Stepping outside the career comfort zone

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Ice Miller LLP started its energy and utilities practice in late 2011, intent on scooping up more business on the regulatory end of the utility lawyering spectrum.

While building out such a practice takes time – rivals like Faegre Baker Daniels LLP have been fixtures at the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission for years – Ice Miller has already emerged as one of the few women-led utility bars in the Midwest.

No fewer than six women hold key positions at the practice. That includes the recent hiring of former IURC administrative law judge Angela Weber.

pashos Pashos

Not the least of these is Kay Pashos, former president of PSI Energy, now known as Duke Energy Indiana. She is one of few utility lawyers who has served as the top executive of a utility, a distinction that could give Ice an edge in growing the energy-utility practice.

“It’s people like that who understand the business issues,” said Melissa Proffitt Reese, who helped create and co-chairs the energy/utilities group at Ice. “Kay has made those kinds of decisions. That makes her unique.”

Neither Pashos nor Ice may have gotten to this point had the Northwestern University School of Law graduate not embraced an unfamiliar role at PSI. To that extent, her experience might be instructive for those unnerved about challenges ahead in their careers.

The two-year stint as president of the electric utility from 2004 to 2006 “really took me out of my comfort zone,” admitted Pashos, 54.

Suddenly, the behind-the-scenes attorney was forced into a more public role – giving speeches, dealing directly with big customer groups, and exploring economic development opportunities for the utility.

She is, after all, a career lawyer in utility regulation, and a mild-mannered one at that. Being the public face of a giant utility isn’t a natural fit for her.

“It was a good opportunity for me to stretch a bit,” she added. “I’m an introvert that is happy to be writing legal briefs.”

Douglas Esamann, a PSI colleague at the time who today is president of Plainfield-based Duke Energy Indiana, had those career discussions with Pashos before she took the president’s role.

“She would you tell that she’s still an introvert,” Esamann said.

“That [role] was probably one of the biggest things she was able to accomplish and tackle. … That was part of her development. She embraced it.”

Her career could have been relatively one-dimensional had she not taken the chance and stepped into the business side of the utility as its president.

Pashos, who attended North Central High School in Indianapolis, graduated from DePauw University with a degree in political science.

After graduating from Northwestern with a law degree in 1984, she worked as an attorney for a series of utilities, including PSI, Cinergy and Duke. In 2008, she worked 14 months at Baker & Daniels, before heading to Madison, Wis., for a role as vice president of regulatory affairs and deputy general counsel at Alliant Energy.

That role also entailed more of the executive/business operations side of the utility.

“It was kind of my dream job,” she said.

But the distance from Indianapolis was a challenge. Her husband, Neal Steinbart, is a lawyer in municipal finance at Barnes & Thornburg LLP. They have two children, one in college and one in high school.

In 2010, she left Alliant and launched her own utility consulting business, Pashos & Associates. It was enjoyable being an entrepreneur, she said, but not having to deal with IT and employee issues.

Ice Miller snapped her up soon after as it sought a seasoned lawyer for its expanding utility practice.

The electric utility industry, in particular, is facing all kinds of challenges, such as tightening federal regulations on pollutants and on greenhouse gas emissions. Utilities increasingly are turning to renewable energy, such as wind, which presents its own issues.

“The industry for the 25 years I’ve been involved is always interesting, always changing,” Pashos said.

Representing utility interests over the years has put Pashos at odds with counsel for customer groups, including Todd Richardson, a director in the utilities practice of Lewis & Kappes.

“I’d give her high marks on being experienced, intelligent and she handles herself well in the hearing room,” said Richardson, who represents industrial customers of utilities.

Ice is achieving a critical mass of attorneys on the regulatory side, Reese said. The firm is already doing some legal work for Duke on the Edwardsport coal gasification project, for example.

“Now is our time to build this into a sustainable practice,” Pashos said. “I think we have that bench strength now.”•


This story originally appeared in the Indianapolis Business Journal.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.

  2. I had a hospital and dcs caseworker falsify reports that my child was born with drugs in her system. I filed a complaint with the Indiana department of health....and they found that the hospital falsified drug screens in their investigation. Then I filed a complaint with human health services in Washington DC...dcs drug Testing is unregulated and is indicating false positives...they are currently being investigated by human health services. Then I located an attorney and signed contracts one month ago to sue dcs and Anderson community hospital. Once the suit is filed I am taking out a loan against the suit and paying a law firm to file a writ of mandamus challenging the courts jurisdiction to invoke chins case against me. I also forwarded evidence to a u.s. senator who contacted hhs to push an investigation faster. Once the lawsuit is filed local news stations will be running coverage on the situation. Easy day....people will be losing their jobs soon...and judge pancol...who has attempted to cover up what has happened will also be in trouble. The drug testing is a kids for cash and federal funding situation.

  3. (A)ll (C)riminals (L)ove (U)s is up to their old, "If it's honorable and pro-American, we're against it," nonsense. I'm not a big Pence fan but at least he's showing his patriotism which is something the left won't do.

  4. While if true this auto dealer should be held liable, where was the BMV in all of this? How is it that the dealer was able to get "clean" titles to these vehicles in order to sell them to unsuspecting consumers?

  5. He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance. He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation: For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless [ ] Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions. GOD BLESS THE GOVERNORS RESISTING! Count on the gutless judiciary to tie our children down and facilitate the swords being drawn across their throats. Wake Up America ...