40 Under Forty: The Dynamic Duo – The Hon. Celia and Rob Gamrath

Post Authored By: Kenny Matuszewski

Family, friendship, faith, fitness, fun, philanthropy, forward-thinking and a fulfilling career. These are the core pillars of the Hon. Celia and Rob Gamrath’s lives and relationship. Focusing on these pillars has allowed Judge Gamrath and Rob to accomplish far more together than they ever could have alone, and to truly “have it all.” 

The Gamraths first met when they studied business at Indiana University (“IU”), through mutual friends. At IU, they were nothing more than casual friends. However, that all changed their very first day of law school at UIC John Marshall Law School, when, by fate, they realized they were placed in the same 1L section. They appreciated seeing a familiar face in their class, and the opportunity to reconnect on a deeper level. While law school can be trying for anyone, whether single or in a relationship, having the same assignments, classes and pressures only made Judge Gamrath and Rob’s relationship stronger. They were able to serve as each other’s sounding boards throughout school and consider that time of their life to be a blessing.  

Their relationship was so strong that they married between their second and third year of law school. Realizing that least one income was needed in the family, Rob graduated early, in only two and a half years. Immediately after law school, Rob started his career at the law firm where he worked as a law clerk during law school. Focusing on municipal law, the firm gave Rob practical experience early on and allowed him to work closely with his mentors. He welcomed this opportunity to apply his knowledge and not only represented Chicagoland municipalities, but he also attended city council board meetings on behalf of his clients. Rob built upon this experience and now focuses his practice on real estate development and real estate secured lending at Burke, Warren, McKay & Serritella.

However, Judge Gamrath took a different path. After graduating from law school on the traditional track, she worked as an appellate law clerk for Justice Thomas Rakowski. It was a great honor for her to work for Justice Rakowski, since he taught her skills that would serve her well in private practice. At the Illinois Appellate Court, Judge Gamrath had the unique opportunity to view cases from the court’s perspective, which she uses daily as a judge in the Chancery Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County. She also discovered how to correctly present and object to evidence. One unanticipated benefit of Judge Gamrath’s clerkship was the opportunity to develop close personal and professional relationships early in her career; to this day, she is still close with several of the people she met during her clerkship.

Judge Gamrath then moved into private practice at Schiller DuCanto & Fleck (“SD & F”), one of the largest firms focusing on matrimonial and divorce law in Chicago. She joined the firm as an appellate associate. Thanks to her clerkship, the transition to private practice was smooth. However, SD & F gave her the opportunity to accelerate her career trajectory and learn even more lessons, such as to how to learn from pressure. The firm also trusted her enough to the point that she developed a book of business early in her tenure at the firm, along with the opportunity to mentor others, and serve legal organizations. As a result, Judge Gamrath became a partner at SD & F her fourth year at the firm.  

The bulk of Judge Gamrath’s practice at SD & F was matrimonial and divorce law. Judge Gamrath thrived in the role, due not only to a prior externship for a family court judge in law school, but also her background as a business major. Her firm worked with high asset clients, so knowing how to read tax returns was incredibly important. Other skills that are incredibly important for divorce attorneys to have is knowing how to identify statutory issues and make legal arguments, presenting the best evidence, storytelling, understanding contracts and business valuations, and how to handle clients’ emotions. But the most important thing, which SD & F made sure to teach Judge Gamrath, was how to maintain integrity and ethics while representing her clients. Sometimes, as Judge Gamrath learned, the most important thing to say was “no” to clients. Combined with her empathy and sensitivity, Judge Gamrath thrived. While she originally did not set out to become a divorce attorney, Judge Gamrath is grateful that she went down that path.

Around that time, Rob moved to a large law firm. While such a move can be intimidating, Rob was ready. In addition to what he learned at his previous firm, Rob had taken away several lessons from his relationship with Judge Gamrath in order to succeed. For example, the importance of listening to each other and being supportive. They also made sure they treated their marriage as an equal partnership, since they were intimately familiar with the challenges and demands of the practice of law.

