They say life ultimately comes full circle.
It sometimes does.
And it did for Jamie Schroeder, the attorney who recently joined Nelson & Toenjes law firm in Shell Rock.
A Waverly native, Schroeder is just 36, but the career path she has traveled so far has taken her to Des Moines and Waterloo before landing in Shell Rock as an associate in the long-established firm on main street.
As she settles into her new digs at 209 S. Cherry Street, Schroeder appears to feel right at home here.
Sipping coffee from a reusable cup she favors on a recent Wednesday morning, she is in full relocation mode.
Exactly what that transition entails can be gleaned from the piles of printed paper laid out on the oak desk that is now her work space.
But that is just a visual that barely scratches the surface of how Schroeder’s life has changed in the past few months.
Navigating change does not intimidate her. In fact, it seems to energize the mother of two.
Schroeder knows how to juggle job and family duties in her world.
What to others may appear to be an overwhelming labyrinth of expectations seems to be a thriving space for her, giving her the spark to tick with the times.
So the white walls in the office which await her diplomas, family pictures and decorations, are a project to be done but not really an immediate priority.
They can sit in boxes on the floor for now until she gets fully embedded into the practice. Clients are her number one concern and that is a constant.
After all, she has been in the office barely a month, and it has been nothing short of hectic.
As the transition in the law office unfolds, longtime partner Karl Nelson is downshifting his duties.
And for someone who has worked as an attorney in that practice since 1974, there is a lot Nelson must do in order to get this accomplished. Before the current practice was established, two other lawyers, John Holley and George Blake, worked there. Rhonna Bergmann has been the paralegal here for the past 10 years.
First woman attorney
Schroeder is the first woman attorney to work in that office, and it is fitting that she gets to hold that honor.
She lives life on her own terms and her profession is a great fit for her personality.
Her parents, Deb and Richard Schroeder, of Waverly, never doubted that the baby girl they adopted as their first daughter would grow up to be a lawyer.
How did they know that? She had a mind of her own, she loved to argue and her reasoning was clear and convincing, frankly, often disarming parental authority.
That love for logic and language that seemed to come to Schroeder naturally was further nourished in school, where she worked on the high school paper and excelled in speech and theater.
“I wasn’t afraid to speak,” she said of the training she received at Waverly-Shell Rock. “It helped me think on my toes.”
In high school, Schroder also spent a summer working at the Waverly paper, which she delivered as a kid, an experience that left an indelible impression on her young mind.
Her inquisitiveness was further sustained by her own initiative to seek out professionals in jobs she found intriguing.
On several occasions she cross examined a family friend who was an attorney, peppering him with questions she wanted answered about the profession. She also prospected going into politics, as that, too, sounded interesting. She then job shadowed veteran journalist Jeff Reinitz, who covers crime and courts in Black Hawk County, and went to Des Moines to observe how legislators work through “funnel week” to weed out bills and issues.
She graduated from high school a semester early in January of 2004 and used the “extra” time to work as a nanny.
As a college student at American Intercontinental University, she pushed in other areas as well, earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration, with an emphasis in finance.
All of these experiences led her to conclude this:
“I was good with numbers, but I really wanted to work with people,” she said.
After a short stint as a travel agent for Shorts Travel she started law school at Drake University in 2013.
“I was not the typical law student,” she said.
She was not.
“Typical” and “Schroeder” can only be in the same sentence with the word “not.”
She is not your typical daughter.
Not your typical mom.
Not your typical lawyer.
She met her biological mother when she turned 19 and her biological dad when she turned 24. She has established and maintains relationships with both.
As a mother herself, Schroeder extends her kids the same courtesy she received as a child– daughter Maya, 8, and son Theo, 7, both know that she will listen to arguments and can be persuaded by logic.
And all these experiences make her a deeply compassionate lawyer.
“I wanted to make a difference,” she said of her motivation to go into law.
That passion has not subsided.
She practices family law and works with juvenile cases to help clients find a resolution to tough problems.
Because of her life experiences, it’s easy for her to connect with clients.
“I love adoptions,” she said.
As a parent, Schroeder is involved in her kids’ activities like tumbling and cub scouts, as well as school extra curriculars. She is the den leader of her son’s cub scout troop and is the co-chair of St. Paul’s PTO.
As a citizen, she wants to work for the betterment of the community, hence her involvement in Project LEAD put on by the Waverly Chamber of Commerce and the Waverly Police Department’s Citizens Academy.
Travel is one of her hobbies and one of her goals is to visit all 50 states with her kids by the time they finish high school. So far, they have made trips to 14 states.
She went scuba diving in Honduras last year and got a tattoo to prove it.
But no matter where she has ventured– personally or professionally– Schroeder’s path has always circled back to her roots.
In 2017, she moved her family to town, but worked in Waterloo.
With the new job, she is now even closer to home than she has ever been.
“Nothing can really compare to Waverly,” she said. “Nothing can compare to W-SR. I am always so glad we made the move.”