Monthly Feature: Get to Know... Katherine Ritts Schafer

November 1, 2019

Katie grew up in Weedsport, a small Erie Canal village near Syracuse.  She always wanted to be an attorney.  She started arguing about what was just and fair as soon as she started talking.  “I always had that inclination and desire, and – with a lot of hard work – I became the first lawyer in my family.”  

Her journey to higher education began at William Smith College where she studied philosophy and psychology.  “The interpersonal demands of my coursework helped refine and enhance my teamwork, negotiating skills and problem solving.”  She particularly recalls her introduction to Constitutional Law and great discussions about morality and justice inside and outside of the classroom.  After graduating summa cum laude from William Smith, Katie headed to Syracuse Law, from which she also graduated with highest honors. 

Today Katie is a management-side labor and employment attorney representing private and public sector employers. She enjoys the intellectual stimulation of a high level, sophisticated law practice.  “What I really like is that there is no real day-to-day routine in law, especially in labor and employment.  Real-time issues, such as an employee disciplinary matter, may demand immediate attention and can happen at any time. I think that keeps the work interesting and exciting. It’s people-driven, and calls on my ability to develop relationships, be insightful and put myself in another’s position to help figure out the best course of action. How do I get someone to change their behavior?  Or, how can I best negotiate with a union without sacrificing my client’s position?  How do I gain their trust and a comfort level to facilitate a conversation?   It’s a learned technique; how to talk to the accused and the complainant.  There are times to be strong, times to be quiet, times to be forceful, times to be coaxing, and times to be unassuming.”

Katie plays an active role in the firm’s Women’s Initiative, which supports and promotes the professional development of women attorneys at the firm with internal and external programs, including mentoring.  “I am very proud of the programming and initiatives we’ve put on, including a “Women in the Law” project  that looks at the profession historically—where we’ve been, where we’re going,  and our individual roles in that endeavor. “  The Initiative also includes programs that welcome business and professional women from the larger community to create opportunities for personal, professional and collaborative growth for all.  

Katie is also a part owner in the Green Bay Packers.  “The Packers are the only publically-owned major league team in the United States. The team is owned by the fans; it’s actually pretty amazing to be able to own a part of your favorite team.  I’ve travelled to Green Bay with my family for games, and Lambeau Field, hands down, is the best place to see a football game.  My dad passed down the Cheesehead legacy to me and I’m doing the same with my family.”

Katie and her husband are parents to a one year old daughter and a five year old son.  “There’s an acknowledgement at Bond that a healthy work life balance is important and encouraged.  We work hard, love where we live and enjoy a great lifestyle.  The revitalization of Syracuse and its youth programs are very important to us.  We are very optimistic for the future success of Syracuse and want to be a part of it.”