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Employee Highlight – Mary Haefer

My name is Mary Haefer. I was born in South Carolina and raised in Indiana, but I’ve lived in Wisconsin for about 38 years. And I am working remotely from Wisconsin to support all of the MSZL&M offices.

What Is Your Background?

As I mentioned previously, I was born in South Carolina and left there as a baby, so I can’t really claim it. I grew up in Indianapolis, near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and attended Indiana University in Bloomington. I double majored there in psychology and criminal justice and minored in chemistry. I was doing a little foray into both journalism and medical school, potentially. But a professor in one of my criminal justice classes suggested to me that I go to law school. I thought that would be a great way to combine some of my interests, so I ultimately did that. During my time at IU, I became a crazy IU sports fan and was president of my sorority. Because I was having too much fun, I decided to go somewhere else for law school. I went to Marquette University in Milwaukee, where I attended law school. I do not like cold weather, so I always anticipated leaving Wisconsin as much as I enjoyed Marquette and Milwaukee. But I got an opportunity to clerk for a federal judge for two years after I graduated law school, and that was in Madison, Wisconsin. My law school professors said, You don’t give that up. So I moved to Madison, and at the time, I was single. I figured I’d do that for two years and move to a place where it’s nice and toasty warm. Instead, I met my husband during that time and ended up going into private practice after the clerkship, where I did insurance defense work. Then I decided to go in-house with a regional carrier at the time called General Casualty. It’s now QBE. I was there for 16 years, where I held various roles in that insurance company. Then I went on to Capitol Indemnity, now Capspecialty, which is part of the Allegheny and Berkshire Hathaway families, and I was there for 13 years, where I had various roles, with my last role being that of Chief Claims Officer. I left there in September of this past year and joined MSZL&M in January.

What Is Your Role At MSZL&M? What Do You Like Most About It?

I’m going to say right away that people are what I enjoy most, but let me tell you about the role. The role is Director of Legal and Strategic Initiatives. The firm is committed to its clients and especially wants to continuously improve its ability to be proactive in its claims and litigation management. I was brought on because of my unique perspective and the roles I had in the industry to look at all the internal processes and procedures and help with this endeavor of becoming even more proactive, both for the attorneys and, ultimately, for the clients. How can we value add for our clients? I am reviewing everything from processes and procedures to providing training to outreach and networking with our clients. I’m hoping to continue to invigorate the great job that the attorneys at MSZL&M already do. I’m also looking at the firm culture, which is fantastic, and why I’m already enjoying the people in the firm, but there’s always ways to improve, and the better culture you have, the better lawyers you attract and keep, and of course, that’s beneficial for our clients. So I’m looking at and developing various initiatives within the firm to help with that culture, whether it’s from a women’s group that we’re forming to some charitable endeavors and things like that.

What Is Your Greatest Accomplishment?

My greatest accomplishment, just as a human being, are my three children, and I think, especially having always worked full time, working outside the home as a mother brought some unique challenges, especially during the time period that this was occurring. Knock on wood; all three are doing well. So, personally, that is my greatest accomplishment. But from a career standpoint, I think it’s really been the last few years where I was able to build a really outstanding team of claims professionals and help them grow and develop. That just meant something to me, and I’ve spoken to many of them over the years, and just being able to help develop their talent has been a great accomplishment. On a personal note, just from an accolade standpoint, last year, I was named CLM claims professional of the year. That was a fun accomplishment. It was nice to be recognized in the industry. And way back at my other carrier, at that time, I was chosen to be our entire company’s representative to the United Way, and I worked in those charitable endeavors as a loaned employee for three months. That was an incredible personal accomplishment that I really enjoyed as part of my legal work and my industry work.

What Do You Like About Living in Madison, WI?

Besides the cold, which I’ve already said I don’t like, what I do like about living in Madison, Wisconsin, are the lakes. Madison sits on an isthmus, so there’s beautiful lakes surrounding the city. In the summer, nothing beats a cocktail on the lake, so I thoroughly enjoy that. Madison’s a college town, and I love the college atmosphere. My husband and I are big sports fans—big collegiate sports fans. So there’s nothing like a game at Camp Randall or the Kohl Center, which are the football and basketball arenas. I’ve embraced the Badgers except when they play my Indiana Hoosiers, so that’s enjoyable. And I also love our performing arts center. We get, of course, the Broadway shows and other performers and performances, and I really feel lucky to be in the size of the city we are in to get that incredible talent.

What Is A Fun Fact About You? 

I was recruited and accepted into the FBI during my third year of law school. I kept kind of making it through the interview process and didn’t really think I would get in, and then I got a letter saying welcome to Quantico. I was like, Well, I gotta rethink this. So I ended up not accepting that FBI appointment, but it was fun to go through the process and to consider that as part of my career after law school.

What Are Your Charitable Endeavors?

Doing charitable work is important to me; it’s really important to MSZL&M. That’s something that I have been kind of charged with continuing to work on: providing opportunities that help the firm give back to the communities that the firm has offices in and around the country. So that’s exciting to me on a personal level. There are some church organizations here in Madison that I do work for, and mental health and mental health awareness are really personal things to me, so I’m hoping that I can continue to give back in that way.