2009 Women to Watch: Susan A. StonePosted On: Dec. 6, 2009 12:00 AM CST
Sidley Austin L.L.P.
Susan A. Stone is a litigation partner in Sidley Austin L.L.P.'s Chicago office and is co-head of the firm's global insurance and reinsurance disputes practice. She leads a team of approximately 35 lawyers in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and London focusing on insurance and reinsurance matters. In November 2008, Ms. Stone was elected president of AIDA Reinsurance and Insurance Arbitration Society, a nonprofit corporation based in Mount Vernon, N.Y., with more than 1,000 members that is dedicated to promoting the integrity of the arbitration process. Throughout her career, Ms. Stone has represented insurance industry leaders including American International Group Inc., Aon Corp., Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., Liberty Mutual Group Inc. and General Re Corp.
Best professional advice you've received: It was actually from a trial lawyer here at Sidley. There is this whole mystique about trying cases and there's a lot of pressure involved with it, but he said it really boils down to two things: One, tell the story; and two, be of good cheer. I try to set a fun tone in the courtroom. Obviously, these are important issues and they are important to our clients, and so much of what we do is counseling and handholding, but to the extent that we can hear and appreciate people's anxiety and frustration and anger and yet not succumb to that ourselves…it's like being a really good shrink.
Advice for women entering the field: You need to fight to preserve the balance in your life, and you have to understand life is long and that you go through different phases of life, and that there may be a time when you want to or need to devote yourself to your career and there are times when you're going to have to do whatever it takes to take care of your family and yourself. There are crucial times when you're going to have to be around for your children and you have to make a commitment to them, as those commitments are every bit as important as going to a court hearing.
Your professional role model: My father, Sherwin Stone, was a lawyer who really loved to practice law and he practiced actively until he was 80. I remember sitting around the dining room table and him telling us about his cases. The thing that really struck me was that he seemed so passionate about what he was doing; and that is something that I aspired to in a career, something that is fulfilling and would keep me engaged over the years.
What you wanted to be professionally while growing up: I wanted to be something where I could feel like I was making a difference and connecting with people. I wanted to use all sides of my personality—the people side and the analytical side….My father was a lawyer and my mother was a teacher. I have to admit I'm a little bit of a ham and grew up doing a lot of drama (theater), and there is certainly a part of my personality that is more dramatic, and that is something you can use in the courtroom. You can use the power of persuasion, and that's what I like about the practice of law, that you can draw on all of those skills.
The best book you've read recently: I'm in a book club and I just finished "The White Tiger: A Novel" by Aravind Adiga. It was all about modern day India, which I found fascinating since I've never been there. I love fiction. I don't tend to read legal books. Another book I read recently was "Unaccustomed Earth" by Jhumpa Lahiri.
Phone or e-mail and why: I like both for different reasons. I love e-mail for the efficiency and e-mail forces you to crystallize your thoughts. While it's more informal than writing a memo or a brief, e-mail is still an act of writing, but there is no substitute for phone conversation or meeting a person. As much as I love writing, there is so much that can be communicated through the tone of one's voice and body language that allow you to connect with someone.