Most of Kelle Burmeister Gilmore’s days are spent in the courtroom. “I’m always advocating for those who struggle with access to justice and resources,” she says. “They have a right to be heard, just like anyone else does.”
Gilmore is a partner and works with her dad and her brother in her own law practice. From an early age, she watched her dad help people and ultimately followed him into the legal profession so she could help people, too. She earned her JD from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.
For the past 16 years, Gilmore has focused on domestic and juvenile law, including dissolutions, modifications, contempt actions, paternity, mediations, minor guardianships, adoptions, and representing children and parents in juvenile court.
In addition, she represents children as their Court Appointed Guardian Ad Litem through Jackson County CASA, a nonprofit agency, and by appointment in private matters. One of her greatest satisfactions is representing children who have been abused or neglected. She also serves on the board for Carnival for CASA and was chair in 2021. For seven years, she was an executive board member with the Child Abuse Prevention Association.
“I’m always helping families navigate the next step, where they’re going in life,” Gilmore says. “Often, it’s overwhelming for people to know where to reach out. There are a lot of resources available. I help them navigate the rules that are in place and locate what they need — even food sometimes.”
In her practice, Gilmore also accepts a lot of pro bono cases. Even if she can’t take a case, she does her best to gather the details and connect people with someone who might be able to help them. In 2021, she received the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) National Impact Award for pro bono services to children and families.
One of Gilmore’s favorite moments as an attorney was a case in which she represented a mom whose parental rights were in the process of being terminated. Her two children had been in a care situation for a long time. “We litigated the case for several days,” Gilmore recalls. “We won, but we still had to work through the re-unification and getting the children back into her home. She did what she needed to do to get her kids back home. I still receive Christmas cards from them, a reminder of how big of a success we achieved.”
Gilmore is a proponent of putting children and family before work. “I struggle with that balance every week,” she says. “As a female leader in our firm, I help make sure that our staff can take care of their family responsibilities. That helps them be more effective in their work.”
In her career, Gilmore has learned the importance of giving parents the representation they need in our court system. “If they don’t have an advocate, then the kids suffer,” she says. “If they do have a good support system and a good person fighting for them, the kids benefit.”