Heidi McNeil Staudenmaier says her years writing and editing at “The Daily Iowan” gave her the tools for a successful career practicing law in Arizona.


How to work under stress. How to write well and concisely. How to deal with a difficult personality during an interview.

These are skills that University of Iowa law graduate Heidi McNeil Staudenmaier says are crucial to being a good lawyer. They also happen to be skills she first honed as an undergraduate reporter for The Daily Iowan.

In fact, Staudenmaier—an expert in Native American law who earned a bachelor’s degree from the UI in 1981, followed by a law degree in 1985—says her experience in the Daily Iowan newsroom while studying journalism and broadcasting led to her first job in the legal profession.

“The trial lawyer who hired me for my first internship knew that I had been a newspaper writer, and he wanted someone who could write and also be able to interview witnesses,” says Staudenmaier, who has been practicing with the nationally recognized Snell and Wilmer law firm in Phoenix since earning a UI law degree.

Staudenmaier developed interests in writing and sports growing up on a farm outside Preston, Iowa, and she sought a job at The Daily Iowan immediately after arriving on campus as an undergraduate. Though she initially was offered a job as a typesetter due to her typing skills, she earned a reporting position her sophomore year after proving herself covering an intramural volleyball championship. By her senior year, she was appointed sports editor.

“I learned everything about putting out a daily paper: how to meet deadlines and deal with the daily stress of that; how to manage my peers when I was the sports editor, particularly being a woman sports editor when most of my staffers were men; how to collaborate with my other editors and writers; how to discern the top news to be disseminated to our readers; and how to be a perfectionist…That experience serves me well today.”

Heidi McNeil Staudenmaier
Partner at Snell and Wilmer

“I covered the Iowa basketball team under Lute Olson and the Iowa football team under Hayden Fry,” she says. “They were such honorable gentlemen and excellent coaches. They both agreed to serve as job references for me after graduation.”

Staudenmaier landed a position at the Quad-City Times newspaper covering everything from prep sports to professional sports. During that time, she met former NFL player Alan Page, who attended law school while playing for the Minnesota Vikings and eventually was elected to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

“Alan really inspired me to pursue law school as a means of opening doors for my career—not necessarily to become a lawyer,” she says. “Once I got to law school and earned my first internship, however, I realized that I really would enjoy the practice of law.”

As a UI law student, Staudenmaier enrolled in a class taught by former faculty member Robert Clinton, an expert in federal Native American law, and it set the course for her career.

“I absolutely loved the Constitutional Law class I took from him and enjoyed his teaching style, even though he was known as one of the toughest law professors at Iowa, so I took his Federal Indian Law class. It was very small—I think there were 13 students—so we spent a lot of time discussing and debating the very interesting and unique issues involved in Indian law.”

As a partner at Snell and Wilmer, Staudenmaier represents tribes, tribal entities, and businesses that engage in commercial transactions with tribes and tribal entities. She is included in the Best Lawyers in America publication for both Native American law and gaming law and was named one of the most influential women in Arizona business by AzBusiness Magazine in 2016. She says she finds the diversity of her job very rewarding.

“I have so many interesting and challenging issues to handle on a daily basis. The work varies from trial work to regulatory work to transactional work,” she says. “A few years ago, I represented the London company that was the parent of the Hard Rock brand of properties, and we sold the Hard Rock properties to the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The deal valued at over $1 billion.”

Staudenmaier says she is grateful for her undergraduate and law education at Iowa. Working in the Daily Iowan newsroom provided equally valuable instruction.

“I learned everything about putting out a daily paper: how to meet deadlines and deal with the daily stress of that; how to manage my peers when I was the sports editor, particularly being a woman sports editor when most of my staffers were men; how to collaborate with my other editors and writers; how to discern the top news to be disseminated to our readers; and how to be a perfectionist,” she says. “That experience serves me well today.”

Produced by the UI Office of Strategic Communication
Story
Sara Epstein Moninger
Photography
Jamie Pizzarello

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