Women Worth Watching 2015
This Leading Litigator has a Passion for Engaging Top Talent
Before developing her talent management and engagement practice, Stephanie Willson practiced as a commercial litigator. Today, she is a recognized leader in lawyer recruitment, talent management, and leadership development. As McCarthy Tétrault’s chief professional resources officer, she has implemented an industry-leading national talent strategy, with competency-based recruitment, innovative mentorship and education programs, and accountability metrics that have increased lawyer engagement year over year, as measured by a firm-wide survey. As a result of her efforts, Legal Media Group has named McCarthy Tétrault “Best Law Firm in Canada” and “Best National Firm for Talent Management.”
In December 2014, Stephanie was honored in Washington DC by the Professional Development Consortium with the inaugural Richard Pearson Award for her achievements. She was most recently recognized by HRD magazine as being one of the Best of the Best, on its 2015 Hot List.
“…listen to your intuition.”
“We all have unique talents. Part of building a successful career is having the confidence to use those talents and play to your strengths,” said Stephanie. “Many people questioned my decision when I made the switch from practicing law as a litigator to talent development, but I was really excited by the work, and never looked back. I had found my passion!”
Stephanie has always participated fully in her community, often in a leadership role. She advised the Rotman School of Management regarding the creation and continuing innovation of a leadership program for women lawyers, and was the only lawyer among the many professionals on a council advising Rotman on the creation of a leadership program for senior practitioners in professional services.
She is a member of the Legal Talent Leadership Forum, the National Association for Law Placement, and the Professional Development Consortium. In 2014, she was a member of the Canadian Bar Association’s Legal Futures Initiative Education and Training Team. Previously, she served three years as the firm’s Justicia representative and two years as a member of the Admissions Committee of the Law Society of Upper Canada. She was also a member of the Canadian Bar Association’s sub-committee on Diversity in the Legal Profession and Catalyst’s advisory committee on work-life balance in Canadian law firms.
Education: BA, LL.B Queen’s University, CHRP
First Job: Camp Counselor
What I’m Reading: “The Talent Masters: Why Smart Leaders Put People Before Numbers” by Bill Conaty & Ram Charan
The most important quality a woman leader should have is…
…a genuine passion for her work. It helps you stay resilient!
The career advice I’d give my former self:
We all have unique talents. Part of building a successful career is having the confidence to use those talents and play to your strengths. It is, of course, important to pay attention to developmental feedback, but I find women tend to focus on that feedback more than on their strengths.
Words I live by:
Be honest, speak up and be courageous
The one thing I’d do differently in my career, knowing what I know now, is…
Understanding that your career will unfold in unexpected ways and being open to and excited by unexpected opportunities.
When I really need to focus
on a project, I…
…set time aside, and close my door!
My biggest career leap (and what I learned from it) was…
…get input from others, but in the end, you must drive your own career. My test for career decision making has been that if it feels right, go for it; if it doesn’t, listen to your intuition.
Being a woman in my profession has been…
…interesting, challenging and has inspired me to be the best I can be and actively mentor other women. The more women we see in leadership roles, the more change we will continue to see in the future.
I’ve learned that failure is…
…character building and a part of life.
I maintain a healthy personal life by…
…remembering that while a significant investment in your career is important to achieving your ambitions, nurturing relationships in your life and pursuing your interests are also essential for a fulfilling life, and it’s great when you can find opportunities to integrate them all!
I knew my present career was what I wanted to do when…
…I made the switch from practicing law as a litigator to talent development, and many people questioned my decision. But I was really excited by the work, and never looked back. I had found my passion!