InsideCounsel’s second annual Transformative Leadership Awards dinner did more than meet its goal of honoring women general counsel and law firm partners who have demonstrated a commitment to advancing the empowerment of women. It also served up in almost equal parts inspiration and humor, as well as a few touching moments. And it was notable most of all for the energy that seemed to charge the Fairmont Chicago ballroom, which was packed with more than 400 in-house and law firm attorneys.

“For those of you wondering why you are here, it is because you are supporting something really worthwhile,” said co-host Michele Coleman Mayes, chief legal officer of Allstate, as she welcomed the guests. “More importantly, you are here to get your batteries recharged because there is amazing energy in this room.”

The winners of the seven awards—including two new awards introduced this year—comprised general counsel who have excelled both in mentoring women to new levels of success in-house and in increasing the economic empowerment of women partners at law firms by sending substantial business their way. The winning firms and law firm partners provide women with mentoring and networking opportunities and include significant numbers of women on key committees.

Many of the honorees spoke of their award as a tribute to those who helped them achieve success and a symbol that will spur them to continue to boost the careers of young women lawyers.

Cigna GC Carol Ann Petren summed it up as she accepted the Anastasia D. Kelly Award, named for her own mentor. “I take this as my commitment to do for others what you have done for me,” she told Kelly, “to help women recognize their dreams and accomplish things even they never thought possible.”

Others noted that they felt humbled by the honor. Thomas A. Mars Pathmaker Award Winner Kim Koopersmith, managing partner- U. S. of Akin Gump, said it with a twist: “When I start to hear so many nice things said about me, I think of what Golda Meir said—‘Don’t be humble … you aren’t that great.’”

The crowd chuckled, but the response as the winners took the stage to accept their awards was an outpouring of respect, admiration and appreciation for their commitment to advancing women in law.

The honorees were chosen by an eminent national awards committee of law firm and legal department leaders, co-chaired by Coleman Mayes and Cathleen Flahardy, editor-in-chief of InsideCounsel. Coleman Mayes described the committee’s task as challenging but satisfying.

“It was a very tough choice, but in the end, we are very proud of the award class selected,” Coleman Mayes said. “These folks understand something very basic. Essentially, it is this: What you do for yourself dies with you. What you do for others and the world remains and is immortal.”


See the expanded interview with Stasia Kelly.

Mentoring to the Top: Q&A with Stasia Kelly

Anastasia D. “Stasia” Kelly, a partner in the White Collar, Corporate Crime and Investigations practice at DLA Piper, was a trailblazing woman general counsel, holding the post at Fannie Mae, Sears, MCI/WorldCom and American International Group (AIG), where she became vice chairman. In honor of her lifelong commitment to mentoring women, a Transformative Leadership Award is named for her, and she co-hosted this year’s awards dinner with Allstate CLO Michele Coleman Mayes.

Q: What does mentoring mean to you?

A:For me it’s a combination of mentoring and networking. I think of myself as the mother of all networkers. Women know how to network the personal stuff, like where to find the best hairdresser, but when it comes to making connections for business purposes, it always has seemed harder for women, like they are taking advantage of friendship when they ask for business or get professional advice from a friend. I always thought that was a mistake. We were missing a huge advantage that the guys were getting out on the golf course. The boundaries between mentoring and networking fall away when I am doing what comes naturally to me, which is saying “Gee, I think this person would be great doing X, or I would really like you to connect with Y, or this is a team where I think this person would thrive.”

Q: How would you assess the progress of women during your 30 years in law?

A: It doesn’t bowl me over. You would have thought, given the number of women lawyers, you could have 50 percent of the general counsel be women by now. And we are not even near that. Why is it that after all these years we haven’t cracked that glass ceiling? We have moved it up a floor or two, but we haven’t cracked it. There’s a million reasons, but a lot of it is that women don’t mentor each other in a positive way.

Q: Do you see that changing?

A: I’ve seen in the past three to five years a focus on women networking with women and women mentoring women for the purpose of doing good things. Doing this mentoring and networking is not about a quid pro quo. If you do it to get something out of it, it’s not going to work. If you do it because it’s the right thing to do, it is going to come back to you in a hundred different ways, though you never know when, where or how.

Q: What do women need to do to advance women lawyers?

A: In the corporate world, there’s a competitiveness and a jealousy [among women] that spills over from the personal side to the professional side. The most successful women I know understand that is something they had to leave behind in adolescence. They figure out there is power in numbers and power in coming together. I did not have a lot of women in my peer group, and those I did have never wanted competition—they liked being the only women in the boardroom, the only women on the senior executive team. That’s what is changing. Women see the benefit of having other women on the management teams they’re on. They see how powerful it can be to have other people who think like you because you have more ability to transform behavior. We have to encourage that change and recognize that we can be our own worst enemies.

New Awards

The 2011 Transformative Leadership Awards dinner introduced two new awards—the Mary Ann Hynes Pioneer Award and the Thomas A. Mars Pathmaker Award—bringing the total number of awards to seven.

The Mary Ann Hynes Pioneer Award honors a woman general counsel who has transformed being the “first” into being a catalyst for change. It is named for the SVP, general counsel, corporate secretary and chief compliance officer of Corn Products International.

