New Orleans has a special kind of fate. Events that seem inconsequential or random at the time can have a long-lasting effect that partly defines who you are now. Attorney Jeff Waltz clearly sees how fate has touched his life in every aspect beginning on the day he was born.
Jeff Waltz was born on February 2, 1978, Momus Thursday, at the height of the 1978 Carnival Season. In fact, the night he was born, his mother’s OB/GYN was absent from his delivery because he was riding in the Momus parade. Two days later, Jeff’s parents took their newborn son to their Uptown home on Jefferson Avenue, but they encountered a problem that can only happen in New Orleans. “They got trapped on Napoleon Avenue trying to get uptown from Baptist Hospital by the Krewe of Iris. When the police saw my parents stuck there in the car, they stopped the parade to open the barricades to let us through (or so I’m told). To this day, my dad says I was the only man to lead the Iris parade. So I’ve always enjoyed Carnival and Mardi Gras,” explained Jeff.
Indeed, Jeff is a Carnival connoisseur. He’s a float lieutenant in Bacchus, rides in the Krewe of Hermes, and is a member of several non-riding social clubs. “Since the day I was born, it’s always been in my blood. I enjoy both learning about the history and being part of something that gives back to the city. It’s about our unique culture and community, with all the flair that only comes from New Orleans,” said Jeff.
No one in Jeff’s family worked in the legal field, but he cultivated a talent for litigation at an early age. Jeff spent many weekends at both his maternal and paternal grandparents’ homes in the lower Garden District. “Sometimes I would stay overnight at my grandparents’ homes. They loved watching Perry Mason. My grandfather always tried to find out who did it, who was finally going to be the person on the stand who confessed to whatever he was investigating at the time. I had to watch it all the time with them and I really got into it, mostly because my grandfather did. Then, if later I was doing something I knew I shouldn’t be doing, and got in trouble for it, I would argue my point with all the eloquence of a ten-year-old Perry Mason. My cousin Billy Maloz would do the same thing, and in fact, I learned most of it from him. My grandmother would laugh and say, ‘Who do you think you are? Perry Mason?’ Interestingly, my cousin is also a lawyer now,” Jeff told.
Into the Workforce
Jeff graduated from Archbishop Shaw High School, graduated from LSU in three years, and attended law school at Loyola University. He focused his efforts on marine law, but fate stepped in to take him in a different direction. “The reality is when you get out of law school and you get a job, your job is going to dictate what you do. I originally got a job working at Jones Walker in their healthcare section, so I handled medical malpractice defense which is the furthest thing from doing any kind of marine work. From that, circumstances being what they were, the head of the healthcare section ended up leaving and started his own firm. As luck would have it though, my office was located next to a group of senior maritime attorneys who were busy and needed an associate. So in the end, I did end up working on marine claims, but it was just through a strange circumstance that I was able to do that,” said Jeff.
At that time in his life, Jeff just purchased a home on State Street. He spent months renovating the home, and it was ready to be lived in by April 2005. He continued, “I lived there for four months. Then Katrina hit, and I had six feet of water in the house. I had brand new furniture still in the packaging that had been delivered the week before the storm.” Jeff had no choice but to move in with his parents while he gutted his new home to the studs. The city was struggling to come back, so Jeff decided to move to Baton Rouge where some of his friends were still attending LSU and get working.
“I ended up taking a job with an insurance defense firm that had opened up a Katrina office. Due to their practice, I gained experience in virtually every type of insurance dispute. I handled the defense of property, longshore, Jones Act, general liability, and trucking claims, as well as some coverage review and litigation… it just ran the gamut. I was lucky to get exposed to all those different areas, but I didn’t choose it. It chose me. I found out that I really enjoyed looking at the coverage aspects of insurance policies and enjoyed the challenge of litigation.” explained Jeff.
Jeff was gaining experience in several types of law at the firm, and his life was about to take another major turn. After dating a fellow lawyer named Jill for two years, they decided to get married and move back to New Orleans. Jeff told Jill that he owned a house on State Street, but the condition of the home wasn’t up to par yet. “She wanted to see it, and it was just studs and exterior walls after it had been gutted. That was the first thing that we worked on was rebuilding the house. We rebuilt the house I bought before Katrina, and moved into that, and got married,” Jeff said.
When he moved back to New Orleans, Jeff took a job at his cousin’s firm in Metairie before leaving to serve as general counsel for an oil and gas company. Eventually, Jeff and Jill decided to start their own law firm, which would soon become the Waltz Law Group. He explained, “We knew we could offer our clients a different type of legal experience- a hands on, collaborative, case-centric approach at handling their matters. But we didn’t know the first thing about setting up a law firm. I had a fraternity brother that went out on his own and had his own firm. He helped show me what we needed to do and we took off running.” Opening their own law firm has been incredibly rewarding for them.
