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Women to Watch: Where are they now …

Posted On: Mar. 8, 2016 12:00 AM CST

It's been 10 years since Business Insurance started the Women to Watch program. To celebrate that anniversary, during 2016 we are running a series of occasional articles catching up with some of our honorees.

Stasia Kelly

Partner, co-managing partner (Americas)

DLA Piper L.L.P.

Washington D.C.

2006 Women to Watch

Executive vice president, general counsel, senior regulatory and compliance officer

American International Group Inc.

New York

To Stasia Kelly, retirement isn't in the cards.

At 66, she's a partner at DLA Piper L.L.P., a top global law firm, and has collected a fair share of accolades — readers of law-trade journals have seen her name listed among the best of the best on at least three occasions in the past two years. She's a regular lecturer at conferences and other events around the world. She sits on the boards of two public companies and mentors young lawyers.

She says she'll keep going as long as she enjoys the work.

“I would say that I think my generation is realizing that life doesn't end at 65 like it did a generation ago,” she said. “You can continue to do what you love, as long as you are healthy, and to me, this is where I want to be. I can't see myself on a beach unless it's vacation.”

Her experience spans decades and includes work as outside and insurance counsel, working closely with boards of directors, general counsel and in-house legal teams to help clients design and implement effective governance and compliance programs. She also advises boards and executives on crisis management.

No longer in the insurance industry per se—she worked at AIG for three years — Ms. Kelly says her work is not unlike what she did in the legal department of one of the country's largest insurance companies.

She joined DLA Piper in 2010 as a partner and then, in 2013, was named a co-managing partner of DLA Piper Americas, the first women to hold that position. Besides that, she co-chairs the Global Governance and Compliance practice and is a member of the firm's Global Board and Executive Committee.

“I deal with people all the time, I work with clients all the time and I do a lot of work internally with my partners,” she said. “When I was at AIG, I ran a large legal department and I interacted a lot with members of the C-suite. When you are dealing with people in whatever capacity, there are a lot of similarities.”

Ms. Kelly's departure from AIG made headlines; she didn't accept a pay cut under the AIG bailout orchestrated by President Barack Obama's administration at the height of the financial crisis. The move would have halved her salary; instead she left the embattled company with a severance reported by Reuters as $2.8 million.

“I look fondly at my time at AIG because I was there at the height of the crisis,” she said. “There is nothing better than a good crisis for a lawyer.”

Before AIG she was general counsel for several major companies and is credited with helping MCI/WorldCom MCI Inc. (formed by the merger of MCI Communications Corp. and WorldCom Inc.) out of bankruptcy before the telecommunications giant was bought by Verizon Communications Inc. in 2006. In 1999 Ms. Kelly was recruited by Sears Roebuck and Co. as a senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary to help the large Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based retailer manage compliance and credit woes.

She uses her experience to not only help clients but also to mentor a number of women lawyers. She is also a member of DLA Piper's Leadership Alliance for Women, an initiative that works to hire, retain and advance female lawyers.

As a mother, Ms. Kelly said she likes to encourage women. A story well-known among her colleagues, she was in labor with her twin boys when she took a conference call — dedication that kept her on the track to partner at the Washington D.C. law firm now known as Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr L.L.P.

Today her 26-year-old sons work for hedge funds in New York.

Among her best advice is to take risks but to listen to your instincts.

“The one thing you have to be is true to your moral compass,” she said. “You have to listen to that little voice when something looks like it is not right, it probably isn't. You owe it to yourself to look into it. It's part instinct, part judgment.”

Watch for the next profile in our "Where are they now..." series next month. You can read previous "Where are they now..." profiles by visiting this page.

To read the 2006 interview with Ms. Kelly click here.

To read profiles of all the Business Insurance Women to Watch since 2006 click here.