Nicolle Schippers has been corporate counsel for ARAG in Des Moines, a 140-employee company that provides legal insurance for individuals, since November 2007.  She recently was named Committee Member of the Year by the Association of Corporate Counsel. The global association represents in-house lawyers employed by more than 10,000 organizations in 85 countries. Prior to joining ARAG, she served as a military lawyer for the U.S. Air Force, as a prosecutor, defense lawyer and general counsel. She also worked as a consultant for Nationwide Agribusiness insurance while transitioning from military lawyer to ARAG corporate counsel, a time during which she also wrote “An Airman’s Deadly Affair: A Novel.” She says another book, maybe two, are swirling around in her head. A dedicated volunteer and avid world traveler, Schippers said she is always looking for the next adventure.

Tell us about being a military lawyer.

Right after law school, I went straight to Alabama for officer training school, then headed out to California, where I was stationed for four years. While I was there, I did pretty much everything, but my main work was in criminal prosecution. Then I switched over to defense work. My first assignment was to represent the military after a U-2 spy plane crashed into (the parking lot) of a newspaper in Oroville, Calif. The pilot was killed and so was a civilian on the ground. There was a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, but the government made full restitution. 

Did you enlist while you were in college?

I did it the wrong way. I ended up paying for everything. I started talking to recruiters when I was at Drake.  I loved the Air Force. It made me well-rounded in every aspect because I did all facets of law, even contracts for the military.

How did you wind up as a prosecutor?

When they say you’re going to do something, you really can’t say no. I was told to go to Spangdahlem (Air Base) in Germany. I became a senior captain at that point. I got my orders while I was still in California, and they said we have a trial for you. It was an attempted murder case. It actually was a triangle between three people and one got jealous. It was the one case of all of them that got a lot of attention; the Air Force Times was there. The defendant would say things and do things that were just like in the movies. It was the only case that I handled that I was a little sensitive of because I sentenced her to Leavenworth. She actually got more time than I recommended.

Why did you leave the military?

At that time I decided I was going to have my second child, my husband, Greg, and I decided that with my work in criminal law and always coming home late, it was time to focus on family. We decided to come home to Iowa. Iowa is such a fantastic place to raise kids. We came back and had my second son here in Des Moines. I flew home on the absolute last day that my doctor would let me fly. So I came back and had my son a month later, and went to Nationwide Agribusiness and worked for them for about three years as a consultant, which is what they call lawyers, and got great experience from the insurance side. I left Nationwide in anticipation of adopting our daughter in Guatemala. I completely switched gears. As I was waiting to adopt a child, I wrote a book.

Are you writing another book?

I have notes of a book I want to write. Children keep me busy. I am active in different groups like the Association of Corporate Counsel, the Legal Services Association Group, I’m on their board, and I’m involved with quite a few attorney organizations around Des Moines and Iowa. But I have a book in my mind.

What do you do when you take a breath?

We travel. We went to Kenya. We were in a conservancy. We would have lion come through. Cheetahs were on the other side of my tent. One night my husband heard the sound of grass being pulled, and it was a baby elephant and the mama was on the other side of the tent. We’ve gone to Tahiti and Bora Bora. The next thing I want to do is go to Peru and go to a conservancy for monkeys. Friends of mine are in Korea, which was never on my radar, but we might go there next year. We were in Egypt just before the uprising. In Tahiti, we just relaxed and it was great, but I was bored. When I went to Guatemala, people were concerned about some kind of rebellion, but you just keep your head down.