Kate Hibbard is the group lead lawyer for aqua nutrition and health technologies at Cargill, a Minnesota-based global food corporation and the largest privately held company in the United States.
The Newsroom recently caught up with Hibbard to learn about her career journey after law school and her work at Cargill. And, frankly, it is always interesting to learn how an alumna finds herself practicing in a niche area like aqua nutrition!
What path did your career take after law school?
I spent my first year after law school clerking for Judge Wilhelmina Wright, who was a Minnesota Court of Appeals judge at the time. I would recommend a judicial clerkship to everyone. It is a great opportunity to spend a year watching the judicial process from behind the bench and to refine your research and writing skills. My clerkship also gave me a lifelong mentor in my judge and the opportunity to work with the very best co-clerk, fellow alumna Jessica Slattery ’06 J.D.!
After my clerkship, I joined the litigation boutique Greene Espel, where I practiced for more than 13 years. I loved my time at Greene Espel. It allowed me to work with incredibly talented attorneys, like Aaron Knoll ’12 J.D., and to represent a wide variety of clients on some of their most challenging issues.
One of my clients was my current employer, Cargill. Through my work for Cargill, I learned about global trade, international relations, and how the food we eat makes it from farmers’ fields onto our plates. I was honored when Cargill asked me to join them in-house last year. I started mid-pandemic, so I have been working from home. Yet, my roles have allowed me to “see” the world. My days involve virtual meetings with people across the globe – from Chile to Norway, Iowa to China, and everywhere in between, often before the clock strikes 9 a.m.!
Is there a project you have worked on at Cargill of which you are particularly proud?
I am really proud of the sustainability work we are doing within our aqua nutrition business, which is a business that produces and supplies feed and nutrition products and services for aquatic species such as salmon, shrimp and tilapia. For example, we recently rolled out our SeaFurther Sustainability program, which focuses on helping the seafood industry reduce its carbon footprint. We also recently invested in a strategic partnership with a Norwegian company that will focus on developing sustainable feed solutions for land-based salmon farming operations.
Describe the types of projects you work on at Cargill.
There is so much variety in the work, which makes it both exciting and challenging. Every day is different. I spend a lot of time working with our commercial teams to figure out how we can better serve our customers. The businesses I work with do really exciting research and development, so many days are focused on working with our intellectual property and regulatory teams to protect our ideas and prepare them to come to market. Other days involve working with our merger and acquisition team to explore potential inorganic growth opportunities. I also still have a role in the litigation world. In fact, I continue to work with my former Greene Espel colleagues on a case we filed on behalf of Cargill, and I look forward to trying that case with them and hopefully bringing home a win for Cargill.
What’s something you learned at St. Thomas, in class or out, that you carry with you even today as a legal professional?
St. Thomas taught me the value and importance of collaboration. While some law schools seem to promote competition, St. Thomas taught that your classmates will be colleagues in the profession –as opposing counsel, co-counsel, colleagues, clients or otherwise. I have found that true collaboration – with colleagues, with clients, with the court and sometimes even with opposing counsel – leads to better outcomes for my clients.
What do you do to manage your stress, prioritize wellness and maintain your overall health?
I confess that I haven’t always been great at managing my stress and prioritizing wellness. But I am really trying to focus more on taking care of myself as much as I take care of my work and my family, which includes my husband Pat and my sons, Henry (age 12) and Will (age 9). One thing that has really helped me focus on my mental and physical health is daily walks with my husband and our pandemic puppy, Bruno. These have allowed us to connect with one other without the kids, and they force both of us to disconnect from technology. I also love to de-stress by working out on my beloved Peloton!