Interviews with NABL Members from NABL News
Stephanie D. Wagner, Mayer Brown LLP, Chicago, IL
Stephanie D. Wagner
Mayer Brown LLP
Tell us a little about yourself - your family, your hobbies, etc...
I grew up in a small town of about 700 people in South Dakota. For as long as I can remember, I had dreamed of traveling the world. After graduating high school, my long-time dream became reality as I spent time over the next 10 years living in Brussels, Boston, Chile, Japan and Washington, DC, before finding a new home in Chicago, where I now live with my husband, Ian, and two boys, Sam (6) and Gabe (12). When I have free time, I enjoy filling it with reading books, cooking, movies, summer bbqs, trying out new restaurants, time with family and, of course, traveling.
What first interested you in law?
My father was a politician, first serving as mayor of our small town and then serving as a state legislator in South Dakota while I was in middle school and high school. Politics and government were an everyday part of my life. I remember spending time with my father and his colleagues at the state capitol, campaigning with my father and debating the various issues current at the time. This implanted in me a long-lasting interest in government and politics, which naturally drew me towards the law.
What was the best career advice anyone ever gave you?
Over the years, many people have told me to be proactive about my career. Those around you won’t know your intentions, goals or accomplishments if you don’t share them, so it’s important to communicate these with a strong voice and to do so frequently.
What has been your favorite moment of your career so far?
This past year my family and I went on a road trip for spring break. We planned the trip, so that on our route back to Chicago, we would cross over a toll bridge that was developed under a P3 transaction that I spent many hours working on in 2012-2013. It was extremely fun to drive over a bridge that was the product of my work and to share that experience with my family – who often wonders what I’m doing with all my long hours of work! My biggest reward is knowing that my work helps create vital infrastructure for the public, and getting to use that infrastructure personally and to share it with my family was a great moment.
What advice would you give to the young associates and law students who are interested in a career in municipal finance?
I would advise them to continue to read up on new developments and market trends. It is important to stay on top of this changing field in order to be best positioned to help our clients. I would also note that there can be a steep learning curve for certain aspects of the municipal finance practice. But, it is a rewarding practice area with smart and collegial practitioners. So, I encourage them to keep at it and continue to develop the detail-oriented skills needed for this work.
As a member of BAW’s 2018 Steering Committee, can you tell us about your panel session,
PUBLIC PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS - WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ?
This will be my second year as chair of the P3 panels at BAW, and the 5th year overall for these panels. We do a series of P3 panels, trying to give a range of topics to the audience. The first is our primer for those that are not as familiar with P3s. During this panel, we walk through the basics of the P3 structure, key issues to consider and specific issues relevant to the bond attorney. I am also chairing a P3 hot topics panel and a P3 case studies panel. The hot topics panel looks at recent legislative developments impacting P3s, with a focus on bond-related issues, current trends in P3 and other timely topics. We then cap off our series of P3 panels with the case studies panel, where we discuss 3-4 specific projects implemented through a P3 structure with professionals familiar with the projects. This provides an opportunity to see the basics in action and discuss unique issues/structures that came up on real projects.
What made you want to become involved with NABL, and how long have you been a member?
I have been a member of NABL since about 2009, my first year as an attorney. I initially became a member in connection with my attendance at the Fundamentals of Municipal Bond Law Seminar.
How has your participation and membership in NABL been of value to you and your practice?
From my first year as an attorney, I’ve been relying on the resources that NABL provides. This Fundamentals of Municipal Bond Law Seminar was extremely helpful to me as a junior associate first learning the ins and outs of municipal finance. I continue to refer back to the materials provided at BAW and other conferences as well as on the NABL website. These resources provided by NABL and its members is extremely useful in my everyday practice.
From the questionnaire made famous by Bernard Pivot and James Lipton, “What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Chef. I think this profession would be extremely challenging, but I’ve always loved cooking and creating new dishes.