Aaron J. Hilligas






100 Court Ave, Suite 600
Des Moines, IA 50309

Court Admissions

All Iowa Courts

 District of Columbia Court of Appeals

 U.S. Court of Appeals – Second Circuit

U.S. District Court – Western District of Wisconsin


 J.D., University of Wisconsin, 2002

 B.A., University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 1998

Bar Admissions

Iowa, 2017

District of Columbia, 2007


Aaron Hilligas joined the firm in 2017 and is a member of the firm’s Public Law Practice Area, serving municipalities, higher education and K-12 educational institutions. He advises clients on a variety of labor and employment related matters and represents employers in collective bargaining contract negotiations, in cases before the Public Employment Relations Board and in other administrative hearings, and in grievance arbitrations. Aaron also assists employers in contract administration, the development and implementation of employee handbooks and policies, personnel issues, conducting workplace investigations, and the navigation of the labor nuances tied to the receipt of federal transit funds.

Prior to Ahlers & Cooney, Aaron worked in the Office of the General Counsel for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, DC. With the NLRB, he developed legal theories pursued by General Counsel, advised regions on litigation strategy, and represented the agency in injunction cases on appeal.

He has also worked in-house as an attorney with labor organizations representing a variety of industries in the public and private sectors. In these roles, he was involved in collective bargaining, contract enforcement and strategic campaigns, arbitrated and litigated disputes, and advised on policies, internal employee issues, regulatory compliance, organizing, employee benefits and internal governance.

While at the University of Wisconsin, Aaron served as Articles Editor for the Wisconsin International Law Journal, was a judicial intern with the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and got his start in labor and employment law by working as a law clerk with the employment law division of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Office of Legal Affairs.


Iowa State Bar Association

Polk County Bar Association


Best Lawyers in America© (2021)

  • Employment Law - Management


Aaron's most recent speaking engagements include:
Iowa State Association of Counties, Webinar, “Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and Unemployment Insurance:  HR and Payroll Questions,” with Ann Smisek, April 2020

Ahlers & Cooney, Employment Law Client Seminar, "Removal of Public Official," November 2019

October Metro Managers Meeting, “First Amendment Audit,” October 2019

IASB, Employee Relations Conference, “Understanding HF 291 Two Years Later,” October 2019

Iowa League of Cities, Annual Conference, “Social Media, the Workplace, and Employee Speech,” with Ann Smisek, September 2019

Iowa Municipal Professionals, 2019 Iowa Municipal Professionals Institute, “Administrative Law” with Kristine Stone, July 2019

Iowa State Association of Counties, Spring Conference, “Employees cannot say that…or can they? – Off Duty Employee Speech” with Ann Smisek, March 2019

Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities, Muni Law 101 Workshop, "Open Meetings & Open Records" and "Collective Bargaining," with Ann Smisek, January 2019 

Iowa Association of School Business Officials, Webinar, "Collective Bargaining and Negotiations" with Ann Smisek, November 2018 & December 2017

Ahlers & Cooney P.C., Employment Law Client Seminar, "Chapter 20 Update & Public Records Under Chapter 22,"  October 2018


Professional, Community and Civic Leadership

Iowa State Bar Association, Labor and Employment Law Section Council (2019-2020)

Iowa Legal Aid, Volunteer Intake Attorney

Youth Baseball Coach, Beaverdale Little League and Raccoon Valley Little League