Through her career of more than 35 years, Jamie Zveitel Kwiatek has become known for significant “firsts.”
As a law student at the University of Colorado, she was half of the school’s first father-daughter legacy duo. Later, she became her firm’s first female partner.
As a Polsinelli shareholder, she’s known nationally as both an expert on laws and regulations governing employee benefit plans and programs, executive compensation arrangements and employee stock ownership plans, and a mentor to other women attorneys.
Kwiatek assists companies in developing and maintaining employee benefit plans and executive compensation arrangements. She advocates for clients with regulatory compliance issues, and she’s experienced with federal IRS and Department of Labor compliance programs, fiduciary responsibilities and ESOPs.
“I love ESOPs because, when they’re done properly and under the right circumstances, it’s a way to really have your employees feel that sense of ownership over the company and be involved and committed, and it really helps push your company forward,” she said.
Kwiatek was a high school student, working in an office learning about accounts payable and accounts receivable, when her then-boss advised her to go to law school. She said she didn’t want to practice law then, but she later enrolled in law school at the University of Colorado — her father’s alma mater — after graduating from business school at Indiana University and earning good marks on the LSAT.
“I was thinking about marketing. I was also thinking about law school because I thought a law degree would be good to have in addition to the business degree,” she said.
After graduation in 1981, she worked as a securities lawyer in Denver. Later, she transitioned to benefits law, moved back to her hometown of St. Louis and joined Suelthaus & Walsh, which later merged with Polsinelli. Other than a brief stint with Southwestern Bell, she has worked with the firm ever since.
“I was their first female partner [in 1987], and I had to teach them how to do maternity leave and had to kind of negotiate that because there weren’t standards or rules back then,” she said. “But they were always very accommodating and very good.”
Through the years, the challenges of her job have evolved along with cultural and economic shifts in what employees want from their companies, but her primary goal is still finding the right balance of benefits and compensation, Kwiatek said.
She also serves on the board of the Young Women’s Christian Association of Metro St. Louis, which works to eliminate racism and empower women by providing safe places, building strong female leaders and advocating for women’s and civil rights in Congress.
“I have found that work and being on their board to be very rewarding,” she said. “I still think they aren’t well-enough known because the work they do is amazing.”
Being a strong advocate for her clients and other women is her top priority, Kwiatek said. She said it’s important for women to make their positions known and be confident in their own abilities.
“You can’t give ground just because it’s not the way people want or expect a woman to act,” she said.