An Interview With Katz & Stefani Co-Founder André Katz
André Katz saw from an early age the positive impact that his father, the late Dr. Josef Katz, a psychiatrist had on patients. Describing what his dad did as “helping people in bad spots,” Katz said it was this exposure that led him to follow in his dad’s footsteps, aiming to help men and women going through divorce.
A 27-year veteran as a divorce attorney and a former partner in the trial department of McDermott, Will & Emery, Katz is the Co-Founder of Katz & Stefani, LLC. He is a leader in the field of divorce law, and was the chairman of the committee that overhauled the entire Illinois divorce law system.
I sat down with Katz to talk about why he started Katz & Stefani, LLC, why he chose to participate so actively in the revamping of the Illinois divorce laws, and what he sees for his future.
JP: What went into the decision to start Katz & Stefani?
AK: Dan [Stefani] and I have both worked for large firms in the past, and although adversaries at times, we were always very friendly. We both shared the same thoughts about working for a large firm, which was that at some point it started to feel impersonal and unnneccessarily competitive. The two of us decided we wanted to work together, and that we wanted a firm where everyone worked together and helped one another. The good that comes from that kind of environment bleeds over into the client experience. We are also very choosy about who we hire. Everyone has a different role in the firm and it works because ours is a culture that includes respect, integrity, good policies and a team approach. Cases run smoother and faster because of it.
JP: What made you get involved in the overhaul of the Illinois divorce laws?
AK: I had been thinking about many topics that need to be addressed and changed 20 years prior to the changes actually being made. I got a call from John Fritchey, who was the chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the State House, and he and Speaker, Mike Madigan decided to revisit the entire divorce statute that had been in place since 1977. They asked me to be on the committee and to chair it. To have the ability to have real impact was something that was enticing to me. I took what I’d been outlining for 20 years: on topics that included custody, child support, considerations in maintenance, and property, and what I did was break the topics down. I was very specific on what I wanted addressed in each topic. I made sure there were men and women in each decision-making group. The bottom line was, I wanted to help the people in the state of Illinois by making sure the divorce laws are reflective of today’s realities, and to make the divorce process work much more smoothly and in a way litigants could understand it and hopefully be more accepting of the results. We made dramatic changes that affect the timeline of the divorce process and that produce more fair outcomes.
JP: What do you see yourself doing in the future?
AK: In addition to maintaining my position at the firm, I see myself teaching law, or writing a book, or consulting. I’m really proud of the firm we have built and I don’t plan to build it into a gigantic firm. It becomes very impersonal when it gets too large. We’ve accomplished a lot in 8 years, and I believe that our goal is to grow organically, which means continuing to do quality work and maintain our excellent reputation. In other words, we will grow to fit our needs, not because we are trying to grow. Katz & Stefani, LLC is selective in the cases we take and we aim to deliver the highest quality work product. At times, I look at myself as someone similar to a cancer doctor. People come to me during the worst time in their lives. It gives me great joy that 6-9 months into the case clients become different people. They are getting back on their feet. The goal is to meet their needs by resolving their case with as minimal and or emotional costs as possible to enable the family to move forward.
Jackie Pilossoph is a freelance journalist.
André Katz is the Co-Founder and Co-Principal of Katz & Stefani.