Emily A. Kolbe






100 Court Avenue, Suite 600
Des Moines, Iowa, IA 50309


Jayne Bryngelson

Court Admissions

All Iowa Courts

U.S. District Courts, Northern and Southern Districts of Iowa


J.D., University of Iowa, 2014

B.A., Grinnell College (History), 2007

Bar Admissions

Iowa, 2014


Emily Kolbe joined the firm in 2016 and works in the firm’s Litigation, Public Finance, and Education practice groups, primarily serving school districts, local governments, and higher education institutions. She previously served as the leader of the firm's Employment Law Practice Group and the Litigation Practice Group.

Emily’s litigation experience includes representing public entities in defending various claims of retaliation, discrimination and harassment, and constitutional claims, as well as defending administrative complaints before civil rights and other agencies. Emily also has experience at the state and federal appellate levels.

In addition to litigation, Emily advises clients on matters including policies and procedures, contract issues, employee misconduct, construction matters, and compliance with statutory requirements. Since 2024, Emily has also assisted school district and higher education clients with issuing governmental bonds. Emily works with clients in the planning and financing of capital projects, including public meetings, analysis of state law and constitutional authority, and preparing proceedings for the sale and issuance of governmental bonds. Emily assists with finance issues unique to schools, including lease-purchases, elections, and the adoption of special levies and taxes.

Emily is a native of Grinnell, Iowa and received her bachelor’s degree from Grinnell College, where she was captain of its collegiate softball and basketball teams. During law school, Emily served as Editor-in-Chief of the Iowa Law Review and interned with the Honorable Jon S. Scoles, United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, as well as with Ahlers & Cooney. After law school, she served for two years as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Linda R. Reade, United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa.


Iowa State Bar Association

National Association of College and University Attorneys

Polk County Women Attorneys


Best Lawyers in America©, Ones to Watch -- Education Law (2021-2024)

Super Lawyers Great Plains - Employment Litigation: Defense (Rising Star 2023-2024)

Donald P. Lay Award, Faculty Award

Higher Education and the Law, Jurisprudence Award

Van Oosterhaut-Baskerville Moot Court Competition, Finalist


Emily's most recent speaking engagements include:

Iowa State University, Iowa School Business Management Academy, "Legal - Bonding & Contracting," with James Wainwright, April 2024

Ahlers & Cooney P.C., Employment Law Client Seminar, "Defending Employment Litigation," with Lindsay Vaught, April 2023

Ahlers & Cooney P.C., Employment Law Client Seminar, "Attorney Client Privilege," April 2022

Iowa State Bar Association, 2022 Labor and Employment Law Seminar, "Digital/Social Media Evidence Issues in Harassment and Discrimination Cases," November 2022

Iowa Municipal Finance Officers Association, Fall Conference, "Open Records," with Jenna Sabroske, October 2022

Ahlers & Cooney, P.C., Employment Law Webinar Series, "Navigating Employee Leave Issues in a Pandemic Environment - The ADA, FMLA, and More?," with Rebecca Reif and Olivia Brooks, January 2021

Ahlers & Cooney, Employment Law Client Seminar, "Investigations," with Miriam Van Heukelem, November 2019

Ahlers & Cooney, P.C., Webinar, "Assistance / Emotional Support and Service Animals," with Becky Reif, August 2019

Ahlers & Cooney P.C., Webinar, "New Proposed Regulations under Title IX," January 2019

Ahlers & Cooney P.C., Employment Law Client Seminar, "Current FMLA / ADA Issues" with Rebecca Reif, October 2018

Ahlers & Cooney P.C., Employment Law Client Seminar, "EEOC Guidelines on Retaliation," November 2016

Published Articles & Books

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” Living with Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, 99 Iowa L. Rev. 415 (2013)

Professional, Community and Civic Leadership

Iowa Legal Aid, Central Iowa Regional Office Advisory Council

Young Women’s Resource Center, Volunteer

Drake Adult Literacy Center, Tutor

Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute, Class of 2018-2019