Member Groups

The Catalyst
The newsletter of the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Women and the Law

October 2015, vol. 21, no. 2

Getting to know one of the WATL’s newest members: An interview with Kelly Parfitt

Mary: Kelly, it’s a pleasure to interview you! Congratulations on being re-appointed this year to this great committee. Are you a homegrown Chicagoan or are you a transplant?

Kelly: I’ve lived in Chicago for five years but spent most of my life in the Detroit suburbs.

Mary: What schools did you attend, up to and including law school and what were your areas of study?

Kelly: I attended University of Michigan for my undergraduate degree and have a BBA in Business Management and Marketing. I attended Thomas M. Cooley Law School and have an International concentration.

Mary: Who would you say were and are the biggest influences on your life and why?

Kelly: My Mom is my biggest influence. She opened a dental practice with my Dad right before I was born and it grew it into a successful business. She worked long hours but never missed a band concert or volleyball game. Even though she only has an Associate’s degree, she taught herself what she needed to know. We would always go to the library or bookstore together and share a love of reading. That interest eventually led me to law school where I learned to utilize those skills of analyzing facts and paying close attention to details.

Mary: Whom do you consider the most influential woman in your life and why?

Kelly: My Mom always worked a lot and my Grandmother would babysit me. She was a strict disciplinarian and wouldn’t allow me to watch TV. My cousins and I would play outside or do puzzles or read inside. She was never tired of answering all my questions or encouraging me to push myself intellectually. She was the matriarch and the head of our family. She could make anyone behave with her signatory look. With her support, I excelled in school and was one of the first on my mother’s side of the family to go college. She always made sure we could push ourselves and meet our goals.

Mary: When did you decide to become an attorney? Was there a specific event or individual who made an impact on you to reach that decision?

Kelly: I had always thought about being an attorney because I’ve always enjoyed analyzing problems and finding solutions. In my last year of college, I decided a law degree would be more suited to my skill set than an MBA. I wanted to use my passion for international affairs to expand my knowledge in that area and counsel global corporations.

Mary: Tell me about your first job out of law school and how you got hired. Any tips for our new law school graduates?

Kelly: While studying for the bar exam, I clerked in a small firm that specialized in International Trade and Estate Law. International trade law was a bit drier than I had expected but estate law was interesting. There was a sense that you were getting to know people and helping them feel comfortable that their families were taken care of in the future. Unfortunately, I’ve been doing e-discovery contract work since moving to Chicago so I’m still looking for a permanent position here. I would tell new graduates to use their personal connections to look for jobs and to be creative in networking outside of the legal industry.

Mary: If you had to say you have a passion for some area of the law, what would it be?

Kelly: I’ve always enjoyed learning about the cultures and laws of other countries. This is why I focused on international law in law school. I believe in looking at all possible solutions to my clients’ problems and you need to know where both parties are coming from to find the most workable solution. Now even small companies do business overseas. I think all lawyers need to have at least a general knowledge of international law, especially business attorneys dealing with the sale of goods. It’s fascinating as well as practical.

Mary: How did you first become involved in ISBA? What are your areas of interest in the association?

Kelly: I met you at a networking event and you convinced me to join the ISBA. I’m interested in promoting women and issues that are important to them within the legal community here in Chicago. Our committee has many experienced women who make great mentors and have helped me become more involved in the ISBA. I’m looking forward to our recent promotion of the Equal Rights Amendment in the Illinois legislature.

Mary: I know you have many interests outside of the law. Tell us what you enjoy doing in your leisure time.

Kelly: I’m very involved in the no-kill shelter community in Chicago and volunteer and foster pets through PAWS Chicago. I also love to travel and went to Argentina and Chile last year with a women’s group. We talked to groups involved in the environmental movement, juvenile mental illness treatment, human rights, and with women seeking an alternative to prostitution. I’m taking my Mom and Aunt to Italy this September on their first trip outside of the country. I’ve traveled all over Europe and am looking forward to exploring more South American countries next year.

Mary: Kelly, what does the future hold for you? Your dreams and goals?

Kelly: I hope to finally find a permanent transactional position this year that will utilize my current knowledge and help me expand my skills. I’m looking forward to sharing my love of travel and new experiences with my Mom. Most importantly, my job should be fulfilling where I am a positive aspect of my client’s lives and use my legal skills to find the best solutions to their problems.

Mary: Well Kelly, thanks so much for sharing with us a glimpse of your life, and I look forward to you becoming one of the strong young leaders of this great committee and the ISBA!

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Mary F. Petruchius is a solo general practitioner in Sycamore, IL. She was the 2013-14 Chair of the ISBA Standing Committee on Women & the Law. Mary is also a member of the Child Law and General Practice, Solo, and Small Firm Section Councils, and is a board member and Gold Fellow of the Illinois Bar Foundation. Mary may be reached at marypet@petruchiuslaw.com and her website is www.petruchiuslaw.com.