Winston & Strawn's Washington, D.C. offices on K Street.
Winston & Strawn’s Washington, D.C. offices on K Street. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)

Winston & Strawn is expanding its talent team following its addition earlier this year of chief talent officer Susan Manch by recruiting three new directors.

The firm announced this week that Diane Costigan, Sylvia James and Julia Mercier had joined its ranks in recent weeks as a part of a firmwide effort to create and develop an efficient talent strategy and structure for Winston & Strawn’s lawyers and staff.

“The firm undertook a strategic planning effort last year and they really dug deep to figure out where does the firm need to be to continue to be successful and really begin to differentiate itself,” said Manch, a veteran law firm consultant who joined Winston & Strawn in May after spending almost two years as chief of people and development at Norton Rose Fulbright.

One of the things that Winston & Strawn’s leadership identified was that there wasn’t a defined talent strategy within the firm, Manch said.

“They weren’t really thinking about are we looking for the right people, are we doing everything we can to attract the best and brightest, are we paying attention to the diversity of our classes who are coming in and who are being developed, mentored and promoted, are we doing everything we need to do to prepare our lawyers to meet this more competitive environment than our most senior partners grew up in,” Manch said.

Winston & Strawn’s hire of Manch started its effort to begin building a talent structure that would develop and deliver offerings to its lawyers and staff, a process that necessitated the additions of Costigan, James and Mercier.

“I was very impressed with [Winston & Strawn’s] emphasis on talent strategy,” said Mercier, who joined the firm in late July as its director of learning and development. “To come [here] at a time when there is a focus on talent and development, a new team in place and a lot of momentum and room to innovate is really exciting and a great opportunity.”

Mercier spent the past two years working alongside Manch at Norton Rose Fulbright, where Mercier also served as director of learning and development. Before that Mercier had worked as a professional development manager at K&L Gates and been a litigation associate at leading Canadian firm Borden Ladner Gervais.

Costigan, a career coaching and legal consultant who spent a decade as senior director of professional development and organizational effectiveness at now-defunct LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, joined Winston & Strawn in August as director of coaching. James, most recently a diversity counsel at Baker Botts in Washington, D.C., left that firm after nearly 11 years to become director of diversity and inclusion at Winston & Strawn.

All three new directors said they did not use the services of a legal recruiter in deciding to join Winston & Strawn, although they acknowledged that Manch, a former partner at talent management firm SJL Shannon (now known as Volta Talent Strategies), was the primary reason for them coming aboard. Each member of the new talent trifecta will be working on developing programs and strategies to tackle some of Big Law’s toughest talent issues.

Part of James’ efforts at Winston & Strawn will be focused on developing strategies to tackle the ever-perplexing diversity pipeline issue that many large law firms face today. Mercier’s new role will see her build a program that is tailored toward developing leadership and business development skills for lawyers at every level that many of them don’t necessarily learn in law school. Mercier will also help develop Winston University, a firmwide coaching tool to be used to bring together lawyers at various points in their careers.

Costigan’s arrival at the firm coincided with several lateral additions by the firm that included a 10-lawyer team in August from Norton Rose Fulbright—following the latter’s combination with Chadbourne & Parke—so much of her initial attention at Winston & Strawn was placed on coaching lawyers through their transition. The other portion of her new role at Winston & Strawn will be to build and rollout a coaching infrastructure and gather data to measure its success.

“A huge draw was the fact that I get to build this role because it didn’t exist previously,” Costigan said. “That’s another nod to how committed [the firm] to talent development.”

Costigan believes that Winston & Strawn’s talent recruitment team will be just the beginning in terms of Am Law 100 firms bringing their coaching efforts in-house.

“It gives you the ability to give everyone access to coaching in some way, shape or form,” Costigan said. “To have someone in-house cuts down all that ramp-up time and can make the coaching more impactful.”

Such moves also allow law firms to be nimble in their approach and cut down on the time that outside consultants would take in learning a specific firm’s culture and its personnel, she added.

Winston & Strawn has been extremely active this year in the lateral market, bringing on McGuireWoods derivatives head John Servidio earlier this month as a partner in New York. The firm also recently welcomed employee benefits partners Anne Becker and Jamie Weyeneth in Chicago, where they have rejoined at least 10 former colleagues from McDermott Will & Emery that moved to Winston & Strawn in July.