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Karen M. Kennard is a Shareholder in the Government Law and Policy Group at Greenberg Traurig. Karen focuses her practice on government law, policy, and regulatory matters with an emphasis on municipal local government issues. Her experience spans more than two decades and includes positions as City Attorney for the City of Austin, Texas and General Counsel for the Texas Municipal League (TML)

Karen’s practice at Greenberg Traurig involves providing legal advice and counsel to individuals, local government entities, private businesses, and non-profits on a broad range of issues including procurement/government contracts, economic development, transportation, public infrastructure, land use, land development, and legislative advocacy.

Immediately prior to joining the firm, Karen served over five years as City Attorney for the City. Before her selection as City Attorney, Karen served six years as Austin’s Deputy City Attorney. During her 11-year tenure with the City of Austin, Karen led a law department of over 90 employees that provided legal advice to the Mayor, City Council, City Manager, and 40 city departments with over 14,000 employees. Karen was directly involved in providing legal advice on several high profile initiatives including: land use and development matters that involved large annexations of property into the city, four large municipal bond elections, the transition from at-large city council district election system to a single member district election system, settlement of two U.S. Department of Justice pattern and practice investigations, negotiation and drafting of several major Chapter 380 economic development agreements, negotiation of several public/private partnership projects that involved the sale and transfer of large tracts of publicly owned property for redevelopment purposes, and the establishment of numerous local special taxing districts including tax increment financing districts, public improvement districts, local government corporations, and the City’s first ride share regulations. In addition to these large matters, Karen also provided legal advice on many aspects of the day-to-day operations of a large city including issues related to city charter interpretations, city council meeting agenda preparation, city council meeting organization and operations including rulings and interpretations of Roberts Rules of Order, ordinance drafting, public information requests, and employment matters. 

Karen also managed the City of Austin’s Governmental Relations Office where she served as the principal contact for legislative matters at the federal and state level. Karen assisted the city’s outside lobby consultant teams in educating and lobbying federal and state legislators on issues of importance to the city. Her work in this role also included drafting legislation, legislative amendments, and talking points for legislation of interest to the city.

Earlier in her career, Karen served as General Counsel for the Texas Municipal League (a 501(c)(4) organization) where she spent 15 years providing legal and legislative services to city officials across the State of Texas. As General Counsel, Karen severed as the association’s chief legal officer providing legal advice to a 50+ member Board of Directors and an organization staff of 45. Prior to becoming General Counsel for the League, Karen served in several different legal and legislative roles. While at TML she provided legal advice to city officials on a wide range of issues. She was also responsible for developing legislative strategies and position statements; drafting weekly Legislative Updates; and testifying on numerous bills before the Texas legislature.

Concentrations

  • Open government (Open Meetings Act/Public Information Act)
  • Economic development/state & local incentives
  • Transportation
  • Procurement/government contracts
  • Public infrastructure
  • Planning, land use, land development
  • State & local legislative advocacy

Capabilities

Recognition & Leadership

  • Listed, The Best Lawyers in America, Government Relations Practice, 2022 
  • Listed, Lawdragon 500, “Leading Lawyers in America,” 2021
  • Honoree, Profiles in Diversity Journal, "Black Leaders Worth Watching," 2020
  • Listed, Austin Monthly Magazine, "Top Attorneys in Austin," 2020
  • Recipient, Austin Black Business, "Top 10 Central Texas Super Lawyer Awards," 2019
  • Team Member, Best Lawyers in America®, "Top Listed – Government Relations," 2018
  • Recipient, Austin Black Lawyers Association "Legacy Award," 2012
  • Travis County Women’s Lawyer’s Association
    • Pathfinder Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Legal Profession in Travis County, 2006
    • Award for Contribution to the Minority Community, 1994
  • Member, Texas City Attorneys Association
    • President, 2014-2015
  • Member, International Municipal Lawyers Association
  • Citizens Advisory Council, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
  • Board of Directors, KLRU-TV
  • Board of Directors, Texas Justice Initiative
  • McBee Fellow, Austin Area Research Association (AARO), 2010
  • Member, State Bar of Texas Government Lawyers Council
    • Board Member, 2011-2012
  • Board Member, City of Austin Police Retirement System, 2005-2008
  • President, Austin Black Lawyers Association, 1999
  • Leadership Austin, Class of 1997-1998
  • Board Member, Austin Bar Association (formerly Travis County Bar Association), 1995

Credentials

Education
  • J.D., Texas Tech University School of Law
  • B.A., Political Science, Southern Methodist University
Admissions
  • Texas
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas