Pittsburgh – Global law firm K&L Gates LLP has named Peter J. Kalis Chairman Emeritus of the firm in recognition of his extraordinary contributions to the firm, the legal profession, and the community. Kalis – who served as Chairman, and later also as Global Managing Partner, of K&L Gates for five consecutive terms from 1997 until early 2017 – is the second firm leader to be honored with the designation of Chairman Emeritus, with Kalis’ mentor, Charles J. Queenan, Jr., having been similarly recognized in October 2013. The honor coincides with Kalis’ retirement from the firm last month.
Current K&L Gates Global Managing Partner Jim Segerdahl commented: “K&L Gates would not exist as a global law firm without Pete Kalis’ vision, drive, leadership, and determination. As a lawyer, he was one of the most supremely accomplished and innovative advocates for clients of his or any era, dedicated to the highest ideals of the profession, and routinely called upon to help navigate clients’ most vexing challenges. As a law firm leader, he possessed a remarkable and rare combination of vision, intuition, and capacity to make strategic initiatives come to life, always focusing on client interests and fostering law firm values centered on collaboration, quality, and client service. He encouraged all around him to go beyond what they thought they could accomplish individually and collectively, and drove personnel at all levels to do exactly that. For all this, we offer him both our utmost thanks and best wishes in his retirement from the firm he was so instrumental in building.”
During Kalis’ two decades as the firm’s leader, K&L Gates grew from 400 lawyers in a half dozen offices in the Eastern Time Zone of the United States to a global force with a presence in more than 40 cities on five continents. During his tenure, annual revenue grew by over 740%. Accompanying this growth were numerous accolades for K&L Gates that included the firm’s recognition among the strongest law firm brands; frequent top rankings for client service; and a first-place ranking from The American Lawyer among the world’s 100 largest law firms for financial performance and growth during the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009.
Kalis is a graduate of West Virginia University, served as its student body president as an undergraduate, and now holds an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the university. As a Rhodes Scholar, he received his Doctor of Philosophy (D.Phil.) degree from Oxford University and served as president of Brasenose College’s Hulme Common Room. During law school at Yale, he was elected Editor-in-Chief of the Yale Law Journal. After law school, Kalis served as law clerk to J. Skelly Wright, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and then to Associate Justice Byron R. White of the United States Supreme Court. He was a true pioneer in advising clients facing seemingly insurmountable challenges as to the full range of their options in pursuing relief, including developing innovative approaches to accessing hugely valuable historical insurance assets in ways that had not previously been contemplated. Throughout his career, he has been a prolific writer and speaker, addressing legal issues of great interest to clients, as well as a broad spectrum of law firm management and leadership issues.
Kalis is the only law firm leader to have been recognized by inclusion on three of the industry’s most prestigious lists: The American Lawyer having identified him as among the 50 most influential innovators in the global legal industry in the last 50 years by labelling him a “Master Strategist;” The National Law Journal having included him on its inaugural list of the top 50 legal business trailblazers and pioneers as a “Strategist and Driver,” and the UK legal industry publication The Lawyer having named him as among the ten individuals in the global profession who would shape the international market for legal services. He served as the American Bar Association’s National Law Day Chair in 2006, on several ABA task forces, and ex officio on the ABA’s Commission on Civic Education and Separation of Powers and the Standing Committee on Public Education.
“Pete Kalis is a remarkable talent and, without exception, the best strategic thinker I have ever encountered,” remarked Charles (Chuck) Queenan, Chairman Emeritus at K&L Gates. “I am honored to be one of Pete’s partners. The legal profession is a better association because of Pete. On a personal basis, I will continue to miss his unabashed laughter.”
In addition to his leadership role with the firm, Kalis served on the executive committee of the board of directors and chaired the finance and investment committee of the Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute. He also served on the boards of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the Duquesne Club, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the Carnegie Museum of Art, the West Virginia University Foundation, Inc., The Children’s Center of Pittsburgh, the Three Rivers Young Peoples Orchestras, the National Kidney Foundation of Western Pennsylvania, and the National Pancreas Foundation. He is a Lifetime Member of the American Law Institute and West Virginia University’s Academy of Distinguished Alumni.
Kalis, who joined the firm in 1980 as an associate, is a recipient of lifetime achievement awards from both the Pittsburgh Business Times (2017) and The Legal Intelligencer (2015), and was named to Lawyers of Color’s Fourth Annual Power List of the most influential minority attorneys and non-minority diversity advocates in 2015 and to Law360’s 2010 list of Most Innovative Managing Partners.
Kalis said: “It’s customary at this point for an older lawyer to report on his or her good fortune to be preceded and succeeded by great colleagues and to be surrounded by wonderful contemporaries. Now I’m the older lawyer, and it’s my turn to say with certainty that this good fortune was evident throughout my career. I thank them all. But I also want to reach back a little earlier in my life to acknowledge a couple of other folks.
“In the First World War, my father fought on horseback in the Greek Army. He survived a gunshot wound. In the same timeframe, my mother’s family narrowly escaped the genocide visited on Greek Christians in Anatolia. By separate journeys, my father and my mother’s family emigrated to the United States, where my mother and father met and married, started a family, and eventually ran a little diner in Wheeling, West Virginia. Although they didn’t benefit from much formal education, they raised two sons who did. One became a doctor and the other a lawyer. I dedicate this great honor to the courage, resilience, and values of Mike and Helen Kalis, my dad and mom, and I am grateful to K&L Gates for providing me the opportunity to do so.”