Monday, May 22, 2023

Alec Hillbo took a winding road from the University of Iowa to his current home in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been a lawyer more than 20 years now. His group manages a variety of legal issues for a large insurance corporation. The variety adds zest to his workdays, hopping from corporate litigation to class actions to corporate discovery issues.

He finds most rewarding the personal relationships that develop from working closely with many people. He helps outside counsel manage their litigation all over the country. He works with executives to handle risk management. It feels good to be actively supporting people, he says.

After Alec graduated from the University of Wisconsin, he applied to several graduate programs and chose what was then the University of Iowa’s Department of Sociology. (The department has since expanded its degree programs and is now called the Department of Sociology and Criminology.)

Alec remembers Professor Chuck Mueller calling to encourage him to come to Iowa for his master’s degree. The University of Iowa’s strength in criminology was especially attractive. Professors Karen Heimer and Ross Matsueda were also there. Alec had taken a year after college doing data analysis and wanted to apply that knowledge to analyzing crime. Now, he says, “I use data to guide the corporation’s business decisions.”

The late nights studying in old Seashore Hall – torn down in 2020 – stand out in his mind, working with other students like Stacy DeCoster and Shane Thye. The work ethic in the department at the University of Iowa had a big impact on his future success. Graduate school in sociology was more than hard work. He had fun too. Especially memorable were the frisbie golf competitions organized by Jeff Lucas.

seashore hall demolition
Alec studied in old Seashore Hall which was torn down in 2020. Photo from Aimee Breaux / Iowa City Press-Citizen

Alec was accepted to the University of Iowa Law School and became a lawyer. “Everything came together in law school,” he says. He worked for a federal appeals judge in Texas doing research and preparing briefs. Then it was on to Arizona working for a law firm that specialized in labor and employment litigation. Many of his cases involved unfair competition, representing companies whose trade secrets had been stolen for example. His passion for defending people from unfair competition grew.

Although he enjoyed work as a trial lawyer, he “was not the consummate bulldog,” and preferred research and writing. He snatches a few minutes during the day to write thriller novels. It’s all about crime and law and sociology, how people make decisions under pressure, he says. The hard work of writing is going well. He has started several novels and finished one but wants to work harder to get a book published.

Alec enjoys hiking at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum near his home. Winters can be long, he adds. His 18-month-old daughter loves climbing stairs and letting dogs lick her face. They are travelling to Scotland for his wife’s birthday.

Hillbo Family Picture
Alec and Margaret in Scotland 2023