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Senior General Attorney BSNF Railway Co.
— by Julie Sneider, senior associate editor
While growing up, Adam Weiskittel didn't pay much attention to the railroad tracks that crisscrossed his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas, the headquarters of BNSF Railway Co. Even after he graduated from Southern Methodist University's law school and joined the Dallas-based firm Haynes and Boone LP, Weiskittel rarely had a reason to think about the railroad industry.
But that changed in 2008, when he joined BNSF's in-house law department. As senior general attorney, Weiskittel can't stop being mindful of the impact that BNSF and railroads in general have on the U.S. economy. He feels lucky to work for such an organization, he says.
"That TV you’re watching, the lumber that was used to build your house, the gasoline in your car — all of that may have been moved in a rail car," he says. "The railroads touch people's lives in positive ways that they may not even be aware of."
Likewise, Weiskittel is having a positive impact on BNSF, according to Jill Mulligan, the Class I's associate general counsel.
"Adam's practical approach and his ability to leverage his litigation experience with a sensitivity to the long-term commercial relationships between BNSF and its customers made him an instantly valued resource to the commercial team," Mulligan wrote in nominating Weiskittel for the Rising Stars award.
Weiskittel provides legal guidance in support of the railroad's marketing department, which covers all legal transactions involving BNSF's customers. He's also responsible for regulatory and policy issues involving government entities, and provides extensive mandatory training at BNSF as required by the company’s antitrust compliance programs.
Additionally, he's become a "deep expert" on the economic regulation of railroads by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB), informing policy initiatives and defending BNSF’s interests during rulemaking and adjudicatory proceedings, says Mulligan.
Weiskittel is gratified to be working on such complex legal, regulatory and policy issues for BNSF. In doing so, he believes he’s also making an important contribution to the industry. That’s a message he frequently shares with recent law school graduates who are trying to determine their career paths. Sometimes, they tell him that being a railroad lawyer doesn’t sound “as sexy as working for Google.” To that, Weiskittel responds with, "So, what?"
"Our company and our industry have a bright future. We're stable," he says. "You can come to work here, grow, and keep your mind on really complex and important legal issues, and also realize that you are contributing to something that is contributing to society. And not everyone can say that."
His overall philosophy is to work hard, be committed to your career and to the success of the company and the industry. "Try to treat people as well as you can," he says. "Take life seriously and yourself less seriously."
Weiskittel's off-the-clock activities center on family.
"I have small children, so my life is driven by that," he says. "We have lots of soccer games after school. And I've spent a lot of time coaching my son's various sports teams. ... We like to do a lot of activities outdoors, such as camping."
Rising Stars 2015 Award Winners:
Francois Belanger, CN
Todd Blaylock, HNTB Corp.
Jonathan Chastek, Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Co.
Oliver Dolder, Railtech Welding & Equipment
John Riley Edwards, RailTEC, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Stefan Loeb, Watco Cos. LLC
Jessica Moore, Union Pacific Railroad
Amanda Nightingale, King County Metro Transit
Celia Ann Pfleckl, Amtrak
Charles Rennick, Providence & Worcester Railroad Co.
Kaleigh Reyes, GE Transportation
Rebecca Reyes-Alicea, Federal Railroad Administration
Bruno Riendeau, VIA Rail Canada Inc.
Curtis Shogren, CSX Transportation
Alanna Strohecker, AECOM
Keith Tarkalson, Stacy & Witbeck
Brett Urquhart, Rocla Concrete Tie Inc.
Tara Vesey, Dakota Gasification Co.
Lexie Walker, Metra
Adam Weiskittel, BNSF Railway Co.