Vice President of Commercial Compliance, Guardian Industries
Pro Bono Counsel and Koch Pro Bono Committee Member
Real-life miracles rarely happen overnight. For Kait Harbour, it’s taken eight years to help secure the release of her client, who was sentenced to life without parole as a juvenile.
It’s been a steep learning curve. She says she has lost sleep over the pro bono case, which involved hearings in multiple courts and demanded she become an expert on the intricacies of criminal law. “It's made me a better lawyer, 100%,” says the Detroit-based Vice President of Commercial Compliance for Guardian Industries. “Better attorney, better communicator.”
Kait’s client was finally resentenced in 2017 after the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that, for juveniles, mandatory life sentences without parole were unconstitutional. Recognizing her client’s tremendous capacity for change and personal journey, the judge ruled in favor of release within the next couple of years. Since then, a new law went into effect making him immediately eligible for parole – something Kait and her co-counsel at the University of Richmond School of Law’s Children’s Defense Clinic are hopeful will speed up his release even further.
Admitting she initially underestimated the complexity of the case, Kait says she’s taken inspiration from her client’s determination, perseverance and unwavering positivity. Despite his tough childhood, he has proved to be a model inmate, educating himself and mentoring fellow prisoners as they prepare for re-entry into society, she notes. “A lot of times, you want to stay sort of emotionally detached from the stuff you work on, but this one you just can't,” she says. “He makes an incredible impact on everyone he encounters.”
Helping others has long been a passion for Kait, who started working on pro bono cases as an intern and associate at a law firm in Washington, D.C. She took on her current case before joining Koch, and the company is now supporting her through its final stages.
A member of Koch’s pro bono committee, she’s excited about what it can achieve in the years ahead. “Ultimately our Market-Based Management culture is all about economic decision-making and delivering the best product or service for the greater good,” says Kait. “The same is true for social initiatives and pro bono work.”
Whether it’s building a product or expunging a record, every process has room for improvement, she says. “That’s where Koch really excels: identifying a vision, executing it efficiently and effectively, and in the process, sparking transformation that benefits society. That’s an exciting combination.”