One way Judge Gamrath and Rob supported each other was through bar associations. They were either involved in the same organizations together such as the Illinois State Bar Association (“ISBA”) and the Chicago Bar Foundation’s Board of Directors or attended their spouse’s events. For example, when Rob was Chair of the ISBA’s Young Lawyers Division (“YLD”), Judge Gamrath was also a YLD member. Then, when Judge Gamrath was President of the Justinian Society of Lawyers, Rob attended as many events by her side as possible. By joining organizations together, they not only spent time together, but also developed a network of close, mutual friends.

The Gamraths made sure to spend as much time together, both personally and professionally, as possible. As a result, when their daughter Caroline was born, they realized that all three of them could either be together whenever possible or apart. Because both Judge Gamrath and Rob value family above all else, the choice was clear. Whenever it was appropriate, Caroline would accompany the Gamraths to dinners and networking events. This only deepened the friendships Judge Gamrath and Rob made with their colleagues, since they had the opportunity to see Caroline grow up before their very eyes. Now in high school, Caroline is curious, open-minded, sensitive to social issues, embraces diversity, and knows how to use her leadership skills for good. No matter what career path Caroline chooses, her parents love and support her unconditionally, and are proud of everything she has accomplished. 

The most important lesson Judge Gamrath and Rob were taught growing up was the Golden Rule. Whether with family, clients, opposing counsel, or even the general public, the Gamraths make sure to treat everyone with respect and dignity. Even though the practice of law can be challenging, people can disagree without being disagreeable. In fact, because the legal profession by definition is adversarial, Judge Gamrath and Rob think that it is of the utmost importance to maintain collegiality, work hard, respect others and understand when clients may be pushing ethical boundaries.

The Gamraths also realize the importance of developing new skills. This could be seen when Rob enrolled in an Executive MBA program at the University of Notre Dame after twenty years of practicing law. The program gave him the opportunity to learn how to problem-solve in a manner completely different than the way he was taught to do so in law school: collaboratively. But what Rob valued most of all was his classmates, especially those who were not practicing lawyers. They not only showed him how to approach issues from a different angle, but also how their industries and businesses worked. While it was difficult to balance work, school, and his family, Rob could always count on his family’s support, which only made them closer.

For example, Judge Gamrath supports Rob’s hobbies outside of the office, including biking and marathon running. He is a veteran Chicago Marathon runner and can always count on Judge Gamrath and Caroline to cheer him on each race day. One year, Judge Gamrath noticed that many marathon runners would immediately discard extra clothing, including new sweatshirts, gloves, and even jackets. Not wanting the runners to trip over the clothes, Judge Gamrath went to pick up the clothes from the street. She then realized that people could use that clothing. It was then and there that Judge Gamrath started a signature family event: Gamrath’s Gathering. Taking place on each of Rob’s race days, the Gathering has grown organically over the years and starts with friends, family and Judge Gamrath picking up clothes left on the street. The clothes are then taken to the laundry room and washed and dried. Finally, the clothes are donated to shelters and charities all over Chicago, including Catholic Charities. A successful multi-tasker, Judge Gamrath also finds the time to dash across the city, find Rob and cheer him on at various points of the marathon before finding additional clothing to wash.

Judge Gamrath and Rob worked hard to become excellent lawyers and got to their current roles by saying “yes” to as many opportunities and chances to serve others as possible over the years. Even if some of those opportunities took a fair amount of time, the Gamraths have never regretted accepting any of them. Doors were opened for Judge Gamrath and Rob that otherwise would have remained shut and allowed their careers to take twists and turns that have led to richer experiences and deeper satisfaction. Second chances can be rare, so if an opportunity ever presents itself, the Gamraths recommend seizing it, no matter how small or arduous it may seem.

Taking advantage of the many opportunities that were presented to the Gamraths paid off. In 2002, Judge Gamrath won her 40 Under Forty award; at the time, there had only been two previous classes of winners. Five years later, Rob once again joined his wife, this time as a fellow 40 Under Forty winner. Never in competition with each other or with anyone else, Judge Gamrath and Rob were honored and humbled to be named as winners. Rob knew just how hard Judge Gamrath worked and how much she gave back to the community, so he was elated that people appreciated her hard work. Judge Gamrath, on the other hand, always found her husband’s work ethic and philosophy to be inspiring, so similar to her husband, she was ecstatic that others could see and recognize the importance of those qualities.

