Meet Jacquelyn E. “Jackie” Stone, a VCU board of visitors member and former member of the VCU Health Systems Board who was honored with a lifetime achievement award for National Women in Law by Corporate Counsel and InsideCounsel on Aug. 13. Stone is a partner with the McGuireWoods law firm in Richmond, has served on boards concerning higher education institutions for the past two decades and works to promote diversity in legal practices.
How did you prepare yourself to become a leader in the field of law?
I grew up with a father who was a lawyer and a judge. I wasn’t convinced that that’s what I wanted to do with my career because he worked so hard, but I did feel as though having an understanding of the law was going to be positive for me no matter what. So, I went to the University of Virginia and took a lot of courses in all different types of subjects. I was (later) able to get a job on Capitol Hill and, when I finished my work on Capitol Hill, I was very fortunate to be accepted into Harvard Law School.
In the summers, I was lucky enough to get internships at law firms as an associate. Fortunately, McGuireWoods was one of the firms where I had the chance to work as a summer associate before I graduated from law school. I was able to join the firm as an associate when I graduated in 1985 and I’ve been here ever since. So, a combination of really working hard at my academics, then taking the opportunity to see first-hand what’s involved in both the practice of law and other careers that someone who has a law degree can pursue really helped prepare me for where I am now.
How did you end up being appointed to the VCU board of visitors?
In Virginia, the members of the boards of visitors throughout education institutions are appointed by the governor. Governor (Bob) McDonnell asked me if I would be willing to serve on the board.
My first term started in 2011, then I had the great fortune of being re-appointed by Governor (Terry) McAuliffe, so I continued to serve. While I’ve been on the board, I was able to serve as the secretary and also the vice rector. It’s been a lot of fun — a lot of wonderful people are on the board with me. It was really a wonderful opportunity to be able to to serve on an actual board of a higher education institution because that allowed me to be so much closer to the students that were being served and to really help understand the issues that an institution like VCU is dealing with on an everyday basis.
Have you ever faced any instances of discrimination in school or the workplace?
It’s hard to imagine that discrimination has not factored in at some point in time, but I would have to say that I have worked as hard as I can to avoid looking for discrimination in my work and in my life. I was the first woman of color to come to my law firm, but I wasn’t really willing to let that convince me that I couldn’t make it in that environment. I have worked really hard to just not allow what might be discrimination to hold me back in pursuing my goals.
I’ve spent a lot of time with our recruiting efforts here at McGuireWoods to increase our numbers of diverse candidates and help diverse students get into law school. Students that are coming out of school might be one of a very small number of diverse associates, but you can’t look around and say “I don’t want to go work at this organization because they don’t have much diversity.” You’ve got to be part of the solution of getting that fixed. The place with less diversity needs you even more.
What have you done to help young women who want to be on the same career path as you?
I’ve worked really hard to identify women to come into the law firm, be able to work on important legal matters, expose them to the clients that are going to provide opportunities to work on good cases and to make sure that there is the kind of support that women need in place. It’s difficult when you see a lot of women leaving the profession when they start their families and have a lot of commitments that make it difficult to balance with a career.
There are also national organizations I’ve been involved with that are helpful to women overall. So, it’s just been a combination of activities that I’ve been fortunate to be a part of that try to give opportunities to women to meet each other and develop skills, but at the same time help them navigate the process of having a career and personal life as well.
Nia Tariq, News Editor