Let’s be honest. If you were asked to compile a list of the most exciting and leading-edge industries, parking would not be the first thing that came to mind. However, Elizabeth (Liz) Winiarski might disagree.
The deputy general counsel for LAZ Parking has been with the company for over two years. In that brief time, which included the pandemic, she’s witnessed technology’s transformation of the industry. The advancements have allowed the forward-thinking company to expand its services in shuttle and transportation, healthcare services, and Proximity On Demand Services (PODS).
“I’m never bored,” she says.
Winiarski grew up in Connecticut just outside of Hartford. Her father owned a heating and oil delivery and HVAC service company, and her mother retired as a special education and elementary school teacher. They instilled in her “a strong work ethic and a desire to help others. I’m passionate about helping people,” she explains. “That’s what drove me to go to law school—advocacy was something I was drawn to.”
Reading was another source of inspiration for Winiarski, especially books with strong heroines or lawyers committed to justice. “Reading spurred my own creativity, which played an integral role when I became an advocate for others,” she says.
Winiarski came to LAZ from private practice. She oversees all litigation and non-property damage claims on behalf of the company. She also provides advice and counsel in managing risk in other areas including labor and employment and data privacy.
“Being in-house allows me to do more strategic thinking and offer creative solutions to problems before they occur, as opposed to solving problems for clients after they happened,” she says. “When you are in private practice at law firms, your practice is like a flashlight in that you’re a subject-matter expert on a specific aspect of the law. When I went in-house, my practice became like a spotlight, expanding into new areas based on the needs of the business.”
At LAZ, new needs were necessitated in large part by the pandemic, during which working remotely became the new normal and parking lots sat empty. LAZ, whose roots go back just over 40 years ago, operates over 1.3 million parking spaces in nearly 3,500 thousand locations in 39 states and more than 455 cities across the country, according to the company’s website.
Its traditional services include managing and operating parking for its clients, including office and residential buildings, airports, and government agencies. The company also manages parking for hospitals events, as well as shuttle and transportation services.
While company’s primary focus remains exceptional parking management services, it has recently expanded its service offerings into different areas.
“On our own and in collaboration with other companies, we are actively deploying new technologies that will transform traditional parking locations into multiuse hubs, where other services are offered,” Winiarski says. “For example, we are working with Diamond Communications to market more than 3,400 parking garages and related properties for leasing to wireless service providers to create a better more reliable wireless grid. We are also working with Skyport to enable takeoffs, landings, and recharging of electric air taxis in Los Angeles.”
PODS, another recent initiative that emerged from the pandemic, adds value to the company’s current portfolio of parking locations that LAZ manages on behalf of their clients. “Monthly urban commuter parking was down because people weren’t going into the office,” she says. “So, we utilized parking spaces in other ways, such as installing charging stations for electric vehicles and scooters, delivery services, and even modular kitchens.”
Another technological advance that emerged during the pandemic was the development of touchless parking by which users could reserve a parking space online.
Winiarski calls LAZ very entrepreneurial. “This corporate mindset trickles from the top all the way down,” she says. “Everybody at the company is passionate about providing exceptional value to our clients. It’s a great place to work.”
The deputy general counsel manages overall risk and compliance. For example, in May 2022, Connecticut became the fifth state to enact consumer data privacy legislation. “Part of my job is to keep with changes in the law so LAZ can ensure compliance.”
In her more than ten years practicing law, the best advice Winiarski says she received is to work hard, be yourself, and help others. She has passed this on to other fledgling attorneys seeking her mentoring.
But to women attorneys, especially, she encourages confidence. As a former Chicago resident, Winiarski has been a long-time member of the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois, and other groups focused on the promotion and advancement of women. “My advice to women is to be confident in their ability and the value they add,” she says. “Women sometimes hesitate to apply for a promotion or speak out. I would say that women should be confident in their ability to take the risk and be confident in themselves.”
Winiarski has left a lasting impression on industry partners throughout her career, as well. “Liz has an incredible combination of professionalism and kindness, and we are grateful to be able to partner with her,” says Steven J. Zakrzewski, partner at Gordon & Rees. “She is a true teammate, who brings valuable experience and insight to every engagement, helping distill complex legal issues to their core elements. Working with Liz gives us a competitive advantage—she identifies winning strategies early on and then actively helps drive them forward.”