It was at a dinner at Salsa 17 in downtown Arlington Heights, that Nichole Waltz, Mildred Palmer and Susan Dawson finalized the name of their newly created, all-women law firm. Pulling names out of a sombrero, they pulled Waltz’s first, leading to the creation of Waltz, Palmer and Dawson.
Was it happenstance that Waltz’s name was pulled first, or a reflection of her drive to set up this unique firm, owned and run by women. Sadly, Waltz passed away Dec. 1 of cancer. She was 49.
Her colleagues in the legal community, and particularly those in the Northwest Suburban Bar Association — which she had led as president — gathered Tuesday at Tuscan Market & Wine Shop for a celebration of life.
“Nichole was so proud of being in an all-women firm,” Palmer said. “She was her clients’ biggest advocate and the consummate professional.”
Waltz grew up in rural Iowa and attended the University of Iowa before heading to Chicago to begin her legal studies at De Paul University.
While she began her career as a criminal defense attorney, she came to focus on family law, including divorce, child support enforcement and modification, and custody and visitation disputes. She later became certified in collaborative family law, which attempts to resolve divorce matters without intervention of a court.
“She was a big picture, settlement kind of lawyer,” Palmer said. “She didn’t want her clients to get bogged down, and she worked to keep the arguing and fighting down to a minimum in order to reach their goals.”
The three women created their firm in 2008 and together they built a full-service practice, while immersing themselves in numerous community organizations. For Waltz, that meant working with other lawyers in the Northwest Suburban Bar Association. She was elected to its Board of Governors in 2008 before being elected to the Executive Committee as the Secretary, 2nd Vice President, 1st Vice President and from 2016-2017 she served as president.
“We know that strong organizations benefit from diversity,” Waltz said the night of her installation. “My sincerest hope as president is that I can be an ambassador for the NWSBA and help to bring a more diverse membership to our organization.”
The three partners remained together for 12 years, until COVID-19 hit, leading Waltz to break off on her own, creating the Rolling Meadows-based Divorce Solutions. Palmer and Dawson then renamed their Arlington Heights-based firm, Navigant Law. But on Tuesday night, they emotionally remembered Waltz, for her leadership, transparency and confidence.
“She was all about helping other women,” Palmer said, “and setting them on their path.”