ILNews

Stepping outside the career comfort zone

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrint

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
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

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

ADVERTISEMENT