Maureen Frangopoulos ’09 finds niche at ride sharing company
Accomplishing a major career goal is a triumph anyone would be proud to achieve. Accomplishing two within the first decade of your career is a considerable feat. Maureen Frangopoulos ’09 not only conquered her childhood dream of becoming a trial lawyer, but after succeeding in the field, she set her sights on a new career path as an in-house counsel and is now excelling at that too.
Frangopoulos is an attorney for Uber, the popular ride-sharing app, in the company’s insurance division in Chicago. She manages litigation matters related to Uber’s U.S. insurance policies, both general liability and auto. Each day presents a new challenge as the company continues to grow and expand at an accelerated rate, which is part of what makes it an exciting place to work, Frangopoulos said.
“What I love about being at Uber is we’re entering markets and expanding so quickly and each day is different from the day before. It’s challenging and exciting and it motivates me and keeps things interesting,” she said.
“I don’t want to say it’s the first time that I really love my job, because I’ve had great experiences throughout my career, but I am definitely very passionate about what I do at Uber.”
Frangopoulos joined Uber in August. She said she had been keeping her eye on the company for some time, fascinated by the work and an avid user of the app herself.
“I had a lot of friends from my undergrad experience that worked at Uber, and I was an avid user of the app myself, and I always had the company on my radar,” she said.
“I noticed the company was expanding its law department, but most openings were popping up in San Francisco. This past summer, right after the birth of my first child, I was on maternity leave, and I saw a posting appear. It was the first time in my life that I read a job posting that screamed at me that this was my job, that I owned that job. It seemed to fit my experience perfectly.”
Before the invention of Uber, before the time of apps and ordering services straight from phones, however, Frangopoulos had a different dream – one of working in a courtroom as a trial lawyer.
“I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer. I didn’t have any lawyers in my family but my parents would probably tell you that it was because I always liked asking questions – I was the inquisitive sibling out of my brothers and sister, the one always to ask why? So I think that naturally just pushed me into this field,” she said.
“I don’t know if it was from watching ‘Law and Order’ or other TV shows, but I definitely wanted to be in the courtroom advocating, and that never changed. The things I was interested in and the classes I took in law school were to push me into a litigation career. That was really my initial focus from day one; I wanted to be a litigator.”
After graduating from law school, she packed up everything she owned and moved to Chicago to pursue her dream of landing a career in the litigation field. With no job leads, she took a job at a restaurant downtown while she researched local firms and networked with attorneys in the area.
She eventually landed her first position with a firm, Parrillo, Weiss & O’Halloran, where she gained invaluable experience that laid the foundation for the rest of her career.
“I waited tables in downtown Chicago for about 10 months while I was searching for a job. And it turned out to be someone I worked with while waitressing that led me to that job. She was able to connect me with her friend who worked at a firm and gave me an interview,” she explained. “It didn’t happen easily and it definitely wasn’t the most direct path to get there, but that first job out of law school was ultimately what gave me the skillset to land me where I am today.”
In her position at Parrillo, Weiss & O’Halloran, Frangopoulos tried more than 40 cases in her first year-and-a-half with the firm, which is more than even some partners see in their entire careers, she said. Her experience and impressive track record eventually caught the attention of a much larger firm, SmithAmundsen LLC. She joined their practice in 2012 and handled a wide variety of civil litigation, including catastrophic losses within the transportation industry.
“They were very interested in the trial work I had, especially at that age—I was only 27 at the time. It was almost unheard of to have someone right off the bat with that kind of early trial experience,” she said. “I represented trucking companies, motor carriers, rail companies, almost any entity that was involved in transportation. It involved defending a lot of catastrophic injuries and high level litigation in federal court and state court. That experience definitely broadened my horizons in terms of what I was handling, it was much more general civil litigation and I was resolving matters in a pre-trial stage via substantive motions or otherwise which was much different than my trial work at Parrillo, Weiss, & O’Halloran.”
Frangopoulos spent several years at SmithAmundsen LLC, honing her expertise in the area of transportation litigation. As she moved further away from spending the majority of her time in the courtroom and began doing more work to settle and mediate issues, Frangopoulos began to consider taking her skills in-house with a company.
“When I was thinking about my work in the transportation industry, my work in the courtroom, and what would be a good fit to go in-house, Uber naturally came to mind,” she explained. “It seemed to fit my experience perfectly. They were looking for someone who could manage a portfolio of litigation, that had knowledge of the transportation world, and had experience in front of juries and analyzing cases.”
Looking back, it seems everything Frangopoulos has done, from law school to her work both inside and outside the courtroom, set her on the path to where she is today.
“I’m a big believer in what Uber is doing as a whole by shaking things up and changing the way the world moves,” she said. “There was a recent article in India about a baby that had been delivered en route to the hospital and the mom had connected to the driver via the Uber App. The fact that Uber has expanded across the globe, and is affecting people’s lives in such a profound way, is amazing. The fact that I am a part of supporting the overall business that is allowing that to happen is really amazing. It’s a company that’s going to make a huge impact on people’s lives. It’s been a really rewarding experience so far.”