Colleen Batcheler brought together the right ingredients to make a
successful career at ConAgra. By Cathleen Flahardy. Photography by Bryce Bridges.
Ever since Colleen Batcheler can remember, she wanted to be a lawyer. She’s not sure why—
there were no lawyers in her family and she doesn’t particularly remember encountering any as a child. But,
she says, it was something she got into her head early on while she was growing up in Rochester, N. Y., and she
never wavered. ¶ When it came time to go to college, her goal to be a lawyer was first priority. So when her parents offered her a free ride to any State University of New York (SUNY) school, she chose SUNY Fredonia and
majored in political science and economics—setting herself up for a life in law. ¶ “I felt I would be an activist
lawyer and have a glamorous life working in the public sector,” she remembers.
Upon graduation, Batcheler headed
to Cleveland to study law at Case Western
Reserve University, and that’s when she
really got to experience law and start
carving her path. While in law school,
Batcheler’s coursework centered on lit-
COLLEGE State University of New York,
LAW SCHOOL Case Western Reserve
University School of Law,
FAMILY Married, 1 daughter
HOBBIES Daughter’s activities and
READING “On China,” by
FAVORITE Orville Redenbacher’s
CONAGRA Pop Up Bowl Popcorn
igation. So when she took a job in the
Sherwin-Williams Co. legal department
during her second year of law school, a
whole new world of law opened up to her.
“I was getting this other experience
at the legal department—M&A and cor-
porate secretary work,” she says. “It led
me to drive my workload into more of a
business and corporate focus, and I just
started loading up on those classes.”
When she finished law school,
Batcheler took an associate position at
Jones Day, where—on her first day—she
looked through the internal “facebook.”
She sought out all the partners who were
doing the work she was interested in and
offered her assistance. Although Batcheler
says she found great satisfaction in her
work at the firm, she decided to leave in
search of work-life balance. And her next
positions set her on course to one day
serve as executive vice president, general
counsel and corporate secretary of one of
the top packaged foods companies in the
country—Con Agra Foods Inc.
Q: What did you do after Jones Day?
A: I took a role with Cleveland Clinic
Foundation. I ultimately left there pretty
quickly because an opportunity to join
Albertsons grocery chain came my way.
The Albertsons GC asked me to come out
to Boise, Idaho, to meet him. He was terrific,
and there were other great leaders there. It
felt right. So we moved to Boise in 2003,
and I stayed there through the company’s
sale to a consortium of buyers in 2006. That
was a complex experience, and it was a bit of
a whirlwind. But it was an amazing learning
experience. Then I joined ConAgra.
Q: How did you end up at ConAgra?
A: ConAgra had a CEO transition in fall
2005, and the new CEO made the decision that he wanted to build the legal
department. Historically, it had a wholly
outsourced legal services model.
I was the fourth lawyer hired as vice
president and chief securities counsel.
So it was a building process where a colleague, Robert F. Sharpe Jr., was asked