Spotlight on Kathy Schwertfeger, General Counsel for Mercury Air Group

Spotlight on Kathy Schwertfeger, General Counsel for Mercury Air Group

Kathryn M. Schwertfeger, Esq.

When asked about some of the highlights of 30+ years as a lawyer, Kathy Schwertfeger, General Counsel for Mercury Air Group, said, “The things that I’m most proud of, is that the clients I started with, are still my clients. And in Mercury’s case, it’s way more than that.”

As General Counsel, Kathy gets involved with Mercury and its subsidiaries’ legal requirements, whether its litigation or reviewing customer contracts or investments in joint ventures, there’s a broad range of issues in which she plays a role. In addition to her position at Mercury, she also consults other engagements, including a cancer non-profit organization.

“People think that being a lawyer and working on a contract, is just looking at the words, and making sure the words are right,” she said. “But when you’re an in-house lawyer and you understand more about how Mercury’s businesses work, it’s really about making sure the contract reflects the way the business really works, and should work…that’s very complicated.”

It’s complicated, she went on, because it involves understanding something about the operations, the financial aspects, sometimes the taxes, “and many times it involves understanding the personalities involved so it’s a really delicate, thoughtful process.”

“I have always been one of those people who’s interested in the details and getting them right,” Kathy said.

“While it’s not a huge company, it does a lot of different things in different countries. The job is very diverse and exciting in that sense,” she said.

Kathy began her law career at Riordan & McKinzie out of UCLA, where she had earned her law degree. She stayed with the firm for about five years, but always had the goal of being general counsel at a corporation. She first came to Mercury in 1991. At that time, the company was a mid-market, publicly traded company with several lines of business, she said.

She left Mercury for a few years to dabble in the dotcom world with a clinical trials startup. After the startup went under, she went to work with friends at Burns & Moss in Orange County. Mercury at the time was working with the firm, and it was there she again became involved with Mercury matters.

“Joe asked me specifically to work on a couple of transactions, and after I'd done a couple of projects for him, he said 'You know, it would really make a lot of sense for you to come back to work for us directly. I would like to have you in the office, just to bounce things off of,’ so I ended up back at Mercury,” she said.

“I like to call this my second tour of duty,” she jokes.

That was about five years ago, and Kathy said she’s happy to be back with Mercury, a client she truly enjoys.

“I’ve worked places with a lot less employees that felt a lot less like a family,” Kathy said.

“Joe is an excellent leader and decision maker: he listens well, takes advice and makes his own decision, and that’s exactly what you want in a client, and that tends to travel downward in the organizational chain - his VP’s are very much the same way…so it’s a pleasure as a client from a lawyer’s perspective,” she said.

Kathy said that she appreciated the environment at Mercury and the employees who work there. “It attracts people who want to show up, and do a good job, and be treated fairly - the place has good values,” she said.

“If you want to feel good about business as a mission, Mercury successfully employs a lot of people and takes care of their families, and I feel good about that,” she said.

“As a lawyer, you’re always looking carefully at the ethics of the organization, and I don’t lose any sleep over Mercury - it’s a very solid place in that regard,” Kathy said.

Originally from Reno, NV, Kathy currently lives in Playa del Ray. She has a son in college at UC Santa Cruz, and a stepdaughter finishing a graduate program in Australia. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, reading, or enjoying the view and a newspaper from the comforts of her hot tub. Kathy stays active in a charity, and also in her community, she says, because she wants to see the values that are important to her and to her neighbors reflected in the way the communities grow.

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