During Mary Ann Hynes’ career, she has been the “first” many times—including becoming, in 1979, the first general counsel of a Fortune 500 company. She also was the first general counsel of CCH Inc., a leading legal publisher; the first woman officer of aerospace company Sundstrand Corp.; the first woman member of the North Shore General Counsel Association; and the first woman officer of the Chicago Crime Commission.

A video tribute highlighting Hynes’ career achievements noted that “as her star has risen, she makes sure other stars are rising, too.”

Hynes presented the award to Deirdre Stanley, EVP and general counsel of  Thomson Reuters, a rising star whom Hynes described as “bearing the light of the future.”

The Thomas A. Mars Pathmaker Award is presented to a law firm managing partner or senior leader whose courage, unyielding vision, integrity, conviction and authenticity have accelerated the economic empowerment of attorneys of color or women in law firms.

The award is named for the EVP and chief administrative officer for Wal-Mart U.S., who, among other responsibilities, leads the company’s diversity and employment policies and practices.

Thomas Mars joined Wal-Mart as general counsel in 2002. In his first two years, he dramatically improved the legal department’s diversity metrics, hiring diverse attorneys from all over the country. He also held outside law firms accountable for improving their diversity numbers. By moving $60 million in legal fees to diverse relationship partners, he empowered those attorneys within their own firms.

“He used Wal-Mart’s economic power to make a substantial impact, helping women and minorities reach their full potential,” co-host Stasia Kelly said.

Mars was unable to attend the awards dinner because he was on-site with the Wal-Mart team in Joplin, Mo., which had been hit by a devastating tornado a few days earlier. Wal-Mart pledged $1 million to relief efforts in Joplin, where 142 people died and thousands of homes and 300 businesses, including a Wal-Mart store, were destroyed.

Kim Koopersmith, managing partner-U.S. for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, received the inaugural Thomas A. Mars Pathmaker Award.


Economic Empowerment Firm-wide Policies Award Winner: Reed Smith

Honored for: Significant percentages of women on the executive, equity partnership and compensation committees, and policies that promote cultural diversity and lead to the economic empowerment of women, including an origination credit policy that rewards at least three attorneys on every matter.

“This award recognizes a law firm that has made significant strides in advancing women by measuring what matters—not the hemline or the hips, but the percentage of women on [key management committees].” —Co-host Michele Coleman Mayes


Economic Empowerment Rainmaker Award Winner: Ellen Bastier, partner, Reed Smith

Honored For: Leadership of the firm’s Renewable Energy Team, and generating a book of business that exceeds $10 million annually.

“Ellen started her career when renewable energy wasn’t taken seriously and women weren’t involved in the energy industry. She is a great example of finding a niche in a fledgling industry where opportunity exists.” —Co-host Stasia Kelly


Economic Empowerment: Sharing the Power Award Winners: Teri Plummer McClure, SVP, GC and corporate secretary, United Parcel Service, and Kelly-Ann Gibbs Cartwright, head of Holland & Knight’s Miami office and relationship partner for UPS

Honored for: Working together since the late 1990s in a partnership that has led them both to highly successful careers, as well as a mutual commitment to help other women and minorities—Gibbs Cartwright by serving on the firm’s Women’s Advisory Committee and mentoring other women to partnership, and Plummer McClure by creating a reporting program that requires outside firms to increase the number of women and minorities serving as managing partners on UPS matters.

On Gibbs Cartwright: “Her role [on the UPS account] provided her the opportunity to assign work to other female and minority attorneys. This is a woman who pays it forward.” —Coleman Mayes

On Plummer McClure: “She has played an active role in advancing women to roles of leadership. She is a force to be reckoned with.” —Coleman Mayes


Pamela L. Carter Award Winner: Nadia Dombrowski, SVP and lead region counsel, U.S. Markets, MasterCard Worldwide

Honored for: Leading an all-female team that supports between 40 percent and 50 percent of the company’s revenues; contributing through her membership on MasterCard’s Women’s Leadership Network to the advancement of women’s careers through mentoring and coaching.

“When you think of Nadia, she is priceless. For everything else, there is MasterCard.” —Coleman Mayes


Anastasia D. Kelly Award Winner: Carol Ann Petren, EVP and GC, Cigna

Honored for: Her commitment to fostering women leaders, including recruiting and cultivating female professionals and guiding them on balancing the demands of work and family.

“This is a particularly special award because Carol is the embodiment of all the mentoring and networking I have done in my career. … She has made an enormous contribution [at Cigna], and one important part of her job has been mentoring people on her own team … so the mentoring has come full circle.” —Kelly


Mary Ann Hynes Pioneer Award Winner: Deirdre Stanley, EVP and GC, Thomson Reuters

Honored for: Innovative programs encouraging diversity, including the Legal Associate Program, which offers in-house experience, networking and targeted skills training to junior law firm associates.

“Deirdre is bearing the light of the future … and there are many new trails to be blazed.” —Mary Ann Hynes


Thomas A. Mars Pathmaker Award Winner: Kim Koopersmith, managing partner-U.S., Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

Honored for: Leading efforts to recruit, retain and promote women and attorneys of color, and leading the adoption of a reduced workload policy for working parents so Akin Gump lawyers seeking flexibility to manage family care responsibilities need not step off the partnership track.

“Kim has worked tirelessly on pipeline programs to put more women and minorities on the path to a legal career.” —Kelly