Committed to Advancing the Role of Women in the Legal, Real Estate, & Construction Industries. An Exclusive Interview With Seattle Attorney Angelia D. Wesch
Q: When did you know you would pursue a career as an Attorney?
AW: I knew I would be an attorney from the time I was very young. My Dad was a Prosecuting Attorney for three counties in West Texas. I used to go sneak into the courthouse after school to watch him try various types of criminal cases-everything from petty theft to murder cases. It was really interesting to watch how the jury would react to the witnesses and the evidence in the case. He always wore the same cowboy hat and boots to court. Most of the attorneys he tried cases against were his friends outside of the courtroom, but in trial they were fierce opponents. It was my first experience with professionalism where people could be adversaries doing their jobs effectively, but then set their differences aside and still support one another.
Q: What types of cases do you handle?
AW: I am an insurance coverage attorney. My clients are typically large general contractors or specialty subcontractors building heavy civil infrastructure projects-bridges, tunnels, dams, light rail transportation, high rise buildings, etc. When they run into issues on projects and need their insurance companies to help them resolve claims and make repairs, I advise my clients on insurance recovery strategy and ways to avoid litigation if possible. If we are not able to resolve the claim, then I will handle the litigation that follows.
Q: If we interviewed all your past clients … what is “one” common word that comes up when they describe working with you?
Q: What is your approach or philosophy to winning or representing a case?
AW: Look for every possible way to help a client get back to doing what they do best-running their business. Most clients are not in the litigation business. Lawyers who litigate are in the litigation business. Clients want practical advice, options, and want to know the legal ramifications of the choices they are about to make in any situation involving a dispute. My goal is always to do whatever it takes to help my clients get back to completing their projects and running their businesses effectively. Helping my clients understand and evaluate their various insurance recovery options is a big part of how I advise clients and help them resolve claims and disputes that may arise.
Q: You were recently selected as a Fellow of the American College of Coverage Counsel. Can you tell us what this meant to you?
AW: I was very humbled to be invited to join the ACCC. It is an esteemed group of some of the best coverage attorneys across the country, with a nice balance of lawyers from both the insurance company side, and the policyholder side. I have learned a great deal from my colleagues in the ACCC, especially during these strange and tumultuous times we find ourselves in these days. When the first lockdowns around the country began to take effect, ACCC attorneys were immediately very active navigating, explaining, understanding and in some cases, pursuing, litigation emerging across the country on issues surrounding whether there would be insurance coverage available for the massive business interruption claims anticipated as a result of the many different state and local civil authority orders forcing businesses to close for an extended period of time. The lawsuits just keep mounting almost daily—now numbering into the thousands across the country. I am very grateful to be a part of an organization that is really on the cutting edge of these issues which I am certain as a society we will be untangling for a long time.
Q: As a co-founder of the CREW Seattle Leadership Development Program, can you share with us some of programs you were involved with?
AW: I have been a member of CREW Seattle for over 25 years. During that time, I served in various leadership roles with our local chapter in Seattle and the CREW Network Board. After rolling off of the CREW Network Board in 2003, I took time to raise my two boys, who by that time were becoming unruly teenagers, and re-engage full time with my law practice. I would still attend CREW events from time to time to stay connected with my CREW friends and colleagues. After about 8 years or so I received a call from one of my fellow CREW Seattle Past Presidents, Kris Beason. She was forming a new Leadership Series and asked if I would be interested in helping her develop the program. It was perfectly timed. I was anxious to give back to my fellow CREW members and this seemed to be a perfect opportunity.
After working the first few years to establish programming and the framework for the program, the part of the program that seemed to be the natural fit for my skills and experience was the session on negotiation. My training and background as an attorney helped me develop a portion of the program to assist young women professionals in developing powerful and effective negotiating skills to help them obtain promotions, better job opportunities, seek out new job opportunities, and create working environments where they could not only succeed themselves, but help others succeed as well.
Q: Tell us about the work you’ve been doing as a Board Member with the Pike Place Market Foundation and the Foundation’s Community Services committee.
AW: The Pike Place Market Foundation and the Community Services committee help fund the programs that sustain the incredibly unique treasure Seattle has in its Pike Place Market. Utilizing the six determinants of a healthy community as the framework for helping the Pike Place Market Community, the Foundation is responsible for fundraising to help support the legacy partners of the Pike Place Market Community. Before I became a member of the Board of Directors and a member of the Community Services committee, I regularly enjoyed the experience of visiting Pike Place Market. But once I joined the Foundation Board and the Community Services Committee, I realized there is a unique fabric of people and support that makes this such a vibrant community. The Foundation provides financial support that helps the Senior Center serve over 48,000 nutritious meals annually to many of Seattle’s most vulnerable residents, assists the Food Bank to distribute more than 1 million pounds of food annually, supports a diverse and affordable preschool program for parents--many of whom are craft sellers and farmers who work in the Pike Place Market,-- supports a neighborhood Medical Clinic that provides health care services to many of the elderly and homeless residents in Seattle’s downtown, and delivers aid to Heritage House, a 24/7 assisted living facility that offers a vibrant and compassionate living alternative for many seniors that have limited financial options.
The Pike Place Market even has a “secret garden” which harvested over 500 pounds of its own produce to help feed the Pike Place Market Community. And yes, as you would expect COVID has hit the Pike Place Market and all of its community, hard. The small family owned businesses, farmers, and craft merchants need the support of their community now more than ever. To help sustain Seattle’s unique treasure the Foundation Board is working harder than ever to raise funds that will support and provide emergency funds and resources so that businesses thrive, and families prosper. I have been on several Boards and professional organizations in my 30 + years as an attorney, but the work of the Pike Place Market Foundation’s incredibly talented staff and leadership has impressed me like no other. It is their dedication and commitment that will help our Pike Place Market survive this difficult time.
Q: What is one word of advice you can offer to young women who want to reach your level of success?
Q: Were there moments in your career that were pivotal to getting where you are today?
AW: Yes, there were many! I have changed jobs, moved across the country, started my own business (more than once), and always listened to those who inspired me. I did not allow the voices of those who tried to hold back my dreams to get in the way of me achieving my goals. Not being afraid of change has come to define me more than I ever expected.
Q: Which woman inspires you and why?
AW: Madeline Albright. She is fearless, inspiring, compassionate and a fierce advocate for women’s advancement across the globe. The world needs more like her. Not afraid to stand your ground, even when the voices of disagreement seem louder than your own.
Q: Can you tell our audience one of your most memorable moments in your career?
AW: Actually, it was one at the very beginning. When my Dad came up on stage at my law school graduation to put the doctorate hood on my shoulders and tell me “welcome to the profession.”
Five Things About Angelia D. Wesch
1. If you could talk to one famous person past or present, who would it be and why?
Zaha Hadid, first female architect to receive the Pritzker Prize in 2004. Her design is so fluid, unique and incredible, I could sit and look at her creations for hours. If she were still with us, I would love to ask her what inspired her on a daily basis to see things others could not see.
2. Can you share with us one of your passions in life?
Organic farming! I have been working for about a dozen years now to nurture several varieties of citrus trees, avocado, and spices on a small farm I own. My plan is to eventually produce and sell the organic fruit to local hotels, restaurants, and farmers markets. I plan to use the flowers and exotic spices grown on the farm to create unique skincare and bath products to be sold online.
3. What’s your favorite part of the day?
Sunset, preferably watching the sun slip into the ocean.
4.If they made a movie of your life, who’d play you?
5.Favorite Ice Cream?
Oatly Vanilla (made from oat milk-better for the planet)