Mariel grew up in a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, and—other than briefly living in Columbia, Missouri, during college—has resided in St. Louis ever since. After a somewhat rebellious streak during her teenage years and becoming a mother at age 18 (whoops), she attended a local community college before moving with her son to Columbia to attend University of Missouri–Columbia from 2001 to 2004. She majored in psychology with plans to become a counselor, but decided to change course and apply to law school after a personal experience involving custody proceedings for her son. She returned to St. Louis to attend law school at Saint Louis University. During her second year of law school, Mariel was offered a summer associate position at Greensfelder Hemker & Gale, P.C., a large law firm in St. Louis, and was offered a permanent position following her graduation from law school in 2007.
Mariel worked in the litigation department at Greensfelder for eight and a half years doing primarily insurance defense work. In 2015, she joined several colleagues in the medical malpractice group to form Kamykowski Gavin & Smith (KGS), a small firm of trial lawyers focusing on insurance defense litigation, with a heavy emphasis on defense of individual physicians, nurses, and hospital clients in medical malpractice claims. “I love that each case is different and I get to learn about medicine in the course of my work,” she says. “However, it is not lost on me that most of my cases involve heavy, life-changing events that result in a lot of emotion on both sides: a plaintiff who has experienced a significant medical complication or the death of a loved one, and a defendant who is being blamed for the injury or death. My clients are typically not happy to hear from me, which is difficult. I do my best to keep my interruptions of their life and work to a minimum and to work toward a resolution that provides closure for both sides.”
KGS is located in St. Louis and has grown to six lawyers, three paralegals, and two office staff. Mariel became a partner in 2017 and is heavily involved in the firm’s management. “There is definitely a learning curve when you go from a large firm—where there are entire administrative, marketing, accounting, human resources, and other departments to handle the management of the business side of the firm—to a small firm where the attorneys are responsible for running a business in addition to representing clients,” she advises. “But, despite the challenges, being involved in the building of a business from the ground up has been extremely rewarding. We have a great work family, and going into the office often feels like a home away from home.”
In addition to her litigation work, Mariel also assists individual providers, physician practices, and other health-care entities with nonlitigation matters, such as employment contracts, medical staff credentialing, HIPAA compliance, and other legal issues relating to the health-care field.
Consistent with her early ambitions of becoming a counselor, Mariel most enjoys this “counseling” aspect of her career. She is a problem-solver by nature and enjoys providing advice to her clients, most of whom are in the health-care field, on important questions that help them provide better care and treatment to their patients. “Interestingly, as a natural people pleaser and conflict avoider, the adversarial nature of litigation and the win-lose mentality is the most difficult part of my practice,” she reflects. “The nonlitigation work is a nice compliment and provides a break from some of the stressful aspects of our adversarial system of law.”
Mariel became involved in TIPS as a young lawyer back in 2010 through the encouragement of one of her mentors at Greensfelder, Dale Weppner (current editor in chief of The Brief editorial board), and was awarded a TIPS Now Fellowship from 2011 to 2012. TIPS has become an invaluable resource in her practice. She has been heavily involved in the Medicine and Law Committee since 2011 and served as chair from 2017 to 2018. Mariel describes her connections through TIPS as being comprised of some of the most talented, hardworking legal practitioners who come from a wide variety of backgrounds, including plaintiffs attorneys, defense attorneys, in-house counsel, risk managers, and government attorneys. Mariel has also gained some lifelong friends from all over the country, and she treasures the time she spends with them at the TIPS conferences each year. Mariel became involved in The Brief editorial board last year and is looking forward to serving on this esteemed committee.
Mariel serves on the board of her local Women Lawyers’ Association and is also involved in the Claims and Litigation Management Alliance, American Health Lawyers Association, DRI, and the state and local bar associations. She also does some pro bono work for nonprofit health-care clients and is a volunteer mediator for the St. Louis County landlord-tenant docket.
Mariel is married and lives in St. Louis with her husband, Eric, and children: CJ (19), Evie (5), Millie (3), and stepson Alex (11). She enjoys spending time with her family, travel, riding her Peloton bike, cooking, wine, reading, and podcasts. She can be reached at [email protected].