This article contains PDO’s feature of Arminda Jurgenson, who got an in-house counsel job at Questar after graduating from the S.J. Quinney College of Law in 2011.
1.) What do you do?
I work in-house as a staff attorney for Questar Corporation. Questar operates under a shared services model, so the legal department represents not only the parent corporation but also the gas utility, the gas pipeline, the exploration and production company, and a few smaller subsidiaries.
2.) Where are you from and why did you go to law school?
I did my undergrad at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. From there, I worked for a few years as a Marketing Manager, but didn’t really love the type of work I was doing. So, law school seemed like a natural transition, and I started studying for the LSAT. I applied to schools all over the US, but in the end, picked SJ Quinney as the best fit. I have a heart for business though, so it was only a matter of time before I was drawn into corporate and regulatory law.
3.) What kinds of activities did you do in law school?
I really made the most of international and clinical opportunities through law school. I added an MBA during my 1L year, and then spent my first summer studying comparative business law in Greece, followed by backpacking through Europe. Through the next three years, I went to Thailand as a Frankel Fellow to a human rights organization, and did back-to-back clinics with the Securities & Exchange Commission’s SLC enforcement office and a Utah Labor Commission ALJ. Then, during my last summer and 3L year, I worked as the clerk for the Questar legal department. As value-adds, I also was on SBA for two years, spent one year on the think tank, and went to India for a few weeks through the MBA program. I have never a shared a day with billables or bluebooking, but somehow they still let me graduate.
4.) How did you first make contact with your employer and how did you get this job?
Getting hired in-house was highly unexpected. I was originally hired as a clerk through OCI, but my interviewers were very clear that Questar does not hire on law clerks. Needless to say, I never had any long term expectations and never knew any discussions were happening behind the scenes. One day, my boss just asked me how interviews were going—just a normal conversation. I told her I was waiting to hear from the firm I liked, and then she told me they were thinking of hiring me. I ended up getting the offer about ten minutes later, and then over the next two weeks worked out the details to commit to Questar instead.
5.) What does a typical day involve for you/your work?
I never know what to expect when I get to the office. Almost every day involves a few meetings and a few contracts. I spend about half my time with the gas pipeline, mainly working with marketing and business development contracts or Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) compliance/certificating. The other half of my time is with the gas public utility, where I work on claims, customer matters, and litigation. The workload is pretty diverse. In six months as a lawyer, I have been involved in filings with the FERC, Utah Public Service Commission, Utah courts, and federal court.
6.) Best (& worst, if you want) parts of the job?
The best part of the job is definitely the client interaction and the type of work. I really wanted to stay in the energy industry, and like representing regulated entities. Through the interplay of extensive laws, regulations, and tariffs, the issues can become complex and sophisticated. I like watching my boss and senior counsel navigate through this legal climate. It is an industry that builds with experience, so I appreciate the mentoring roles that a few of my senior counsel have taken with me. Having open conversations and extensive involvement in complicated issues make me feel as though I am being built into an in-house attorney, rather than being left with only the low-hanging fruit or forced into situations too fast.
7.) What tips/advice do you have for jobseeking SJ Quinney students?
Going in-house right out of law school is not the typical route. My advice is to build a solid practice in an area of law where you interact with in-house counsel. The best way to become corporate counsel is to work with corporate counsel. I haven’t seen a legal department for a large corporation posting a job opening for an attorney. I would suggest networking with lawyers who work in-house and build skills that would be attractive to that type of business.