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2021 In-House Counsel Awards: Kay Noonan

National Association of Insurance Commissioners

Kay NoonanKay Noonan is quick to credit the roles others have played in her work.

“The key to success for anybody in this position is the people they work with,” said the 59-year-old. “I’m really fortunate to have such a great team of attorneys that work for me and with me. That makes all the challenges of it much easier to meet on a daily basis.”

Others, of course, are quick to credit her.

“Kay’s ability to stay tuned in to all legal issues across all policy and business units is something very few people possess,” writes her nominator. “She is also gifted at building a legal team and inspiring all of us to strive for her proficiency.”

That ability is even more impressive when one considers the scope of Noonan’s role as general counsel for the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, a support organization for regulators spanning all 50 states, the District of Columbia and American territories.

The University of Iowa College of Law graduate spent time at two different firms and did a stint in-house for a pharmaceutical enterprise before joining the NAIC as a managing attorney in 2005. By 2007, she’d been promoted to her present job.

She likes that all the regulators she deals with bring different points of view and a variety of legal issues to the table.

“I think that’s a really unique opportunity to have a national type of practice,” she said.

She said it takes a certain skill set to be an effective general counsel.

“You have to be a good partner with your business operations and you have to be a good communicator,” she noted. “I think you have to have the ability to say no when it is necessary but always be willing to work with your internal clients to get to yes.”

Noonan feels that the biggest challenge to her job may be the number of different interests or aspects she deals with each day.

“Because you are counsel to the whole organization, it is a little bit harder to anticipate where issues might arise that require your attention,” said Noonan, who also serves on the board of a small local theater company. “No matter what you try to do to be proactive and get ahead of issues in any kind of complex business, you have to be willing to think on your feet and pivot quickly to what the issue of the day becomes when you show up in the morning.”

Another of her nominators sums up what so many have said about Noonan.

“I am constantly amazed at Kay’s ability to understand complex legal and insurance regulatory issues,” they wrote. “Her leadership of the NAIC Legal Division is unparalleled, and she is universally respected by both NAIC staff and state insurance commissioners.”