Angela M. Otto, Partner in Ball Janik LLP’s construction and design practice group.
- What are the advantages of being a woman in construction?
Angie: The advantage is that women can bring different perspectives and approaches to a dispute when an issue arises.
- Tell us about the moment you knew law and construction was the career you wanted to pursue?
Angie: I didn’t know I wanted to be a lawyer until I was well on my way to getting a psychology degree. My advisor sat me down and told me I didn’t have the patience for patients, but I could analyze, dissect, and diagnose problems – skills I use every day in my practice. I was lucky enough to “fall into” construction law during on-campus interviews. It highlights the best of my blue-collar roots, growing up around excavation equipment, and my white-collar education. This mix has allowed me to communicate effectively with the owners of multi-million dollar construction companies, along with the laborers who are often my witnesses.
- What makes you proud of working in the construction industry?
Angie: The camaraderie at all levels and the parties’ general willingness to meet and try to resolve their disputes. I am privileged to represent such a hard-working, devoted group. Even more meaningful to me is that this fellowship extends to the lawyers that I practice with and against – though we advocate fiercely for our clients, we genuinely respect each other.
- Would you describe your career path as a relatively smooth road?
Angie: Not at all. I’ve been doing this for more than 20 years now, and I’m glad to see more females in the industry. That was not the case when I started, and I certainly struggled to find a balance between trying to be “just one of the guys” and being true to myself.
- If so, how did you overcome those obstacles?
Angie: Perseverance and faith that good work above all else leads to success.
- If you could provide advice to a young female interested in a career in construction or law, what would it be?
Angie: If you have the interest and drive – do it, but do it your way. Find people that you admire in the industry, get to know them, and learn from them.
- For our readers who might not be as familiar, what can you tell them about what you do?
Angie: I consider myself a problem solver: I assist clients at all stages of construction, from contract negotiation, developing and following risk management procedures, site visits, pre-claim strategy, and resolution, to representation in mediation, arbitration and/or litigation as needed. My goal is to get contractors back to building projects, not litigating disputes.
- Is there anyone you’d like to thank or give credit to?
Angie: The list is long, but at the top of that list is my former mentor and partner, Arne Gray, who taught me that you don’t have to be an [insert colorful expletive] to be an effective advocate.