Kersten Holzhueter was an accounting major at the University of Wisconsin before a significant career shift, caused by a fourth-year business law class borne from the ashes of the Enron and Arthur Anderson collapses.
“They wanted to train this whole generation of young accountants as boots on the ground who would prevent fraud,” she said. “I just loved the way of thinking.”
Fast-forward to 2019, and the would-be accountant who instead went to law school at the University of Iowa has managed to combine her love of numbers with a Kansas City legal practice defending financial institutions in cases ranging from breach of contract to bank fraud and consumer-protection claims.
When Holzhueter joined Spencer Fane in 2010, the recent recession meant a steady diet of financial services litigation. She cites Leslie Greathouse, now the firm’s general counsel, as a valuable mentor who shared a similar specialization.
Greathouse, in turn, called Holzhueter a “stellar lawyer.”
“Her work ethic is solid, she is whip-smart and her financial analytical skills are first-rate,” Greathouse said in an interview. “But even more than all those things, Kersten is an amazing person, dedicated to helping others and to bettering our community. “
Her fluency with spreadsheets enables Holzhueter to develop damage theories for clients prosecuting lawsuits, or scrutinize an opponent’s damage claims, or calculate with a rigor most of her contemporaries lack — an aptitude that also can provide clients with a keen strategic advantage.
“It’s fun to rework the math from the opposite direction and say, ‘That just doesn’t work. That would require an interest rate of 120 percent, which isn’t true.’”
“It can be like a puzzle sometimes.”
Among her career highlights: Holzhueter successfully argued before the Missouri Court of Appeals to uphold state court summary judgment and class-certification rulings in a client’s favor. The case involved a Fair Debt Collections Practice Act claim that alleged interest had accrued in violation of the Truth in Lending Act.
She also cites her work on behalf of a Kansas City community-development nonprofit organization that converts blighted homes into affordable housing. At age 33, Holzhueter was named partner at Spencer Fane.
Holzhueter’s background also allows her to help clients avoid lawsuits: She’s provided compliance training on debt-collection best practices related to consumer-protection and privacy laws, and she’s overhauled clients’ policies on using consumer reports in connection with employment decisions.
Her nominator wrote: “In addition to her litigation on behalf of financial services clients, Kersten also counsels clients. She has advised clients on policies and procedures for avoiding violations of many federal laws, with a focus on the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which has limitations on how employers can use consumer reports when making employment decisions. This work is instrumental in avoiding litigation.”
Outside of work, she enjoys playing indoor soccer and golf, and corralling her 1-year-old yellow Labrador. Holzhueter is a board member of the Association for Women Lawyers of Greater Kansas as well as Lawyers Encouraging Academic Performance, a member of the Northland Regional Chamber of Commerce, and an active volunteer with at least a dozen local nonprofit groups.