November/December 2015 Issue
Andrea Woods serves as corporate counsel for one
of the state’s largest construction companies
and brings a fresh perspective to the industry.
Photography by Ashlee Nobel
Few people know that attorney Andrea Woods started out as a piano performance major. But, her studies and career path took many twists and turns along the way — all leading to a role that she calls the best she’s ever had.
As executive vice president and corporate counsel at Nabholz Corp. in Conway, Woods said her days can be unpredictable, but that’s what she loves about it.
“I’m learning something new every day, and I truly could not work with better people,” she said.
Woods joined Nabholz, one of the state’s largest construction companies, 10 years ago as the company’s first-ever in-house legal counsel. She works with ever-changing federal and state regulations, as they apply to employment, contracts, risk management, the environment, industrial services and other issues in the five states where Nabholz works.
When she first joined the company, she said she tried litigating a small case, but it was too much. Now, she hires and manages a team of construction attorneys in various states where Nabholz has a presence to help with litigation.
“There’s no telling what will hit the desk,” she said. “It’s like a general practice in a lot of ways, but I have one client so that makes it nice. Like any other industry, it’s unique. It’s definitely different. When I seek out a construction lawyer, I tend to be very particular because I want to make sure that they are a construction lawyer, not that they’ve just had a construction client. I want to make sure they understand how we work.”
Her day-to-day role is more responsive in nature. Where one day can focus on research and writing a legal memo, the next may require quick thinking. “I respond well to that,” Woods said.
Plus, the company covers many different service groups, so issues can cover industrial services, traditional construction or environmental services.
Though she had been an attorney for several years, practicing with governmental agencies and as a litigator, joining Nabholz meant Woods had to learn the ins and outs of the construction industry.
“It was definitely a learning curve and still is,” she said. “There’s still something every day. There are just so many regulatory schemes that affect us, and it can be challenging to keep up. I’m a learner. I have to constantly be ready for learning and changing. Helping to guide when I’m needed. My role for Nabholz is that guidance.”
When it comes to finding her way in the construction industry, which is often male-dominated, she credits Nabholz CEO Greg Williams as being a mentor who helped her learn the industry, and chairman emeritus Charles Nabholz for setting an example for her in the industry.
According to Williams, the feeling is mutual.
“Nabholz was fortunate to hire Andrea as our first in-house counsel,” he said. “Andrea has greatly improved our understanding of how to manage construction risks and brings a different point of view to our business decisions. Andrea joined our board of directors a few years ago, and her opinion and insights are highly valued.”
Woods grew up in Fayetteville and attended the University of Kansas, where she set out to major in piano performance. But she began feeling “burned out,” so she started taking communications and debate classes. She settled on English as her major, and then decided to go to law school.
She attended Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio, where she was living while her husband, Jeff Woods, completed his Ph.D. He is now dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at Arkansas Tech University.
Her first job in the legal field was with the prosecuting attorney’s office in Fairfield County, Ohio, where she jumped right in, handling felony cases. She then moved to a medium-sized private firm where she worked in civil litigation defense.
In 2000, Woods moved back to Arkansas and had to retake the state portion of the bar exam. She worked as the human resources director for the city of Sherwood, and once she passed the Arkansas bar, she worked as an attorney for the city of North Little Rock.
Through all of these roles, she said working at Nabholz has been her favorite so far. And, company leaders say she fits right in.
“Andrea is an outstanding corporate counsel who exhibits all of our corporate values, especially integrity,” said Nabholz.
It’s the flexible, supportive environment that Woods loves most about her current role.
“It’s been the best, most healthy work environment,” she said. “I want to represent the company and its employees, and I want to do it well. My role for Nabholz is that guidance, the ability to be a resource when needed.”