As a partner whose specialties include commercial litigation, Rachel E. Schwartz has had her share of big-ticket courtroom wins.
Her recent victories include a $217 million jury verdict for Kansas farmers against Syngenta that paved the way for a $1.51 billion class-action settlement over the company’s sale of genetically modified corn seeds in the United States that were not approved for export to China.
But it was her work on behalf of a Kansas City startup that saw its proprietary software misused by multiple securities firms nationwide that Schwartz calls among her most memorable.
“At the end of the day, it made a tangible difference in the [company founder’s] quality of life,” she said. “To me, that really exemplifies the work that we do on behalf of our clients.”
A native of Lawrence, Kansas, the die-hard Jayhawk fan at first stayed close to home for college, graduating from the University of Kansas with a triple-major in political science, economics and American studies in 1998.
She earned her law degree from the University of Michigan in 2001 and worked as an associate in Dallas for two years before she returned home and joined a then-new Kansas City firm with a business model of contingency-only work.
“It was an article in The Kansas City Star that changed my trajectory,” she recalled. “It was the first time I thought about the plaintiff’s side. I had been doing defense hourly work down in Texas, where you’re not necessarily working hand-in-hand with your clients. Sometimes that can be very expensive, and you have a lot of uncomfortable discussions about bills. Here, we’re able to better align our interests with those of the clients.”
At Stueve Siegel Hanson, which she joined in 2004 and where she made partner in 2008, Schwartz has become a go-to attorney known for her familiarity with the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas.
“Lawyers across the country frequently seek out Rachel to assist with locally filed cases,” her company bio notes.
Bridging the gap between federal jurists and practicing lawyers is a priority for Schwartz. As president of the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association’s Federal Court Advocates Section, she organizes events to bring the two sides together. She serves on the KCMBA board of directors and was appointed in 2018 as the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri’s representative on the planning committee for the 2020 Eighth Circuit Judicial Conference.
“One of the biggest changes in our profession is that lawyers are in courtrooms less and less. And especially if you’re a young lawyer starting out in litigation on complex cases, where there are a lot of lawyers involved, the chance to speak in court, or to start to build a relationship with judges, is a real challenge,” she said.
“Kansas City, to its credit, knows that, and has started to create these organizations that help young lawyers establish those relationships.”