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ICON Awards 2022: George Kapke, Kapke Willerth, LLC

George KapkeWith a legal career that has spanned half a century, George Kapke still relies on the Golden Rule to guide his daily practice. Despite adapting to changes in his industry quite naturally, his staff at Kapke Willerth will tell you he still likes “everything printed out” and embodies everything you would want in a lawyer — an “honest, hard-working and fair” advocate.

As a Kansas City-based litigator since 1969, Kapke has witnessed many situations in business, real estate, and employment law. However, one case from the 1980s comes to mind as particularly poignant.

On July 17, 1981, the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri, suffered a structural collapse of two overhead walkways that killed 114 and injured hundreds. Kapke reflects with pride on how quickly they could settle the claims.

“I think that overall — that litigation — most of the parties involved in that would say it is a pattern for how mass litigations should be handled. It was well-organized. The discovery was comprehensive, and the resulting settlements were fair and expeditious,” explained Kapke. “I think the litigation was largely resolved — completely resolved in less than two years after the collapse. So I think all of the parties involved should take some pride in that.”

Kapke recalls the early days when there were fewer lawyers and more face-to-face time. “We used to have docket calls, where you would go and sit in divisions, and they’d go through their cases, and often there would be negotiations, and cases would settle during those docket calls.”

He explained that alternative methods of resolving cases, like mediation, have replaced the latter, and Kapke has enjoyed being at the forefront of that trend. “Mediation is one of the changes in the practice of law. And I think it’s in and of itself a very good change.”

During those intense mediation sessions, Kapke can tap into his “old school” skills — like listening — to expedite a resolution. “A good mediator finds the areas of commonality in the case and focuses on those. And just listening allows parties to vent, have their say, and be heard. That’s important to litigants, to know somebody’s listening. And then they can put their grievances aside and find a resolution,” he said.

Many of George Kapke’s contemporaries have long retired. Still, he stays in the game to stay active, involved and connected to the people who continue to make his legal career rewarding.

ICON Awards 2022