Professional and Civic Activities
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Robin M. Runstein
As the only criminal-defense attorney on the Kell, Alterman & Runstein, L.L.P. roster, Robin Runstein enjoys a healthy dose of independence. She wouldn’t have it any other way. “I like being accountable to myself and my clients more than anything,” she explains. “In criminal law, you have to be persistent. You have to do whatever it takes for your client. And the more flexible the surroundings, the more you can dedicate your full attention to solving your client’s problems.”
Few problems get Robin’s juices flowing like a good defense challenge. She particularly thrives on the energy and adrenaline of a fast-paced trial, which she likens to competitive soccer (she played four years of varsity soccer at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst): “You have two opposing sides and a referee, and you have to prepare a ton before the trial arrives. Once it starts, you have to constantly adapt to changing conditions. The whole thing keeps me energized and fresh—I just love it.”
She’s now directing her clearly limitless energy to other practice areas, including family law which is, not surprisingly, a specialty of Ted Runstein, her father and one of the firm’s partners. She is also a frequent speaker for the legal community as a recognized expert in her practice areas.
It was Ted’s enthusiasm for the profession, expressed each night at the dinner table while Robin was growing up that eventually led to her studying law. “He would practice his closing arguments over dinner, and you could tell he loved every second of it,” she says. “He was the only adult I knew who loved his job. And it was amazing to me that he could take a single subject and come up with so many different angles and interpretations.”
Robin left Portland for the East Coast in the late 1980s to study business at UMass. After graduation, she attended and received her law degree from New York Law School in 1995. When she returned to the Northwest later that year, she took a job with the public defender’s office, a stint she describes as “very cool.” She also spent two years working with a high-end criminal defense lawyer in Portland following the birth of her first son and a few years practicing on her own.
Working with several types of legal organizations and a wide range of clients has taught her one of a litigator’s most important skills: when to put on the gloves and when to back off. “I wear a lot of different hats as a lawyer,” she says. “Sometimes I put up a full fight, but sometimes I perform damage control by steering people into programs or other services. It all comes down to finding the best way to help your client.”
Her pragmatism extends to family matters. Though she misses the intensity and community of the East Coast, Robin believes Portland is a much easier place to raise her two sons. It’s also a good soccer town, which is one reason she spends her free time playing in local soccer leagues. More significantly, a competitive spirit needs plenty of exercise, whether on the field, in the courtroom, or at home with her kids. These days, Robin’s spirit is rarely tired.