Stasia Kelly, managing partner of the Americas for DLA Piper, has been on a quest for gender equality for years. After graduating from George Washington University Law School in 1981, Kelly wanted to stay with her employer Martin Marietta because the company had paid her way through law school.
The company’s chief executive officer sent Kelly to the general counsel to inquire about a job in the law department, which had 70 to 80 lawyers at the time. Kelly recalled that the general counsel’s response to her was “we already have a woman on the staff.”
“It was kind of stunning,” she said.
Kelly, the daughter of an Irish cop who had encouraged her to have a career in the law, did not make an issue of the general counsel’s remark.
“I was disappointed that he said that, but I had the freedom to go my own way,” she said.
Her first job as a lawyer was with Carrington Coleman Sloman & Blumenthal in Dallas, where her husband, Tom, was to be the regional head of the FBI. After four years, Kelly returned to Washington, D.C., to became first an associate and then a partner in Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering. Her practice covered several areas of law, including regulation of financial institutions and securities firms. She said her twin sons were born the year she was up for partner at Wilmer, Cutler.
“It all worked out, but it was a particularly stressful situation,” Kelly added.
After deciding to go in-house, Kelly served as senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary for Fannie Mae from 1995 to March 1999. That was the beginning of her 15-years as a general counsel that included working for Sears Rosebuck and Company, MCI/World Comm and AIG.
AIG played a major role in the 2008 financial crisis and ultimately received a $180 billion bailout from the federal government. “The most significant thing I’ve done as a lawyer was help shepherd AIG through its financial crisis,” Kelly said.
But Kelly also said that being able to pay forward to help young lawyers is a part of her being. “She is fabulous,” Suzanne Rich Folsom, former general counsel and senior vice president for United States Steel Corp., said of Kelly. Folsom served as Kelly’s deputy general counsel at AIG and sings her praise.
“Every young lawyer, and especially female lawyers, should have a Stasia Kelly in their corner. She is an outstanding mentor and sponsor literally to hundreds of people,” Folsom said. “She’s always found the time, even with the busy jobs she’s had,” Folsom said. “She’s never stopped helping others and mentoring others.”
Kelly returned to private practice in 2010, joining DLA Piper in Washington, D.C., and becoming its first female managing partner in 2013. She has worked to help other women advance in their careers. Among other things, Kelly helped to found her firm’s Leadership Alliance for Women, which fosters internal networking, facilitates the flow of information and empowers women lawyers by developing leadership skills and creating business development opportunities. LAW runs a number of programs, including a high-profile initiative designed to get more women into the leadership ranks of the firm.
Kelly noted that her firm has committed to the Mansfield Rule, a national initiative that requires at least 30 percent diversity, including gender diversity, in the candidate pools for lateral hires, promotions to partnership and appointment to leadership roles. In 2018, DLA Piper achieved Mansfield Certification Plus status, meaning that not only did the firm have at least 30 percent diversity in the candidate pools, but also in the actual results. Kelly’s leadership and engagement in these initiatives and many more, is a true reflection of her sponsorship of women and other diverse lawyers.