Elizabeth A. Heffernan






100 Court Avenue, Suite 600
Des Moines, IA 50309


Rachel Ogden

Court Admissions

All Iowa Courts

U.S. District Court – Northern District of Iowa


J.D. (with Distinction), University of Iowa College of Law, 2017

B.A., Buena Vista University (English and Political Science), 2014

Bar Admissions

Iowa, 2017


Elizabeth joined the firm in 2019 as a member of the Education Law Practice Area, focused in the areas of student issues, litigation, board governance, and employment law. She currently serves as chair of the firm's Charitable Actions committee.

Working with K-12 school districts and Higher Education institutions, she assists clients on a variety of issues, including those related to accessibility, accommodations, student programming, student rights and discipline, and special education. Her practice includes drafting and negotiating contracts, policies, and procedures to assist clients with maintaining legal compliance in their day-to-day operations. As a member of the firm’s Employment Law and Litigation Practice Groups, she works with education clients on various human resources and other employment law matters, including employee discipline and terminations, employment contracts, drafting and revising employment policies, and investigations related to employment.

Prior to joining Ahlers & Cooney, Elizabeth spent two years as a Judicial Law Clerk for the Honorable Leonard T. Strand, Federal District Judge, United States District Court, Northern District of Iowa. She also worked with Judge Strand as a Judicial Extern for a summer during law school, and as a Summer Associate with O’Connor & Thomas, P.C.

During law school at The University of Iowa, Elizabeth served as Note and Comment Editor for the Iowa Law Review, as President of the Organization of Women Law Students and Staff, as a volunteer with the Innocence Project of Iowa, and tutored in the law school’s Writing Resource Center. Elizabeth is a native of Sioux City, Iowa and received her bachelor’s degree from Buena Vista University, where she was Mock Trial Team Captain, Campus Newspaper Copy Editor, Innocence Project of Iowa volunteer, and Women’s Tennis Co-Captain. She spent a semester in Washington, D.C. as an intern with the Marzulla Law firm, through The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars.


American Bar Association

Iowa State Bar Association

Polk County Bar Association

Polk County Women Attorneys

Iowa Council of School Board Attorneys


Marjorie Holmes Literary Scholarship, Buena Vista University

Harry Blackmun Award, Buena Vista University

President’s Scholarship, Buena Vista University

Burke Leadership Award, The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars


Elizabeth's most recent speaking engagements include:

Iowa Association of School Boards, Annual Convention, "Public Schools & Employee Contracts," with Aaron Hilligas, November 2023

Ahlers & Cooney, Employment Law Client Seminar, "Focus on ADA," with Jazmine Polk and Rebecca Reif, April 2023

Iowa Municipal Professionals Institute, "Administrative Law," with Logan Brundage, February 2023

Iowa Principal Leadership Academy, "Student Rights and Public Employee Rights," November 2022

Iowa Municipal Professional Academy, "Essentials of Human Resources," with Ann Smisek, July 2022

Ahlers & Cooney, Employment Law Client Seminar, "What's on the Horizon?," with Rebecca Reif, April 2022

Iowa Municipal Professionals Institute, "Administrative Law," with Olivia Brooks, February 2022

Iowa Municipal Attorneys Association, "Hot Topics in Employment Law," with Katherine Beenken, November 2021

Iowa State Association of Counties, Annual Conference, “Hot Topics in Human Resources” Part I and Part II, with Katherine Beenken, August 2021

National Business Institute, IEP and 504 Plan Legal Workshop, “Discipline and Expulsion Essentials Under IDEA and Section 504,” May 2021

Iowa Employment Conference, "Impact of Political Speech and Racial Protest Issues in the Workplace," with Aaron Hilligas, April 2021

Ahlers & Cooney, P.C., Employment Law Webinar Series, "Impact of Politics and Racial Harassment Issues," with Danielle Haindfield and Aaron Hilligas, February 2021

School Administrators of Iowa, 2021 School Law Conference, "Chapter 103" with Carrie Weber, February 2021 

Ahlers & Cooney, P.C., Webinar, "Final Chapter 103 Rules Adopted," with Katherine Beenken, Miriam Van Heukelem, and Carrie Weber, December 2020

National Business Institute, Special Education Law from A to Z Seminar, “Developing and Implementing Defensible IEPs,” with Katherine Beenken, December 2019 

Published Articles & Books

Special Ed Connection, LRP Media Group, "How Should a District Respond if Parents Seek a Publicly-Funded Independent FBA?," April 29, 2022

Note, “It Will Be Good for You,” They Said: Ensuring Internships Actually Benefit the Intern and Why It Matters for FLSA and Title VII Claims, 102 Iowa L. Rev. 1757 (2017)

Professional, Community and Civic Leadership

Assistant High School Mock Trial Coach, (2023-2024)

Everybody Wins! Iowa, Board of Directors (2022-2024), Recruitment Committee

Des Moines Public Library, Volunteer, (2022 - present)