While it has been fourteen years since a Gamrath won a 40 Under Forty award, each year, they eagerly await seeing who will win the award. Learning what other accomplished attorneys have accomplished in their careers at a young age inspires the Gamraths and allows them to apply the lessons others have learned to improve their professional and personal lives. Judge Gamrath is proud to represent the award and knows that she and Rob stand on the shoulders of many smart, strong, and ethical mentors and colleagues over the course of their careers. Without their support and guidance, the Gamraths would not have been able to as boldly say “yes” to as many opportunities and would not be as satisfied with their careers.

As a result, education is highly valued in the Gamrath household, because it allows people to accomplish more than they ever thought they could. Lawyers particularly have the ability to lead and make an impact in their communities. The work done by lawyers, while often unsung, is fundamental to maintaining the integrity of the judicial system and democracy itself. That is why Judge Gamrath has attended several judicial conferences at the Illinois Supreme Court and worked to increase access to justice by serving on planning committees. Courts can be flexible, as seen this past year through Zoom hearings. However, it would not be possible without attorneys like the Gamraths working behind the scenes.

When asked what each spouse is most proud of the other for accomplishing, the answer was easy for Rob. It was Judge Gamrath’s election to the bench and her public service. Even as a law clerk, her passion for the court system was clear. Now, as a judge, Judge Gamrath has the ability to make an impact on society, which can be a heavy burden. But Rob knows that Judge Gamrath can handle any challenges that come her way, because he shares the same fundamental belief in the judiciary. Judge Gamrath is most proud of Rob’s demeanor and ability to act. Everywhere she goes, everyone tells her about Rob’s work ethic. She also admires his intelligence and calm nature, which has helped him as a father and allowed him to be a role model to many.  

After twenty-eight years of marriage, the Gamraths realize their relationship has worked so well because they understand each other completely. When one is busy with work, the other will pitch in at home. Judge Gamrath and Rob also share common values about work, family, and their marriage. Most importantly, they know when to stop being lawyers and start being spouses. While lawyers are used to arguing for a living and winning, winning an argument with a spouse only ends badly; in some cases, the relationship may be permanently damaged. Therefore, the Gamraths know that it is better to simply say sorry and move on. By focusing on the big picture and making their relationship the cornerstone of their lives, the Gamraths are stronger together and have accomplished much more together than they ever could have on their own, professionally and personally.

About The Honorable Judge Celia Gamrath

In 2010, the Illinois Supreme Court appointed Judge Celia Gamrath to the
Circuit Court of Cook County. She was elected by voters in 2012 and retained in 2018. Judge Gamrath is assigned to the General Chancery Division. Prior to becoming a judge, Judge Gamrath was an appellate law clerk for Justice Thomas Rakowski of the First District Appellate Court. She later became a partner of Schiller, DuCanto & Fleck, the largest law firm in the country focusing exclusively on family

About Robert Gamrath

Robert Gamrath represents large corporations, institutional owners and operators of real estate, lenders, developers and builders, and real estate entrepreneurs in transactional real estate and land use matters.  His clients come from a multitude of industries including retail, industrial and warehousing, office, hotel and hospitality, insurance and private equity, banking, senior housing, health care, data centers, and higher education.

He frequently advises clients on zoning, subdivision and annexation rights and the preparation and presentation of entitlement cases; the availability and applicability of public incentives; the structure and terms of the purchase and sale of improved and unimproved real property; the terms and provisions of development agreements and construction contracts; the structure and terms of private development controls such as covenants, conditions and restrictions, reciprocal easement agreements, and declaration of condominium; the terms and provisions of construction, development and acquisition loans and other secured lending; the structure and terms of joint venture agreements; condemnation and inverse condemnation rights; and public private partnerships.

One comment

  1. Congratulations Cece and Rob!!!!! This is an extraordinary article about two extraordinary people!!!! Keep up the good work. God Bless you! Love, Aunt Fran.

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