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2020 In-House Counsel Awards: Mary Frontczak

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Chief Legal and Administrative Officer and Corporate Secretary, Compass Minerals

Mary FrontczakAs chief legal and administrative officer for Compass Minerals, Mary Frontczak knows her title is a mouthful. That doesn’t matter to her.

“I think some people go through life and want to have a title,” said Frontczak, a graduate of Saint Louis University School of Law who also earned an MBA from Washington University in St. Louis.

“I didn’t even know what any of these titles were. I didn’t know anything about that. I just wanted to give my family a good life.”

Frontczak may not care much about titles, but she’s held an impressive array of them.

Beginning her career as an associate at Lewis, Rice & Fingersh, where she’d once served as a summer associate, she moved on to work for May Department Stores, where she dealt with commercial litigation issues ranging from real estate work to vendor lawsuits. By 2000, she’d been promoted to senior counsel and worked on issues from coast to coast.

Five years later, she was regional counsel for Peabody Energy Corporation, where she rose to vice president and assistant general counsel, supervising attorneys from Colorado to China. In 2012, she was named senior vice president and general counsel for the Americas, handling state government relations, communications and community relations.

“My role just kept on expanding,” she said, noting that she supervised about 40 attorneys in her final position with the energy giant.

After leaving Peabody, she spent two years with Bunge North America as its vice president for corporate and legal affairs, and two more as general counsel at South Dakota biofuels producer POET. From there, she joined Compass, where she heads both the legal and human resources departments.

The first in her family to go to law school, Frontczak quickly discovered a love for litigating, but she said she also knew she wanted to help others.

While at May Company, she coordinated its pro bono program through Legal Services of Eastern Missouri. She’s also served on the boards of Youth in Need, the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation and the Gateway chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which named her Woman of the Year in 2013.

Other honors have included the Logos Women of Distinction and YWCA Leaders of Distinction awards.

“It was pretty exciting to be able to do something where I could make a good living and have an impact on the people around me but also have a bigger impact outside of work,” Frontczak said.

While her legal adventures have taken her around the world, her greatest concerns remain close to home. She emphasized that everything she does is intended to make a better life for her family — as well as for others pursuing the career path that she blazed as a working mom during a period when flexible schedules and family leave were a rarity.

“The most important thing I ever do has to do with what I do for everyone else — my teams and the other people in the organization,” she said. “When all is said and done, we all walk out of our job and our only legacy is the impact we’ve had on people.”