Steve Kailas, Kohner, Mann & Kailas, S.C.
IB Wisconsin's Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet the state's professionals. This week features Steve Kailas, president, Kohner, Mann & Kailas, S.C.
Business Address: Washington Building, Barnabas Building Center, 4650 N. Port Washington Rd., Milwaukee, WI 53212-105
Birthplace: Milwaukee, Wis.
Spouse: Nancy Lee Kailas
Board Membership: Marquette Law School Advisory Board; Orthodox Christian Charities of Wisconsin
Organizations: Commercial Law League of America, Wisconsin Bar Association, American Hellenic Progressive Association, Geneva Group International, International Society of Primerus Law Firms
Education: Juris Doctoris Degree, Marquette University Law School
Steve, how long have you been employed with Kohner, Mann & Kailas, S.C., and how do you see your role?
Employed [here] for 49 years and I am presently president of this law firm, which is a legal service corporation. I manage the firm relating to its general operations, including all financial aspects, with an excellent support staff of longstanding legal and non-legal personnel.
Who would you credit with being the most influential with regard to your career?
My mother and father most influenced my career. As immigrant parents raising eight children in the midst of the Great Depression, they managed to instill the need and value for “performance,” continually teaching as role models to appreciate and treasure one’s blessings and the value of sharing love, resources, and possessions as a way of life.
The law is a constantly changing field. How do you keep up with new regulations and case law?
I regularly read The Wall Street Journal, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Newsweek, Bloomberg Businessweek, The National Law Journal, The Business Journal, Bankruptcy Law Reporter, and Creditors Edge Reporter. I am a member of the Commercial Law League of America, which is an international association of commercial lawyers; Geneva Group International, which is an international group of accountants, lawyers, and businesspeople; and The International Society of Primerus Law Firms, which is a society of law firms located throughout the world.
Do you have a long-range goal you’re committed to achieving before you leave the firm?
My long-range goal is to put in place the full complement of philosophy, systems, personnel, and expertise to ensure continued success and growth for the benefit of all our present and future professionals and support staff.
Let’s go beyond the boardroom and back in time to your adolescence. Do you remember what you wanted to do when you were in high school – do as in “career choice”?
In high school and early college, I was a crooner in a dance band and loved it. No talent scouts discovered me, so I started college and promoted my art talent. I switched to journalism for something more secure. Upon return to college after the Army draft, an economics professor told me that he thought I would make a good lawyer. That is all it took to get me started on the law, and the rest is history.
About the only interest you missed was business! Any entrepreneurial urges at that time?
Upon reflection, I did have entrepreneurial interests, inasmuch as I recall that I was the one that perennially would organize the neighborhood gang for sports events and plan competition between them and other neighborhood groups.
How did you earn your first paycheck, and did you save it or spend it?
My first paycheck was $80 for my first week as a painter’s assistant under license from the Painter’s Union for temporary summer employment before college. I spent it all on much-needed clothing to attend college.
In your history of summer jobs, etc., can you remember a time when everything that could go wrong did go wrong? We like to call this question the “suck it up” question because it encourages people who are having a tough day to count their blessings. Can you share a memory or two along those lines?
I have experienced a number of job disappointments. While working my way through college, I took a summer job for Milwaukee County, working as a laborer, digging ditches. My first assignment was to hand-dig a hole some 4 feet by 6 feet and about 5 feet deep. One would never believe how many individual shovels full of dirt that involves! With my lack of experience, I was ill equipped for the job and drove home in my car with my elbows, as my hands were bloody from tenderness and lack of work gloves.
Another temporary job was in the winter digging out railroad tracking and switching during a heavy and windy snowstorm. I was assigned to shovel off railroad tracking located along a trackway that collected the full force of the strong and cold winds during the heaviest period of the storm. I was surrounded by co-workers with alcohol breath and a tendency to fiercely compete to pick up my discarded cigarette butts. After a full day of freezing throughout my body, both I and my fellow student were frozen to the point that we experienced a laughing jag on the bus on the way home.
And home was Milwaukee? Have you lived most of your life in Milwaukee?
Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wis.
What do you do today, Steve, beyond the office for relaxation or entertainment?
“Beyond the office,” I enjoy planning entertaining parties and gatherings in our recreation room or backyard swimming pool area. I have also enjoyed extensive travel throughout the United States and most parts of the world. We also enjoy our winter visits to our home in Florida.
Any comment you’d like to make about your family life?
I feel very fortunate to have married the only woman strong enough and kind enough to continuously “live” with me.
You mentioned travel – what’s your favorite travel spot?
My favorite place of travel is the Orient and especially Hong Kong. It is a fascinating experience of continual energy signifying growth in industry much like that reminiscent of the United States at the turn of the century.
Now we come to the last two questions, which give readers a glimpse into the man behind the title: (1) what character might you like to be identified with, of any book or movie or television series, and (2) can you describe yourself using only three words?
(1) I enjoy the thought of identifying with James Bond and Agent 007. His life is so diametrically diverse to what mine is. The difference would be exhilarating to say the least.
(2) The three [descriptive] words are loyal, appreciative, and inquisitive.