Just six years after graduating from the UI College of Law, Angela Wolfe Kelley, ’07, has had three career changes in three very different types of legal practice: large law firm, government, and corporate counsel. “My experience is one of adaptation and gradually finding the career that best fits my skill set and personality,” says the Dubuque, Iowa native.
She started working at the Minneapolis office of one of the Midwest’s largest firms, Faegre & Benson, now Faegre Baker Daniels, right after graduation. “I did big real estate law, working on large commercial transactions like office buildings, hotels, and sports stadiums,” she says. “Then the real estate market crashed.”
Next, Angela and her fiancé relocated to Des Moines where she served as an Executive Officer of the Iowa Office of Energy Independence, directing the distribution of $50 million in federal stimulus funds to advanced energy projects across the state. Finding her skills to be better suited to private practice, she quickly returned to the Des Moines office of Faegre Baker Daniels, where she practiced commercial litigation, working primarily in the areas of financial services and securities.
In June 2012, Angela returned to her hometown and is now Associate General Counsel for Heartland Financial USA, Inc., a five billion dollar financial services company providing banking, mortgage, investment, insurance, wealth management and consumer finance services to individuals and businesses in locations across the Midwest and Western United States, including Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Arizona, Montana, Colorado, and Minnesota and loan production offices in California, Wyoming, Idaho, North Dakota, and Nevada.
At every turn, Angela says her Iowa education has served her well. “Iowa really taught me how to process questions,” she says. As Associate General Counsel of a large financial institution, “it’s important to be able to spot issues because a lot of things cross my desk every day. Iowa prepared me well for that.”
Angela easily could have ended up at another law school. Since she attended the UI as an undergrad, she looked forward to a change of scenery. After graduation, she traveled extensively for her national sorority, living in Dallas and visiting all of the law schools to which she was considering applying. “I kept waiting for something to jump out at me,” she recalls. “I thought I’d find something that I couldn’t get here, but it never happened.”
Ultimately, she was accepted by a top-ranked law school but didn’t feel that its reputation or the education she’d receive there was worth the hefty price difference as compared to Iowa Law. She’s never regretted the decision.
“I interviewed for jobs in several large cities, and I’d always be there with applicants from Stanford, Harvard, and Columbia. I’d laugh to myself, ‘Isn’t it funny that we’ll end up at the same firm, but I’ll be $100,000 less in debt and I’m just prepared as you are?’ In many ways, Iowa has given me the ability to be flexible in my career decisions.”
Today, Angela loves living in her hometown, and enjoys providing counsel for a large, national company. And she’s especially proud of where she’s chosen to live: “I was an Iowan by birth, but now I’m an Iowan by choice.”