Name: Alisson Klaiber
Class Year: 2005
Title: Legal Advisor to the Commission
Organization Name: Virginia State Corporation Commission
1. In one sentence, what does your job entail?
I advise the Commissioner on legal matters and defend the Commission in appellate court.
2. What planned and unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross? How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you?
I’ve wanted to be a lawyer since I was eleven years old, so I went to law school right after I graduated from Holy Cross. My first job after law school was with the law firm of Hunton Andrews Kurth, in their Energy & Project Finance Group. I am a dual citizen of France and the United States and fluent in both French in English. I was hired by the firm to help with Project Finance transactions all over the world. However, it was 2008 and the world financial crisis occurred. Project Finance is a risky investment so lots of the work paused or ended. The firm asked me to pivot and assist in matters before the United States Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates energy and hears cases on all types of energy matters here in the United States. I realized doing this work that I wanted to be back in the courtroom. A few months later, I was laid off along with all the junior attorneys in my practice group due to the financial crisis. Upon hearing about me at a luncheon and after seeing my resume, Florida Power & Light Company invited me to come assist in their rate case, a case in which a utility asks its regulator to increase its electric rates, i.e., your bills. It was an opportunity for me, as a young lawyer, to be in court but still work with numbers, engineering and the more technical issues that I like. After that case concluded, I returned to my home in Richmond, Virginia. I realized while working in Florida, that working for the Virginia State Corporation Commission, the body that regulates utilities in Virginia, would offer me an extraordinary opportunity to be in the courtroom regularly early in my career. I joined the Virginia State Corporation Commission, the body that regulates utilities in Virginia in 2010, after a brief period working at the Virginia Attorney General’s office. I spent a decade trying energy cases on behalf of the Office of General Counsel at the Commission, until last Spring when the Judge asked me to be her personal legal advisor.
3. What were you involved in when you were on campus?
I joined the debate club, tennis club, and international students club. I was a peer counselor and spent some time volunteering with the Campus Activities Board.
4. What was your major and how did it affect your career decisions?
I was a double major in International Relations and Economics, with a concentration in French. I could not have practiced energy law without my background in economics. I use my degree in economics daily. My degree in international relations has helped me navigate state government.
5. What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work?
Majoring in economics was tough for me. A Justice of the Supreme Court once told me that to become wiser, you must pursue that which is difficult. During my sophomore year at Holy Cross, he told me to stick with my economics major despite some mediocre grades. I took his advice and my grades eventually improved. I’ve kept that advice throughout my entire career. When I don’t understand something, I figure it out.
The second skill is the 1-3 sentence elevator pitch. For example, for career purposes, be able to say in 1-2 sentences who you are and what you’d like to become. Keeping this elevator pitch fine tuned helps me stay focused on the big picture and what I want to accomplish in my career.
6. What advice do you have for students on campus today?
My advice is to stay focused, but to be open to different paths and the unexpected. Many times, I’ve seen interns turn down great opportunities because such opportunities did not concern the type of law they wanted to practice. While it is good to stay focused, be open to what the world offers you, you never know what you might learn or who you might meet if you keep an open mind. If I had stuck to my career path the traditional way, I would not have had such a fulfilling and successful career.