Jan. 18, 2023 – As part of an ongoing series related to transactional law in both
Wisconsin Lawyer and
InsideTrack, we aim to highlight the work of in-house counsel and other transactional attorneys. In this issue, we talk with Angela Arrington.
Arrington is a 2002 graduate of the Maurer School of Law at the University of Indiana. She is now corporate counsel at Alliant Energy Corp. in Madison, and previously served as an administrative law judge in the unemployment insurance division.
1. Tell me about what you do as an in-house counsel for Alliant Energy.
I am currently a corporate attorney-manager. It is an in-house counsel role. My role focuses on providing legal support throughout the company on a variety of business matters. I spend a significant amount of time working towards successful business solutions that stem from the legal support I provide. I work with staff within the company, including executive leadership. I also work with external partners such as outside counsel and various compliance and utility partners.
Primarily, the areas I provide legal support in are employment/labor, compliance, records management, litigation, and crisis management/emergency response.
2. What skill set is required to find success as an in-house counsel?
I would say a major skill set required to find success as an in-house counsel is to first, diversify the type of law you practice. In my day-to-day, various legal issues will come my way and it helps that I have practical experience from previous roles I have held. Even if I don't have practical experience in a specific subject area, I am used to being able to handle and balance a variety of legal subjects at the same time which helps in addressing issues, especially since many can be time sensitive.
Additional skill sets that can be beneficial to one's success are to be a great listener, being able to work well with others (i.e. easy to talk to, teamwork mentality), have good communication skills, good organizational skills and be solution oriented. It makes the work flow a lot easier when you have the interpersonal skills combined with the legal skills to do the work.
3. How important is industry knowledge to your role?
Having industry knowledge when you come into an in-house counsel role is always a good thing but it is often not a requirement in order to be in the role for many companies/organizations. However, in order to be effective as an in-house counsel, it is important to gain as much industry knowledge as you can.
Industry knowledge helps you understand the industry better which in turn helps with the legal support and business solutions that follow. One of the best ways to do so is to become a member of various industry partner organizations that can provide you relevant, up-to-date information on trends, issues, benchmarking, that are occurring around the industry. Being a member of these partner organizations has provided me with excellent learning opportunities that keep me "in the know" of what is happening in the utility space, which then leads to a better result with how I support business units/departments within the company.
4. When might outside counsel be brought in?
Outside counsel are attorneys that work outside the company (i.e. law firms, solo practitioners and their legal support staff). Outside counsel provide supplemental legal support to the company. Outside counsel are usually brought in to work on specific practice areas that are of interest to the company.
In-house counsel has the responsibility of managing the work of the outside counsel. That simply means that we are working closely on ensuring that the outside counsel matches the needs of the company and will yield the best results. Outside counsel relationships are excellent to have also for helping to learn more about trends/issues in a certain subject area. They are also very helpful for thought partnership for all kinds of business and legal strategies that the company may want to engage in.
5. What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day for me involves different meetings across the company on a range of legal issues or business solutions. The meetings often range from 15 minutes to an hour. I also spend time drafting documents (i.e. letters, litigation matters, contractual agreements, and policies/procedures). There are several times on a daily basis where I may be working on records information management or compliance issues related to the company.
6. Tell me about the path to your current role.
After graduating from Indiana-Bloomington School of Law, I started in private practice with a general practice law firm and then went on to work for the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) as a prosecuting attorney and executive director. When I worked for DSPS, I dealt with at least fifteen business and design professions that included barbering and cosmetology, professional engineers, funeral directors/establishments, land surveyors and auctioneers.
I also worked as an administrative law judge for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Unemployment Insurance Division. During my tenure, I heard thousands of cases which required me to not only develop expertise on different aspects of the employment/labor relationship between employees and employers but also be astute in working with people from diverse backgrounds.
7. How can one best prepare to move into an in-house counsel role?
What's really important is to develop a diverse portfolio of practice areas. Don't limit yourself to simply one or two areas and then end up stuck there. Try to grow in a different practice area at least every few years. A great way to do this is in pro bono work where you volunteer in the community and learn areas of law that you may not have normally come across in your day-to-day employment. Also, be adaptable in your approach to what can bring about a positive and successful result.
8. What do you do for fun, outside of work?
I love to travel, spend time with family, and being active in serving my community. Currently, I serve as the Wisconsin State Social Action Liaison in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated and as Chair of the Board of Directors for the YWCA Madison. I am also involved with the Madison Metropolitan Chapter of the Links, Incorporated.
Do Have an Article Idea for our Law Practice Series?
In our 2022 Readership Survey, members expressed a desire for more practice-related content. Thus, throughout 2023 and beyond, we’ll be focusing on the following practice areas through a series of articles in both
Wisconsin Lawyer and
InsideTrack. Want to write? Have an idea?
- Civil Litigation
- Transactional Law
- Appellate Law
- Criminal Law
- Alternative Dispute Resolution
So many practice areas fall within these broader categories, and we are particularly interested in articles and ideas in the areas of business, estate planning and probate, family law, administrative law, personal injury, municipal law, real estate, and labor and employment law.
Have an idea? Contact Joe Forward, director of communications, at
firstname.lastname@example.org. We know you are the subject matter experts, and we want to showcase your expertise.
We’ll also be focusing on specific groups, including: young lawyers, senior lawyers, government lawyers, and solo & small firm lawyers. If you have an article idea that relates to these groups, let us know. These are your publications. Help us make them the best they can be.