How Stacey Hallerman Created Her Own Destiny with a Relentless & Inspiring Desire to Take Initiative
By Akunna Ofodu • March 03, 2018•Ms. JD, Conference
Stacey Hallerman is the definition of finding a need and filling it. For 6 years while working for a boutique food and drug law firm, she realized that her firm was outsourcing intellectual property work to other law firms and took it upon herself to learn trademark law. She bought books and studied IP law, specifically trademark applications that normally would be delegated to other firms. Inevitably by learning IP law, Stacey saved her firm thousands of dollars and grew as an IP lawyer.
With every positon that Stacey took on, she made a point to never leave the firm or business the same as when she got there. She was the first Job Share at Pfizer, starting out as a part-time attorney and turned that position into an 11-year long career. She then moved to Richemont North America, a luxury goods company which owns brands such as Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels. Prior to Stacey’s employment at Richemont, there had been no US counsel, she single-handedly built the legal department.
After Stacey started in the legal department at Richemont, she took on more responsibility and became General Counsel. With no real mentors of her own, Stacey created opportunities for herself but knowing that she didn’t have a mentor she kept in mind to always keep an open door and help other women. Despite the challenges faced, she has always tried to give back by mentoring and promoting women throughout her career.
In this interview, she elaborates on the numerous life lessons she has learned and gives advice for those new into the legal field. Stacey has an open-door policy when it comes to utilizing networking possibilities. As one of the 2018 Ms. JD Conference speakers, https://ms-jd.org/annual-conference/conference-speakers/ she continues her aspirations to help those behind her gain opportunities for success.
As a wife, mother, and attorney; you took off work to focus on your family, how were you able to balance it all and get back into a lucrative career?
The legal profession is not forgiving for women to take time off to raise a family, I had to make sure that I had my hand in the law in some fashion and I did little things to keep my mind fresh, I found opportunities to add value and keep my name out there and to make sure that there wasn’t this huge gap in my resume. During those 4 years I worked as a temporary attorney through Special Counsel (temp lawyer company), worked on document production, appellate briefs, wrote an article and handled other assignments even if only a few times a year I figured out a way to balance my career and stay home with my children when they were very young.
When you first started working as an attorney, there was still a “big boys club” mentality in the legal field. How did you handle it?
I definitely encountered sexual harassment early in my career, comments, statements, and inappropriate behavior. There was an overwhelming pressure to try and be “one of the guys.” I started working in the late ’80s and as a young associate, I certainly had my share of inappropriate comments made to me and in front of me. It was difficult at times to navigate through this world and I certainly faced a “can’t you just take a joke” or “be one of the guys” mentality. I never felt comfortable going to HR to raise concerns but at the same time, I didn’t want to accept this behavior. My method was to speak directly to people and tell them I was uncomfortable and ask them to stop which was generally well received. Once I went in-house the climate was very different and I could immediately tell that there was awareness and sensitivity training on this subject and this behavior was not tolerated.
You didn’t have any mentors through your career path, knowing what you know now, what would you tell your younger self?
I am a fiercely independent person and have a habit of not taking help from other people, always showing I can do this on my own. But as I self-reflect, maybe I was closed off to having a mentor because of this and had I been more open to accepting help from other people I could have benefited from having people that supported and guided me throughout my career. I had a few people I reached out to for advice on occasion, but there was no consistency in the relationship, and I don’t think I got everything I could from a meaningful relationship. I wish I had known that it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help or advice, but it is actually a sign of strength.
I would tell my younger self not to sweat the small stuff, not to take everything so serious. I spent the bulk of my earlier years concerned about being perfect. There is such a thing as analysis-paralysis. I used to make sure that I had the right answer instead of just getting an answer. Sometimes you can get tripped up on making sure you have the right answer, overthinking things and not able to let go unless you are 100% sure. But sometimes there isn’t a right answer, you have to pick a position and go for it. Having learned that over the years has made me an infinitely better lawyer.
You’ve been in the legal field for almost 30 years is there any advice you could give to a newly graduated law student?
Own your own destiny. Manage your own career. Take risks. Be Decisive. Build relationships. Leave your comfort zone. Broaden your lane. It is great to have mentors and sponsors but at the end of the day, it is really up to you to take control of your career. I started at Richemont as IP counsel and two years later I became General Counsel. At the time, I chalked it up to luck. But the fact is I took a huge risk in leaving a very comfortable job handling IP work at Pfizer, and taking a newly created position as the first lawyer at Richemont in the US. I was used to being a subject matter expert in IP law and I knew there would be many areas of law I had not practiced in. I had to get comfortable saying “I don’t know but I can get you the answer”. My advice is to stretch yourself beyond what you even think your capabilities are and take risks. It is ok if you learn on the job. Learning this lesson gave me the confidence to continually take on more responsibility and grow not just as a lawyer but as a business professional.
NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK. Just keep connecting with people you do know and ask them to connect you with people you don’t know. You don’t know who is on the other side of that connection but more importantly, it is rewarding to also be the person who can connect other people, and it always comes back in leaps and bounds. Just keep connecting, joining associations, and getting your name out there.
What is your personal definition of success?
Personal growth. Being happy with what you do every day. Being a respected and contributing member to society.