Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, July 8, 2022

Angell thrives amid workplace chaos

Ashby Angell is a labor and employment attorney with Baker Donelson. She says the work is a good fit for her strong suits, which include reading and writing. - Photograph provided

As a loving and supportive spouse, attorney Ashby Angell overlooks her husband’s most glaring flaw: His love for University of Kentucky basketball.

To endure attorney Patrick Walsh’s Wildcat fandom, Angell abides by an adage: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

“I’m a fan by marriage,” says Angel, 32. “I pick a player and focus on him for the entire season. Then I can say, ‘Look! There goes Devin Booker.’”

Angell also joined Walsh in moving to Chattanooga last fall to be closer to family, although she didn’t follow him to work at Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel. Instead, she found a home for her legal practice at Baker Donelson, where she focuses on labor and employment matters in an of counsel capacity.

In this role, Angell assists manufacturing, health care and media clients with discrimination, sexual harassment and noncompete agreement issues. She says it’s a varied practice that makes answering the phone interesting.

“People do crazy stuff at work,” Angell says. “A client might ask me for advice about a noncompete situation in which an employee sent the company’s client list to their personal email and then quit their job and started their own business.”

Although this what-if scenario screams lawsuit, Angell does answer calls that won’t lead to litigation. Sometimes, a client simply wants to pick her brain.

“A client might say, ‘We have an employee who’s absent a lot and we don’t know why. What do you think we should do?’”

Angell says convincing her clients to step back from the edge of a cliff is one of the most gratifying parts of her job.

“Sometimes, a manager will say, ‘I’m going to fire this person because they did x, y and z,’ but if I have a good working relationship with them, then I can step in and say, ‘Here’s what I’d do instead of terminating them.’

“I enjoy guiding clients through challenging situations. If there’s a mess, I’d rather be involved from the start than learn someone has sued them.”

In an effort to prevent future entanglements, Angell conducts supervisor and management training in workers’ compensation, misconduct investigations and union avoidance.

But if a situation does call for Angell to unsheathe her litigation skills, she’s prepared to defend her clients.

“It’s a guessing game because you can never know if someone is going to file a lawsuit. You just offer the best advice you can and then prepare for whatever comes down the pike.”

Angell had a similar mindset when she decided to attend law school.

“I didn’t know what kind of lawyer I wanted to be when I started law school,” she recalls. “I simply took things as they came and it worked out.”

After graduating from The University of Louisville School of Law in 2015, Angell did a brief stint at a small insurance defense firm in the city and then moved across town to Fischer & Phillips, where she cut her teeth in labor and employment law.

“I thought it would be interesting — and it was. When I practiced insurance defense, I handled a lot of car accidents — and every car accident is the same,” she says. “It’s either a T-bone or a rear end, and someone either ran a red light or wasn’t paying attention. Labor and employment law is much more varied, which keeps me on my toes.”

Angell was working for Fischer & Phillips remotely when she and Walsh moved to Chattanooga. Feeling isolated after social distancing during the pandemic and being on maternity leave, she tapped the shoulder of a recruiter, who in turn connected her to Baker Donelson.

Angell says she’s enjoying getting to know attorneys who work in practice areas other than her own.

“Everyone did the same thing at Fischer & Phillips, but that’s not the case here. I’m able to learn about other practice areas.”

Angell originally wanted to become a doctor, so she signed up for classes at University of Alabama at Birmingham, home to a top-tier medical school. A chemistry class convinced her to change her heading.

“It was beyond the scope of what my brain was prepared to do at that age,” she laughs.

Angell chose the law because she believed it would allow her to utilize her strengths, which she says include reading and writing.

“That’s what I do all day, every day as an attorney, so it felt like a natural choice.”

Angell activates a separate set of skills when she returns to the Northshore home she shares with Walsh and their twin baby boys.

Readers of Walsh’s profile in the June 17 issue of the Hamilton County Herald might recall that he said Angell jokingly lays the blame for having twins on him. Angell confirms her husband’s story about how he spoke them into existence by saying she could be carrying twins and adds her own details.

“We were walking in a park down the street from where we lived in Louisville when he joked that my two best friends from high school are twins. I said I already had a set of twins in my life and didn’t need another one.”

Having twins does complicate getting to know a new city, but Angell says she and her husband go out as much as a couple with two 1-year-olds can. Excursions include hikes, dining at new restaurants and visits to the Chattanooga Zoo and Tennessee Aquarium.

Angell also spends a portion of her free time imagining what her life will be like in five years. She says she hopes it will include her sons being able to wake up in the morning and make themselves a bowl of cereal.

“I’m kidding,” Angell laughs. “I imagine I’ll be doing labor and employment law and taking my babies on bike rides and picnics.”

Chances are Angell will also be cheering on the Wildcats — as is the fate of every loving and supportive spouse of a UK basketball fan.