Julia Hilton, Senior counsel, Idaho Power in Boise

Stephanie Schaerr Hansen//November 17, 2016//

Julia Hilton, Senior counsel, Idaho Power in Boise

Stephanie Schaerr Hansen//November 17, 2016//

Listen to this article

julia-hiltonJulia Hilton’s path from law school to her in-house counsel role at Idaho Power took a detour through American Samoa.

After graduating from Gonzaga University School of Law with honors, she spent a year in Boise as a clerk for Chief Justice Gerald F. Schroeder at the Idaho Supreme Court, but wasn’t really sure what to do next. On a whim, she applied for a clerkship in Pago Pago, and soon thereafter, she was arriving sight-unseen with her two children to start a new adventure.

She wasn’t ready to return to the mainland after her clerkship ended, so she found an in-house counsel role at American Samoa Power Company. It turns out, she loved working for the utility company. “It strikes just the right balance between technical-geeky and law-geeky for me,” she says. “It’s a fascinating place to be.”

Not only did she connect with the work, she developed a love for the island as well. During her time there, a tsunami struck the island, killing many people and wiping out her company’s headquarters and power generators, leaving the entire island without power. She sprang into action and worked with FEMA to obtain emergency generators, and found other utilities in Hawaii and California who were willing to help lend a hand to restore power to the island as quickly as possible.

“It was a crazy experience,” she says. “The professional piece went hand-in-hand with the personal piece because I was living it, too. My house at the time was five feet above sea level on a peninsula, and I was absolutely convinced I would never see it again.”

Luckily, she didn’t lose her home, and she and her family spent three more years on the island before moving back to Boise to be closer to family.

Upon her return, she found her current position at Idaho Power, where she mainly deals with state and federal regulatory work surrounding transmission projects.

“The people here just seemed like such a good group to work with,” she says. “They are all incredibly driven and incredibly smart.”

Today, she’s working on two main projects: one, handling the legal side of a project to join with other nearby utility companies to share transmission systems; and the other as the company’s legal point person for its clean power plan: the EPA’s regulation requiring a 30-percent reduction in carbon footprint by 2030.

“I found a great balance between working really hard while you’re at work but having time for yourself out of work, which is really hard to find in the legal world,” she says.

With that free time, she hangs out with her two teenagers, bikes in the mountains and works on her new house.

To view photos from the 2016 Leaders in Law networking reception and awards event Nov. 17, 2016, visit http://www.idahobusinessreview.smugmug.com/.