Jennifer Ryan describes herself as a “recovering perfectionist.” She no longer measures her free time in billable hours, embraces her emotional intelligence as an asset, and knows that it does not come at the expense of her work ethic.
Ryan’s ambitions to become an attorney started when she was seventeen years old. After law school, her first experience came from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, DC. She then built her résumé at firms like McGuireWoods, Cameron McKenna, and Patton Boggs, where she practiced energy law and M&A.
After close to ten years in the DC area, Ryan returned to her Midwest roots and moved to Green Bay, Wisconsin, to work for WPS Energy Services (now part of Constellation Energy). “I accepted the position sight unseen one month after the birth of my second child. I had never been to Wisconsin, but I knew it was probably as close to the opposite of DC as I could get and I was looking for a lifestyle change,” she remembers.
When Modern Counsel last spoke with Ryan, she worked as associate general counsel at Schneider, a transportation and logistics company based out of Green Bay. Since then, she has moved on to U.S. Venture, an innovator and distributor of traditional and renewable energy products and sustainability solutions.
Now, with twenty-five years of experience under her belt, the opportunity to be associate general counsel at U.S. Venture brought much of Ryan’s expertise together with values that she deeply shares. “Coming to U.S. Venture felt like winning the lottery,” she says. “This amazing family-owned company is half an hour from where I live. It’s such a diverse company—we’re in energy, transportation, renewables, and sustainability. I was able to take all of my energy experience, plus everything I’ve done in antitrust, intellectual property, transportation and logistics, and in Mexico, and use it all at one company.”
This year, Ryan’s role has allowed her to grow in ways she never expected. With the advent of generative artificial intelligence (AI) like ChatGPT, she has contended with the technology’s impact on their business.
“We just started learning everything we could: ‘What is AI? What is generative AI? What is a large language model? How do these things work? How do they train? What are the potential risks and benefits?’” Ryan explains. With IP under her purview, she had to figure out how to use generative AI while protecting the company’s confidential and proprietary information.
Ryan and the team initially drafted a four-page policy that sought to mitigate as much risk as possible. However, they went back to the drawing board to build the policy in such a way that leveraged it as a tool. “We emerged with a three-point policy: one, don’t use public generative AI for company work. Two, bring new generative AI tools or ideas to the team, and we will assess the risk. And three, if you use it, you own its results,” she says.
In addition to staying hip to AI, Ryan has earned some wisdom regarding personal/professional balance. As a single mother of two, Ryan has learned how to create a better balance for herself, to embrace mistakes and celebrate wins, and to champion her roles both in and out of the office.
The attorney has found that she can strike that balance well at U.S. Venture, where strong company values and culture focus on caring relationships. She is proud to say that she has learned to be truly present with her family when she is off the clock, and she has learned to give herself grace. “Some days you’re going to be a better attorney or business partner. Some days, you’re going be a better parent. Most days, you get both,” Ryan says.
Ryan also shares how grateful she is for the leaders, coaches, and mentors she’s had throughout her career. “I wouldn’t be who I am, how I am, where I am, or get to do what I do each day without the people who gave so much of their time to invest in me and help me grow,” she says. “Now, at this stage of my career, I get to pay that forward with my team, my colleagues and those I coach and mentor. It’s fun to think about where I’ve been and what I’ve done these last twenty-five years, but it’s more fun to think about what comes next.”
“Jennifer Ryan’s insightful expertise and unwavering dedication shine through as she nimbly leads her team through complex matters. Her strategic abilities, practicality, and sense of humor/grace under pressure make working with her a true pleasure.”
—Shannon McClure Roberts, Partner
“Jen is a dedicated problem-solver who approaches new projects with an open mind. She thinks critically, creatively and strategically through each step. It’s a pleasure to work with her and her team.”
—John M. Manion, President