Chris Stanley, General Counsel for Loring Ward, swiftly ascending the legal career ladder.
By Christine Gatuiria
Chris Stanley is General Counsel for Loring Ward in San Jose, California. This simple statement becomes all the much more remarkable once Stanley’s age is revealed. At 29 years old, he holds a position usually attained only after many years of legal experience.
“If you don’t have gray hair in my position, it’s a rarity,” Stanley said. So, how did the under-30 leader get to the top so quickly? Stanley’s recipe for success includes hard work, a willingness to learn and a dose of serendipitous luck.
Born in Oakland, California, Stanley grew up the only child of dedicated parents and among a large extended family. He credits his mother and father with being important role models who instilled in him the value of an education.
“They taught me,” Stanley said, “that nothing is handed to you that is not earned.”
First Brush with the Law
Stanley’s first steps on the path to law began at Boston College where he took a class in communication law and immediately fell in love with the discipline. Thinking he would move into intellectual property law and work in Silicon Valley, Stanley enrolled in law school at Santa Clara University.
After a few months he started to rethink his plans. “I didn’t really like it [intellectual property law], didn’t understand it and it really wasn’t for me,” Stanley explained.
Also recognizing that he lacked a business background, Stanley decided to pursue a joint JD/MBA program, a fortuitous decision that eventually led him to his current position.
“If you don’t have gray hair in my position, it’s a rarity.”
In the spring of his second year in the program, Stanley noticed a posting on the university jobs website for a law clerk position at Loring Ward. Although he had never heard of the firm, his interest was piqued when he saw that its team dealt with finance and investments, which seemed like a strong potential match with his legal and business skills.
Stanley interviewed for the position and instantly bonded with Steve McGinnis, then General Counsel at Loring Ward and Stanley’s eventual boss and mentor.
McGinnis and Stanley worked well together. “Steve and I both enjoyed the opportunity to learn, and he was invaluable to my growth and development at the company,” Stanley said. McGinnis often hinted about retiring and handing over the reins to Stanley; “… but I always thought he was joking,” Stanley said.
The “joke” became a reality in March 2011, when McGinnis indeed retired and recommended Stanley as his replacement. “Chris is very bright and a quick learner. He has a maturity beyond his years,” McGinnis said, “and we were able to transition [my work] by sharing an office for six months. We quickly came to the point where people would enter our office, say hello to me and then seek his advice.”
Leading Legal Man
So it was that with three years under his belt at Loring Ward—and just one year after graduating from law school—that Stanley assumed the role of General Counsel, Chief Legal Officer and Chief Compliance Officer of Loring Ward. He oversees all legal and compliance aspects for the firm’s entities and its affiliated mutual fund company, and also leads the risk oversight function across the enterprise.
Stanley’s team includes four direct reports and although this is Stanley’s first time managing staff members, his management style is self-described to be “very hands-off.”
“I don’t micromanage or tell people how to do their job,” Stanley said. He prefers to provide his team with the guidance, education and tools required to enable them to solve problems creatively. “Knowledge is power.”
Filling Big Shoes
Taking over for his mentor, Stanley admits, has been a daunting task. “Steve left big shoes to fill for a fresh punk coming out of law school,” he laughed.
True to the adage that age is just a number, it is evident that McGinnis picked the right person for the job. “Being a General Counsel is more than knowing the law,” McGinnis said. “You must have the ability to relate to everyone in the business and a knee-jerk reaction to doing what is right. Chris is able to do that. You would be surprised how many people are impressed by their own titles and cannot.”
Stanley has a bright future ahead. The General Counsel position may be the end of the road for some, but this under-30 up-and-comer has only just begun to climb the legal career ladder.
“I’m privileged to have this opportunity,” Stanley said, “and look forward to all that I have yet to learn.”
Christine Gatuiria is a freelance writer based in St. Louis, Missouri