Stacey Mobley: MCCA's KAN-DO! Mentoring Program

Sunday, February 1, 2009 - 01:00

Editor's Note: Stacey Mobley had a noteworthy career at E.I. du Pont de Nemours (DuPont), which he joined in 1972 as the company's first African-American lawyer. He retired as senior vice president, chief administrative officer, general counsel, and a member of the office of the chief executive on June 5, 2008. He joined the law firm of Dickstein Shapiro in 2008 as senior counsel and member of that firm's diversity committee. In June 2006, Dickstein Shapiro was presented with the Minority Corporate Counsel Association's (MCCA) Thomas L. Sager Award for the Mid-Atlantic region based on its significant accomplishments in and solid commitment to diversity.

Stacey agreed to participate in MCCA's KAN-Do! Mentoring Program, which is described by Veta Richardson in her interview beginning on this page. He will be matched as a mentor for a new general counsel or for a senior in-house lawyer who is in the midst of being considered for that position. He is one of a handful of retired general counsel MCCA is recruiting to assist. Cathy Lamboley, the retired GC of Shell Oil and former MCCA board member, also agreed to participate in the program.

Editor: When did you first learn of MCCA's KAN-DO! Mentoring Program?

Mobley: Veta sent an announcement of the program to me. In addition to describing the program she mentioned some retired general counsel who she was looking to be involved, most of whom I knew. She mentioned Cathy Lamboley of Shell and Bill Lytton of Tyco. It struck me as a great idea - as a way to express my appreciation for the good life that being corporate counsel has afforded me by helping younger people who were still climbing the ladder and as a way for me to keep up with former colleagues who have contributed so much to our profession. We have accumulated all of this experience, and it would be nice to share that either with young GCs or young people in the midst of being considered for general counsel. It seemed to me that it would be a great way to help individuals who were in that part of their careers.

Editor: How do you believe the program will benefit participants?

Mobley: It adds a different dimension. I think back at my career and the value that I got from mentors. Certainly, the people who are being mentored must be very bright to have found themselves in the positions they are in. They are exposed to a lot of information - certainly a lot more than we were since they have been exposed to the Internet to a much greater extent. They are IT savvy. What is very useful as a mentor is providing the context and basis of experience to guide the mentee through their decision making - and having that assistance has, at least for me, proved to be very useful. A number of us have already been there - facing similar situations. We can provide them with the benefit of that experience rather than their having to reinvent the wheel.

Editor: When you reflect back on your career, can you remember any specific incidents or situations where you as the mentee were helped by a mentor?

Mobley: Absolutely. It started even before my first day at DuPont Legal. The assistant general counsel at that time, Chuck Welch, who ultimately became the general counsel, was a mentor of mine even before I joined DuPont. To this day, he has been a solid source of information and guidance. I would not have come to DuPont if it were not for him and his counsel. I have reached out to him many times along the way in my career for his guidance and have gotten good counsel.

One of the things that struck me when I interviewed at DuPont was that there were a lot of nice folks there, but as I interviewed and interacted with their lawyers, it occurred to me that a corporate icon like DuPont was not my cup of tea. No one in my family had worked in a corporate setting, so it was foreign to me and I was prepared to say thanks but no thanks.

Chuck sat me down for about 45 minutes to an hour during what was supposed to be a ten minute interview at the end of a full day of interviews. He shared with me his personal background. He had gone to Ohio State and he worked his way through school. And even though Chuck was not black, we identified because he too had to make his own way. At the end of that conversation, I began to feel that DuPont was a place where I could succeed.

I probably would not have joined DuPont or succeeded there if I had not had a mentor like Chuck who also came from a modest background. Being one of the first in his family to go on to higher education put him in a position to say "You don't have to come from a privileged background to succeed here. I am an example of how you can do it." The MCCA approach of finding mentors with similar backgrounds is ideally adapted to locating mentors who can provide the same kind of good counsel I received from Chuck. I had many other mentors at DuPont, including a former CEO, who also helped me along the way. I just can't imagine what would have happened in my career if I had not had the benefit of good mentors.

Editor: How important is it for a lawyer to have an effective way of indentifying and linking up with good mentors?

Mobley: I think that it is very important. As I said, the young lawyers that we see today are extremely bright and very well prepared. But what they frequently lack is the context of experience to which to apply that intelligence. Mentors add value by sharing their experiences and sharing what worked and didn't work for them. Often there is great value in learning from what had been an unsuccessful approach to a problem. A mentor can give the mentee the benefit of his or her mistakes and allow the mentee to move up the ladder without having to experience making that mistake themselves.

MCCA's KAN-Do! Mentoring Program is a great program. When you look at people like Cathy and Bill and some of the other folks who will be involved and their collective years of experience, mentees will not have to view problems de novo. The odds are that some or all of us have faced similar issues and can tell them how we handled them. It is very important for lawyers to have good mentors - and I am confident that MCCA's KAN-DO! Mentoring Program is the answer and am honored to be able to play a role in it.