitutional principles that shape what it means to live in a free society, but rarely are any of us lucky enough to involve those principles in our everyday practice. My first year at Walters Law Group, I contributed to a U.S. Supreme Court Amicus Brief and assisted in drafting key pieces of legislation supporting the business practices of our clients. You can’t get any deeper in the trenches than that.
What is your personal motto or mantra that you live by?
Harchuck: “You can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need.”
My dad always said that to my sister and me growing up, and still does actually. I think I was 12 before I realized that little token of wisdom actually belonged to Mick Jagger. (That was my attribution disclaimer so the Stones don’t sue my dad.) It’s crazy the range of applicability that sentence carries though — everything from allowance and curfews to clients and career choices. I never thought I’d be involved in this industry, but now that I have been, I can’t imagine spending my legal career any other way.
What career accomplishment are you most proud of?
Harchuck: I was recently asked to contribute a chapter to “New Views on Pornography: Sexuality, Politics & the Law.” The book really is an amazing collaboration; it takes a comprehensive look at all facets of porn studies and the impact pornography has had on society. My chapter focuses on the key legal issues and court decisions surrounding adult content throughout the years, and the resulting environment now that the Internet has been thrown into the mix. Despite having written law reviews and various other publications, there was something about the interdisciplinary approach to this book that made it exciting right from the beginning. The drafting process allowed me to mesh my academic background in political science and sociology with my pro bono work for human rights advocates like Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance and Planned Parenthood. The whole experience seemed to bring a lot of my professional efforts full circle, and really served as a reminder of why I do this. It was an honor to work with everyone involved, and I couldn’t be prouder of being a part of something like that.
What are some of your professional goals for the future?
Harchuck: Near future: Take my involvement in the industry to the next level. This industry has been on the forefront of some of the most groundbreaking legal decisions governing free speech, technology, and personal autonomy. Whether people realize it or not, the marriage of those ideologies is what strengthens our civil rights in the 21st Century. The adult entertainment industry operates with a target on its back on a daily basis. It’s because of that constant battle for freedom of expression that the average citizen can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas and engage in unencumbered public discourse. I’d like nothing more than to be on the front lines continuing that tradition.
Immediate future: Get my Outlook inbox down to a double-digit email count for five consecutive days.