Member Spotlight: Janet Phipps Burkhead

Janet Phipps Burkhead

Tell us about yourself
I was born and raised in Iowa and graduated from Johnston High School. I received a Bachelor of Science in Food & Nutrition/Dietetics and a Masters of Public Administration from Iowa State University. I worked in the public sector for many years in Iowa and Michigan. I held positions with Governor Branstad during both of his administrations, Governor Reynolds, and Governor Engler in Michigan. I attended Drake Law School as an ‘older student’ and practiced intellectual property law in Des Moines.

I served for 28 years with the Army Reserves, the Iowa Army National Guard, and the Michigan Army National Guard. I retired from the Iowa Army National Guard in 2013 as a Brigadier General.

I am married to a retired Colonel, Tom Burkhead, and we have three children and seven grandchildren. We live in rural Dallas County with three dogs and two cats.

What are some of your notable achievements?
It is always difficult for me to think about “notable” achievements – I’ll let others determine notability. What drove me during both my civilian and military careers was to provide to those with whom I worked and served the opportunity to develop their fullest potential. I hope I was a role model for girls and women to inspire them to pursue their goals despite the hurdles they may face.

Why did you choose to practice law?
I dealt with many legal issues in my career in the public sector and the law always intrigued me when working with attorneys to resolve issues. During a career transition, I took the opportunity to attend Drake Law School fulltime – and never regretted it!

Did you always want to be an attorney?
No – this came later in life. I really got the law school bug when I was attending a National Security Fellowship at Harvard University through the Department of the Army. As a Fellow, I was able to audit classes at any of the Harvard schools – law school, business school, divinity school and the JFK School of Government. I knew I would be transitioning back to Iowa after my fellowship year at Harvard and made the decision to attend law school then.

What was your favorite part about being a practicing attorney?
Finding the best solution for the client – working closely with a client to problem solve. I primarily practiced intellectual property law so it was working with clients to protect their intellectual property.

What do you like to do in retirement?
Working outside! We live on 35 acres so there is always outside work to do – mowing, cutting trees, flower gardening, etc.

What is the best thing about the Polk County Bar Association?
The support and fostering collegiality of attorneys in Polk County. It is a community of attorneys to which anyone can turn for advice and support.

What is the best place to visit in Polk County?
There are so many things to choose in Polk County. If I have to pick one it is the East Village because it is at the foot of the Capitol with a beautiful view up the hill and has great shops and restaurants.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I wanted to be a veterinarian – I grew up having horses, dogs and cats. I got side tracked in a food and nutrition class at Iowa State – I loved science and math – and ended up getting a degree in Food & Nutrition/Dietetics.

If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor and why?
I had great mentors throughout my career – each offering just what I needed to develop to the next level. Looking back, however, I pick my mother. She was a very strong woman raising three children, a lifelong learner, and she could hold her own against anyone. Thanks Mom!

What is your favorite book?
Any book by John Grisham – I have his collection of books and have reread all of them over the years.

Words to live by?
Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.