A Chance Meeting
LCI Workers’ Comp became acquainted with Jeff in an interesting way. Jeff worked with LCI’s current Claims Manager Yvonne Rosen while he was still a young attorney at Jones Walker and she was at a different company. Yvonne and Jeff moved onto different companies, but they kept in touch over the years. After starting The Waltz Law Group, Jeff attended the Louisiana Claims Association Conference where he ran into Yvonne. He recounted, “I saw her at this conference. It just so happened to be the year that she was named Claims Person of the Year. We had talked about the possibility of working with LCI, but she told me that I really needed to meet the Administrator Mark Tullis. We were at the cocktail reception at the conference, and I was talking to another attorney, who introduced me to the gentleman next to her. We started talking and Yvonne walked up to us. She said, ‘Oh, I see you’ve met Mark.’ I had enjoyed speaking with him but had no idea it was Mark Tullis. That night, Yvonne said, ‘I talked to Mark, and we’d like to start working with you.’”
Yvonne agreed that Mark and Jeff just “clicked” during that chance encounter, and that moment began a long, fruitful business relationship. She continued, “Mark is old school New Orleans, and so is Jeff. They have a love for the city, and the history of New Orleans, and Mardi Gras. Jeff is reasonable, and he’s very easy to work with. He always does what’s right and treats people well.”
Because of their business’s success the Waltzes were even able to build a brand-new home in English Turn so that their twins could enjoy having space to play in. “We have a little boy and a little girl: Jefferson and Caroline. They’re awesome and handful. The first sonogram was a video of Caroline kicking Jefferson in the head, and that rings true to today. We lived Uptown in our 1,500 square foot house with two kids that were getting bigger every day. We knew we needed something bigger, that had space for the kids to run. The real estate agent showed us this lot in English Turn that had been on the real estate market for almost a year and a half. It was almost an acre, and it backed up to a 7-acre park. It reminded me of Audubon Park and the houses on Exposition Boulevard. Plus, there was a playground in the park directly behind the lot. We get there and the kids said, ‘This is where our new house is!’ We doubled the space we had Uptown so now the kids have free range to run around.”
Jeff had some reluctance about leaving New Orleans proper, however. So he brought several styles of New Orleans architecture to his new home. “In the design process, I wanted to bring elements of uptown into the home. It’s kind of French inspired outside, but the interior is all Uptown, and we have a courtyard like in the French Quarter. My kids will go ride their bikes, which they couldn’t do Uptown, and they point out ‘nature.’ They’re like, ‘Look, it’s nature!’,” Jeff elucidated.
Jeff added that many of the tradespeople whom he hired to build his home are members of LCI. He said, “A lot of the people were members that I had met through representing them or through events, so it was really neat to also be working with them to build the house.”
On The Board
Just as fate brought Jeff to his career, his krewes, and his wife, it led him to a board position with an important local organization. Jeff felt that it was time in his life to give back to the community even though he had to leave other pursuits to do so. Jeff attended an event called Barrister’s for Boards that pairs local non-profit organizations with attorneys that want to fill a board spot. Jeff told, “I got to the Kingsley House board, and Keith Liederman, the Executive Director, introduced himself and said, ‘We’re on Constance Street.’” Jeff was thrilled to learn that Kingsley House was situated so close to the homes of his grandparents that he had been spending time at for most of his life. When he arrived home that same night, he saw a public service announcement about Kingsley House on channel six.
He continued, “I thought this is a sign. I emailed him and said, ‘I’d like to come by and see the campus.’” Before Jeff could even take that tour, he found out that his parents attended summer camps and physical education classes at Kingsley House when they were children. Jeff met Keith at the campus the next week and told him about his ties to Kingsley House. “The next thing I knew, I got offered to be on the board. We’ve grown the campus since my time there, so they’re able to help a lot more kids and seniors doing the work they do all over the state,” he concluded.
Even though fate has made a strong statement in Jeff’s life, he understands the importance of doing excellent quality work for his clients. He underscored, “We try to bring a more personal level to it. We find that when you develop that personal relationship, you do a better job. It gives you more drive. You’re not just representing a company, you’re representing the people at that company. Sometimes that can get lost. Our firm doesn’t have billable hours requirements because it’s not about churning a file and making money off it. It’s about doing a better job for the people we represent and getting a good result in the most cost-effective and efficient manner possible.”