Stephanie M. Monaco, Partner, Mayer Brown LLP
How long have you been working for your current company?
Approximately 7 years.
Briefly explain your career history and what led you to your current position.
My first job after passing the bar in 1982 was at the Securities and Exchange Commission in its Division of Investment Management responsible for overseeing mutual funds, other investment companies and investment advisers. At that time, I didn’t know what a mutual fund was. I left the SEC in 1986 for a brief stint in private practice and returned to the SEC and the same Division in 1988. I went back to private practice in 1991 and have been with large law firms ever since.
What is your proudest professional achievement and why?
One of my proudest professional achievements was going back to the SEC from private practice. I took a substantial cut in pay to do so but the decision allowed me to realign my career path in the area of the law that I enjoyed the most.
What are the greatest challenges that you face in your current role and what do you do to overcome them?
One of the greatest challenges in my current role is to ensure that there is enough work to keep those in our group busy. This challenge has been particularly acute in the past few years when the economy has compelled clients and prospects to tighten the belt on outside legal spends.
How difficult is it for you personally to attain work-life balance and how do you endeavour to do this?
I don’t think it is possible to “attain” work-life balance; only a goal to seek. It helps to be surrounded by understanding people at both home and work who are willing and eager to make things run smoothly. When work is overwhelming, those at home help make life tolerable and vice versa when home and family needs are more pressing than work. It also helps to disengage from work when at home and, again, vice versa while at work. But I try to give 100% of myself whether at home or at work and try not to allow one to crowd in to the other.
Did you have a mentor or role model in your career or while you were studying law? Who were they and how did they help you?
Yes, Kathryn B. McGrath was my mentor and role model. She made me challenge myself to be the best lawyer I could be. She would frequently send me back to read the most basic of laws/rules no matter how well I thought I knew them. She would make me dig for answers and if something didn’t seem right, search for the correct solution. She was and continues to be the most ethical lawyer I know so sticking to the right principles, no matter how unpopular, was her rule of life and practice and entrenched itself in me. She was the best lawyer I have ever practiced with.
How effective do you think corporate diversity initiatives are? What methods do you think are most effective and why?
I would like to believe that diversity issues are curing themselves as the older generation engrained in old, gender-biased thinking, retires.
What do you think have been the most significant changes for women in the legal industry over the past five years?
More flexible working arrangements and the open-mindedness to allowing woman to work from home have made it easier for women to take care of children and home issues and continue to advance in their careers.