Coffee Break: Katie Clancy, attorney and founding partner of Clancy & Associates
Q: Describe your company.
A: We are a full-service special needs planning law firm serving children and adults who have disabilities. We help parents, mainly, who are building supports and plans for their child — whether young or an adult child. This can mean setting up trusts and estate plans, establishing guardianship, strategizing education plans at school, or help preparing for transition into adulthood. Our team of attorneys, paralegals and specialists provide all of these services at our firm — which then creates a seamless, supportive foundation for the families we serve.
Q: Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company in the next year?
A: I will increase our staff by about 20%.
Q: What will your company's main challenges be in the next year?
A: Scaling our services and building processes for expansion.
Q: What's the hottest trend in your industry?
A: I don't know that I'd call it a trend, but the ability to address the variety of issues people with disabilities face all at one law firm is unique and cutting-edge. We save parents a lot of time, resources and angst with the ability to address and resolve several concerns at one firm. My firm is the only firm in Illinois that does this.
Q: If you had one tip to give to a rookie executive, what would it be?
A: It's OK to not know an answer to a question or how to solve a problem. Take the time to research the answer and learn.
Q: Do you have a business mantra?
A: We will make every situation we enter better.
Q: From a business outlook, whom do you look up to?
A: My husband, Ed, who is a financial adviser. Because he is excellent at listening to and understanding people, he can serve them with so much value, tailored to the needs they describe. He is very supportive of his clients, staff and co-workers, and leads by example.
Q: What is one interesting fact about you or your company that most people may not know?
A: Each of our attorneys is a parent of a child with a disability.
Q: Was there a moment in your career that didn't go as you had planned? What lesson did you learn from it?
A: When I started my practice 21 years ago, I was very excited despite having all the worries a new business owner has. I had it “all figured out” and a well-developed business plan; I left my secure position at a top Chicago law firm. Then, two weeks after I opened my doors, September 11th happened.
Like the rest of the world, I was stunned, and knew it would impact my new livelihood. To get through, I studied new areas of law to serve the newly unemployed and those working through crisis. It took a little longer than I planned to build a client base, but it worked out.
Because I rebounded after such a devastating time for businesses, I knew I could make it through anything. When the pandemic hit, I moved quickly to support employees working from home, incorporated remote conferencing, document execution, and presented seminars online.
The practice grew significantly through the pandemic — the silver lining is now we have the remote tools to work with clients anywhere in Illinois.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: Hike with my family, play tennis, read, spend time with friends.
Q: What book is on your nightstand?
A: “These Precious Days” by Ann Patchett. Always nonfiction or essays.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
A: Usually working out plans and family schedules, and worrying that I forgot something.
Q: If you were not doing this job, what do you think you would be doing?
A: I've always wanted to be a writer.
Q: What was your first paying job?
A: I started working in my grandmother's bridal store (“Clancy's Corner”) in Elmhurst when I was 11. I started by dressing the mannequins with heavy bridal gowns in the sunny, hot display windows and cleaning the many, many mirrors throughout the store. As I got older, I would help brides try on dresses and place orders. I was 18 when my grandmother passed away, and our family closed the store.
A few years ago for Christmas, my father gave me a wall clock that hung in the store that said “Clancy's Fashions” on its face. This clock hangs in our offices today as a reminder of the precious time that I spent with my grandma and the pride in business ownership.
Both of my grandmothers owned businesses at a time when women-owned businesses were unusual, even rare. Because I witnessed their ambition and confidence, I never doubted that a woman could own her own business.
Q: If you could put your company name on a sports venue, which one would you choose?
A: Nelson Road Stadium (where Ted Lasso's AFC Richmond plays).
Q: Two people to follow on Twitter and why. (besides your company)
A: I don't use Twitter, but if Ted Lasso were a real person, I would follow him. Not only is he hilarious, but he is a great leader with powerful advice.
Attorney, Founding Partner
Clancy & Associates
901 Warrenville Road, Suite 201
Number of employees: 6
Family information: Husband Ed, son John (13), 2 rescue Labradors Ollie and Daisy (3)
Hometown: Glen Ellyn