Knowledgeable, cheerful and tough when it counts, Kate Hartman has emerged as one of the leading young trial attorneys in Southern New Jersey. That distinction is remarkable for two reasons: First, as the daughter of the well known attorney Frank Hartman, she's had to forge a professional reputation in her own right; and further, as a woman in the famously fraternal world of trial law, Kate Hartman has had to battle social and professional attitudes that hardly made her ascent a sure thing. "The State Bar probably consists of 50 percent women - but litigators are mostly men," says Hartman, acknowledging the terrain. "It hasn't always been easy." Despite growing up with a father who's been a fixture in trial law for nearly five decades, the younger Hartman (she's 40 today) never fast-tracked to a law career. She attended the small women's college her mother had attended ("All girls, so no distractions") and later worked in Trenton for LEGAL, the political lobby for trial attorneys. "I wanted to go to law school because I wanted to be a better lobbyist. I wasn't sure the law was for me." At Rutgers Law School she excelled, but she was "shocked" by the "ultra-conservative political climate" among law students - a reaction that helped push her into trial and employment law, which addresses harassment and civil-rights issues on a daily basis. "Matters of fundamental decency." After clerking for Superior Court Judge Joseph Greene, Hartman joined her father, then practicing with Charles Nugent (both Mr. Hartman and Nugent are included in the 2004-05 Ten Leaders of Criminal Defense Law). In the last decade Kate emerged from the professional shadow of her father. One of Kate Hartman's early prominent cases: defending a Mercer County public school teacher accused of sexual assault (the charges were dismissed prior to trial.) Along the way Hartman balanced a grueling career initiation with building a family and establishing a name apart from her father: "My first ten trials were criminal cases - I created my own identity pretty quickly," she says. She's also part of a "First Response Team" for police and others in law-enforcement facing disciplinary charges; other attorneys say she's a poised and effective advocate. Today Hartman ("My clients all call me Katie") has assumed the leadership of Attorneys Hartman, Chartered, relocating the firm three years ago; she practices with her sister Fran. Other attorneys say the personable and good-natured Hartman is a natural leader and may have political opportunities in her future (she's currently a county committee member). Yet she still focuses on her casework, particularly in Burlington and adjoining counties. An enthusiastic traveler, Hartman lives in Moorestown with her husband Stephen Dunbar, a teacher in Princeton Township, and their children Molly and Riley.