Building a Career Through the ABA: 2012 NOYLA Finalist Angela Stephens

Volume 37, Number 6


Marcella C. Ducca is an Assistant Editor of The Affiliate and an Associate in the Atlanta, Georgia, office of Greenburg Traurig, LLP.

Skirt-Suits and Sneakers

Ever since she was a little girl, Angela Stephens knew she wanted to have a career in construction, like her father. Angela’s father was an engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers and spent much of his time on construction sites in Northern Kentucky. Angela would tag along with her father on “take your daughter to work days.” Beginning her freshman year of high school, Angela decided she wanted to be involved in the construction industry and, in particular, wanted a job where she could wear a skirt-suit and sneakers to work (every woman’s dream). In high school, Angela worked for a small construction company. In college, at the University of Louisville’s Speed Scientific School, Angela studied Civil Engineering and obtained a Bachelors of Science with high honors in 2001. While in college, Angela’s accolades were nothing short of impressive: a member of the Dean’s List, earning the highest GPA in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, a member of various honor societies, and highly involved with her sorority, the student government, and athletic and alumni boards.

Her impressive career was only beginning while in college. Although Angela loved engineering principals, she found herself unfulfilled. She yearned for more human interaction and wanted to find a way to genuinely help people. Angela soon found herself at the University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law, from which she graduated, magna cum laude, in 2004. Continuing her undergrad tradition, Angela racked up honors in law school, where she was not only the President of the Moot Court Board but also on law review and the state mock trial champion.

An Expert in Green

Immediately after law school, Angela began practicing construction law with Stites & Harbison PLLC, in Louisville, Kentucky. She became a member of Stites (akin to a partner) in January of this year and practices in the firm’s Construction Law and Sustainability and Emerging Technologies Groups. The majority of Angela’s practice is related to handling construction defect claims, nonpayment claims, and helping to resolve construction disputes. She also deals with OSHA and ADA violations, bid disputes and construction contracts, economic development incentives, and a broad range of other business, employment, and environmental issues. In addition, Angela is knowledgeable regarding the application of various federal construction contracting requirements such as the Federal Acquisition Regulations, the Buy American Act, the Buy America Statutes and Regulations, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, and other government contracting requirements. Angela recently worked on various aspects of the construction of the Louisville Arena and the collapse of a parking deck in Louisville. She has a broad range of clients but typically represents general contractors, subcontractors, and homeowners in cases throughout the country.

One aspect of construction law in which Angela is a particular expert is in “green” or environmentally conscious construction. Angela is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Accredited Professional and is the first attorney in Kentucky to become Green Advantage ® certified in Commercial and Residential construction. Green Advantage ® is an environmental certification for building-related practitioners, which means those practitioners have achieved a certain degree of specialized knowledge of current green building principles, materials, and techniques. Angela uses her LEED and Green Advantage ® certifications and knowledge of sustainable practices to advise clients on how to maximize “green” design and construction.

Involvement with the ABA

Angela is proud to say that she has made lifetime friends through her ABA work. Angela first became involved with the ABA after two partners she worked with encouraged her to attend a meeting. As a second-year associate, she attended a meeting of the ABA Forum on the Construction Industry in New Orleans and immediately saw a tremendous amount of value in the information she could learn about her practice area through various CLEs and publications the Forum offered. Angela also was drawn to the highly beneficial networking opportunities the organization offered and enjoyed meeting attorneys with her same background and experience across the country.

After her first taste of the Forum on the Construction Industry meeting, Angela jumped right in and got involved. The ABA Forum on the Construction Industry is the largest organization of construction lawyers in the United States and abroad. It provides an international opportunity for attorneys serving the construction industry to meet others in the construction field, attend educational sessions, exchange views, and become acquainted with others having similar interests. The Forum has 12 divisions, and Angela is particularly involved in Division 10—Legislation & Environment. Division 10’s mission is to assemble and publish to the members of the Forum Committee on the Construction Industry all pertinent existing legislation and recent case law dealing with construction and environmental issues, with a special emphasis on monitoring the “green” or sustainable trends emerging in the construction industry.

Through Division 10, one of the main initiatives that Angela took on was shepherding into publication a 50-state compendium of recent court decisions and legislation on issues affecting the construction industry. In 2010, the Forum on the Construction Industry created a Young Lawyers Section and appointed Angela to serve on the Steering Committee. Angela recently served on the Forum on the Construction Industry’s Women and Minority Fellowship Committee, helping to award scholarships to women and minorities interested in participating in the Construction Forum. Angela also serves on the Forum’s Special Programs and Education Committee and on the Technology Committee. In April 2012, Angela became the Chair of the Young Lawyers Division for the Forum Committee on the Construction Industry. Angela also maintains a State Bar Liaison Contact List that identifies the State and Local Construction Bar Association chairs for each of the construction bars in every state.

As YLD Chair for the Forum Committee on the Construction Industry, Angela sees her biggest goal as trying to encourage attendance and activity by young lawyers and to truly prepare future leaders of the Forum Committee on the Construction Industry. Aside from reaching out to young lawyers, the YLD for the Forum Committee on the Construction Industry this year will reach out to high school students to encourage them to become involved in the construction industry through the ACE Mentor Program. “ACE” stands for architecture, construction, and engineering. Professionals in those industries will mentor high school students and inspire them to pursue careers in design and construction. In Angela’s own words, “Construction is a phenomenal career.”

Recognized Professional Excellence

In August 2011, Angela was nominated as an ABA National Outstanding Young Lawyer by the ABA Forum on the Construction Industry. In December, she was selected as a finalist. The ABA YLD National Outstanding Young Lawyer Award is presented annually to recognize a young lawyer who exhibits professional excellence, service to the profession and the bar, service to the community, and a reputation for the advancement of legal ethics and professional responsibility. Although another recipient was ultimately chosen, Angela’s accomplishments and service to the ABA deserve recognition.

Congratulations, Angela, for being selected as a finalist for the ABA National Outstanding Young Lawyer Award! For more information about the award, visit The nomination deadline is August 31 of each year.


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