What motivates most people to get out of bed, go to the office and work hard? For many, it is probably a paycheck. For some perhaps the idea of a promotion. Only a few are truly passionate about what they do – and that passion is what motivates Cathleen Kelly Rebar. The Rebar Kelly law firm website includes one of Rebar’s favorite quotes. “If you work just for money, you’ll never make it, but if you love what you’re doing and you always put the customer first, success will be yours.” – Ray Kroc.
In fact, it is rare to find a person eager to do better each day. Rebar, an outstanding attorney, managing partner, elected official, and community leader, strives to improve every day. She questions herself each morning, ‘What can I do better today?’
This pursuit of greatness has garnered her many accolades and earned a number of awards, including Super Lawyer 2019 (as well as previously in 2014 – 2018), ALM 2018 Professional Liability Department of the Year, and Top 100 Lawyer 2020. The law firm is also imbued with this spirit and is growing with offices in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut.
Rebar Kelly was formed upon the principle that long-term relationships flow naturally from recognizing that clients are the true partners. Rebar has long understood that problems come in all shapes and sizes. Her commitment to her clients comes first. She has always been responsive to her client’s needs and is always working to develop creative solutions to solve their legal problems. Her commitment to her clients is second to none.
Rebar’s strategic, results-driven style is what sets her apart. She is not a “run down the checklist” type of litigator. She puts deep thought into all of her decisions and is not afraid to “think outside the box” and use new or cutting-edge ideas to benefit her clients. It is critical to note, however, that her enthusiasm in litigating challenging cases is tempered with the commonsense knowledge that expedient and cost-effective resolutions are often the best way to serve clients.
Each client is different and their problems are particular, even if they share a common root. For a perfect solution, determining a strategy in collaboration with the customer is essential.
Her reputation as a fierce litigator gets backing from her impressive track record of victories in the courtroom. In fact, this ability to dissect cases to gain a perspective on some hidden angles bolstered her position as a Magisterial District Judge in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, where she has been serving this elected position for over a decade.
Her philosophy in life often reflects her team sports background: hire the right people for the job, prepare and practice, back each other up, and always put forth your best effort. As part of a team, she and her teammates sought to inspire and back each other to evolve. These same principles apply in the way she runs the law firm. “Rebar Kelly is a team as well,” says Rebar. “You are only as good as your weakest link.”
A Great Partner
It is never easy to walk alone. Building a team with the same vision makes grappling with adversities simpler. But it isn’t always easy – in fact, there were struggles in the past with energy vampires whose personalities tried to poison the group dynamic that Rebar had worked so hard to build. But Rebar was lucky to find a partner who was ready to row in the same direction, and Cathleen’s words of praise for her team and her partner, Chris Kelly, reflect this attitude.
Rebar is always quick to point out that Kelly deserves significant credit. Kelly values every individual and what they can contribute to achieving something better. “I value his support as it has powered the firm in many ways and facilitated our growth and advancement. His profound impact on the company has taught me how valuable having a great partner is for firm growth and development.”
Cathleen has a lot of great things to say about her team as well. Each one of them contributes in a meaningful way to maintain the vision and goal. When describing her achievements and the growth of the firm, she puts a particular emphasis on its team of attorneys and support staff who work hard to ensure that the company always follows the upward trajectory they have set out to maintain. “The whole staff, every person, they want to succeed, and they pull out all the stops to see the firm grow,” she says.
Rebar’s experience has taught her that for a team to grow, “cancers need to go,” she says. She knows the adverse influence a person can have on a company if their vision is not in line with the company values. “Once you realize you have someone in your organization who has a negative effect, it’s time to move on. Just like real cancer, cancer in the workplace is going to metastasize. Even if the person is good at what they do, they need to be replaced if they are a distraction.”
The only way to move forward is to “keep looking until you find the right person.”
The law firm is not Rebar’s only focus – she believes she has a lot to give the community as well. She is continuously active educating insurance executives, risk managers, adjusters and other insurance defense attorneys at conferences across the country on preeminent issues facing the insurance defense industry. She is also extremely proud of her accomplishments as a judge in Montgomery County, PA. Along with other judges, she has formed partnerships with state and local police, community leaders, and the public to make sure that leaders increase their focus on building and strengthening the bonds of the community.
Her success has also nudged her towards what she believes is a responsibility to bring more of a gender balance to her professional arena. She has noticed that women in leadership roles are often defined as bossy or aggressive. She wants to change that perception by developing a perspective for people to understand alternative viewpoints and transform their minds. Her efforts have made her a role model for women.
As an entrepreneur, she believes, “success comes with sacrifices, and there are no shortcuts. Hard work always trumps talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” But one has to be open enough to embrace criticisms as “you have to understand your own weaknesses in order to overcome them.” Success is not just a journey ahead; it requires self-exploration and Cathleen is a true example of the same.