Bucking the Trend

Three young lawyers who marched to a different drummer

Published in 2009 Washington Super Lawyers magazine

By Julie H. Case on December 1, 2009


One used to be a rock star; one a professional dancer. One spurned law school altogether, opting to work his way through the state’s law clerk program. Three young attorneys with unconventional pasts told us recently how they came to the law via distinctly unorthodox routes.

Tadas Kisielius Rocks

Answering the phone, Tadas Kisielius sounds not a bit like the rock star he once was. In the background, 2- and 5-year-olds can be heard playing while Kisielius talks about land-use law, water rights and environmental law. 

A classically trained violinist, Kisielius has been playing since he was a kid. About two-thirds of the way through his law degree, he had a nagging feeling he hadn’t given music its full due. So, after graduation—before he became caught up in the profession—he reconnected with an undergrad bandmate, and together they launched Thee More Shallows. 

Kisielius, 35, didn’t know if the group would last for three months or the rest of his life. It ended up being a full-time, five-year gig, with Thee More Shallows releasing a couple of albums and touring around the country and in Europe. 

Meanwhile, Kisielius’ wife was working full time as a lawyer and the two were starting a family. For a few years, he and his wife alternated between the roles of stay-at-home parent and sole breadwinner, before settling into a happy medium: both working and parenting. Which means some days Kisielius has his kids at the office with him. 

He explains what drew him to his practice area: “They’re issues that you read about in the newspaper: How do we deal with growth? How do we deal with growth’s impacts on our resources?”

Currently, he is representing the Washington Water Utilities Council—an association of about 100 utilities—in a case brought by environmentalists and tribes challenging the constitutionality of the 2003 Municipal Water Law, which the plaintiffs believe gives the utilities too much control over water systems. The King County Superior Court delivered a partial win for each party, ruling two of the challenged provisions unconstitutional but rejecting the other challenges. Both sides are appealing to the state Supreme Court.

Carllene Placide: Dancing Through Life

Someone must have put extra hours in Carllene Placide’s day. In addition to having a 4-year-old daughter, a Weimaraner show dog, and a full-time job at Dorsey & Whitney, she serves on boards including the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the Science and Management of Addiction and the Washington Minority Justice Commission. 

Placide is also a former ballerina who danced professionally in New York for several years. These days, she focuses on employment law, employment litigation, workplace-safety matters and international business immigration. She’s also now working on three pro bono cases involving immigration, including representing two individuals seeking protection under the federal Violence Against Women Act. Surprisingly, one of the clients is a man. 

“Culturally, it cuts against his culture to admit that his spouse—who is an American citizen—is abusing him in their relationship,” says Placide, 36. “To get him to that point of talking about the abuse and scenarios was very difficult.”

Somehow, Placide still finds time to stay on her toes as a dancer. When she’s finished with her current training, she plans to add “professional ballroom dancer” to her résumé.

Scott Carness Takes the Alternate Route

When Scott Carness was considering law school, he and his wife had just had their first child. “I had to study evenings, weekends, odd hours, because I had to keep working full time,” Carness says.

He turned to the state’s clerkship program. The clerks study the same subjects as in a traditional program, but on their own, and they complete the program over four years instead of three, while working full time at a law firm.

Carness, 37, worried he wouldn’t be as marketable as his peers. Those fears turned out to be unfounded: “While you’re studying, you’re also gaining hands-on experience. When a clerk finishes the clerkship, they have a pretty good idea of what to do.” What’s more, he says, people who have gone through the clerkship program pass their Bar exams at a higher than average rate.

Carness came to the law while working as a paralegal in a personal injury firm, but he earned a bachelor’s in psychobiology from the University of California, Riverside. 

“My background in psychology and biology and neuroscience has dovetailed pretty well with doing personal injury work, because I studied things like anatomy and physiology and neurology,” Carness says. “I still have my textbooks here in the office and refer to them sometimes in … [my] personal injury work. So it worked out pretty well.”  

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