Native to Connecticut and raised in El Paso, Texas, Karen is the product of public school education. She attended the University of Texas at Austin and earned her law degree from the University of Houston Law Center.
Post college, Karen earned stripes organizing for political campaigns. A city council campaign led her to Austin City Hall where she was charged with taking her boss’s big ideas and bringing them to life. She developed a skill for designing stakeholder processes and found working collaboratively leads to a better outcome. Her time as a policy aide instilled an appreciation for local government and its proximity to the people it serves – even though that brings its own challenges. Her passion for exploring cities and love of urban planning stems from this early chapter in her career.
After completing law school at the University of Houston Law Center, Karen returned to Austin where she had the honor of serving as the community director for the Anti-Defamation League. Moved by their mission to secure justice and fair treatment for all and the gravity of their work, Karen worked hard to position the organization as a convener for matters related to civil rights and social justice. Her role as director positioned Karen to address the organization’s values and programmatic offerings at small and large gatherings. Testifying before legislative bodies on bullying and hate crime initiatives helped her find her voice as an advocate. Her time at ADL taught her much about nonprofit management, fundraising, board leadership and all the things that go into growing a social profit. The most important thing it taught her was the importance of relationships.
A priority of the Board and the staff was ADL’s role in launching the Austin/Travis County Hate Crimes Taskforce. The Taskforce brought institutional leaders to the same table to work with faith, civil rights and business sectors. This led to new relationships, better trained law enforcement, and system level changes for how hate crimes are responded to, investigated and prosecuted. Exploring how we can support the restoration of individuals and communities targeted with hate crimes led Karen to witness a restorative circle. That experience deeply impacted her faith in restorative practices as a better way to resolve conflict and grow relationships.
One night Karen watched Bryan Stevenson’s Ted Talk, We Need to Talk about an Injustice, and shortly after started a criminal defense practice. Learning how to navigate courts and justice systems and finding effective ways to zealously advocate on behalf of her clients was her day-to-day.
Karen returned to Austin last year after time in Washington D.C. and Denver, Colorado. She founded a social venture called Citizen Discourse that offers communities interested in creating more conscious cultures the tools to do so. Karen honestly believes -- and wants to see-- if a social contract that members of a community sign will change how those members show up and treat one another.
Karen keeps a small piece of her law practice going by serving Of Counsel to a criminal defense firm in Alexandria, Virginia. Karen represents clients seeking to petition the Governor for a pardon. She believes that those who have served their sentence and taken responsibility for their actions deserve a second chance and that there should be more room in the justice system for mercy.
Karen is a member of the Texas Bar and eligible to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Karen loves to bring people together over a shared purpose and hopefully a good meal, to imagine and then execute, explore new places, take walks with her senior citizen dog named Einstein, good yoga and… tacos.
Karen was named a Rising Star by Super Lawyer Magazine in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.
University of Texas at Austin, 2001
American University, Washington Semester Program 2000
University of Houston Law Center, 2009
KAREN GROSS in the news....
Super Lawyers Magazine feature: No Place for Hate
Austin-American Statesman: Murder trial begins in downtown Austin shooting
Burnt Orange Report: arrests at Texas Capitol for civil disobedience
L Style G Style Magazine feature: Showing Hate the Door
GivingCity Austin: 2012 New Philanthropist
Austin-American Statesman opinion-editorial: Threat of Incursion of Shariah Law in American Courts Unfounded
Austin-American Statesman opinion-editorial: Stay Awake to Stop Prejudice
Austin-American Statesman opinion-editorial: The Case for Diversity Education