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Home / 2018 Women in the Law / Honzik Kliesmet engineers a successful law career

Honzik Kliesmet engineers a successful law career

Mary Honzik Kliesmet - Waste Management (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Mary Honzik Kliesmet – Waste Management (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

When Mary Honzik Kliesmet entered college, she had zero desire to become a lawyer despite having a father who was well known for his legal work in Milwaukee.

She instead studied engineering, forging her own path.

In graduate school, she took a class on engineering and public policy and found herself participating in mock trials alongside law students. She quickly noticed the law students were having a much better time, so she left, walked down to where they were offering the LSAT and ended up in law school.

“I get a lot of new challenges every day,” she said. “The biggest difference from what I was doing in engineering and what I can do in the law are the shades of gray. Engineers tend to be a little more black and white, cut and dried. Things are much, much different in the law.”

Honzik Kliesmet is senior counsel for the recycling division of Waste Management. She came to the company from The Peltz Group, which was bought by Waste Management about 15 years ago.

Honzik Kliesmet earned a Bachelor’s Degree in electrical engineering before graduating from the Marquette University Law School.

She held various counsel positions before her current role. She previously served as assistant general counsel for the Allen-Bradley Corp. and vice president and general counsel for Deluxe Data Systems Inc.

“I started out in litigation and when I had my first child, I decided to take some time off and didn’t really think litigation was for me at that point,” she said. “I saw an ad for an in-house lawyer, I took the job and it was the most fun job I ever had because I was working for Western Publishing, which is the company that did Little Golden Books and Pictionary. And, having little kids at the time, it was a really nice fit.”

Barbara Seonbuchner, contracts manager for Waste Management Recycle America, said she has worked with Honzik Kliesmet in three different industries over the years. In each instance, she has taken the trouble to learn in depth about her client’s business, products and services in order to better negotiate any contract the client might be entering into.

Because of Honzik Kliesmet’s understanding of both the law and business, she can ask the sorts of questions that might not occur to many people.

“Mary is a role model for any lawyer, not just women lawyers,” Seonbuchner said. “She takes the time to learn what her clients do. She takes time to listen to how they want to do it. She asks questions, is always available and always working for her client in the best possible manner she can.”

Honzik Kliesmet is a dedicated member of ACC-WI, having served on the board of directors for 12 years. During her time there, she helped streamline the organization and reduced costs.

The number of women working in the law has increased steadily since Honzik Kliesmet graduated from law school, but she said there’s still plenty of room for more women to enter the profession.

“I do hope that I’ve left somewhat of a path for women who do come behind me in showing that we can do the job just as well as anyone else can and that we should view it that way,” she said.

“My view is for a women who is practicing law today has every opportunity as their male counterpart does.”

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