CHICAGO – Looking to increase its clout with corporate legal departments committed to diversity, the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms, Inc. (NAMWOLF) has named a former longtime in-house counsel with senior-level business experience as its new chief executive officer.
Joel Stern, who spent 14 years as deputy general counsel of Accenture and has advised numerous Fortune 500 companies and law firms, becomes CEO of NAMWOLF. He is the organization’s third top executive since its founding in 2001.
NAMWOLF is the country’s leading professional association for law firms owned by minorities and women – a community that is growing nationally. Its principal mission is to serve as a trusted networking resource connecting corporate law departments with qualified minority and women owned law firms. The organization is frequently called on by companies in their due diligence and vetting of outside counsel. Today, its members include 119 law firms in 34 states. A full list of current members can be found here: http://www.namwolf.org/?page=LawFirmMembers.
Collectively, NAMWOLF member firms represent a cross-section of corporate America, as well as preeminent public institutions, universities, municipalities and other clients. Among well-known companies that have been sponsors and partners of NAMWOLF programs are Accenture, American Airlines, Comcast, Freddie Mac, Morgan Stanley, Nationwide Mutual Insurance, NBCUniversal, Prudential Financial, Visa and Walmart.
Mr. Stern has been actively associated with NAMWOLF since 2006 and has served as a board member and also as chair of the In-House Advisory Counsel. Since 2010, he has headed his own consulting practice, providing a range of services to corporate law departments and law firms.
In a noteworthy engagement, he was hired by Hewlett Packard to lead a global team of more than 250 managers responsible for maintaining the tech company’s biggest client relationships. He became a member of HP’s leadership group for enterprise services as well as a leadership instructor to company executives. On the law firm side, Mr. Stern regularly provided leading law firm clients with executive coaching, business development/retention, marketing, benchmarking, branding and other consulting services.
Prior to his consulting practice, Mr. Stern spent more than 25 years as an in-house counsel for major companies. At Accenture, where he served as Deputy General Counsel from 1996-2010, he acted as chief operating officer for the consulting giant’s 420-member global law department. He also managed all of Accenture’s outside counsel relationships as well as managing North and South America legal matters. Mr. Stern was a member of Accenture’s US Leadership Team and its global Operations Council, and also part of the firm’s CEO Advisory Counsel. During his tenure, the Minority Corporate Counsel Association gave Accenture its “Employer of Choice” award.
Previously, he was vice president and general counsel at Advantis, a joint technology services venture between IBM and Sears, where Mr. Stern directed all legal functions and managed outside regulatory and government affairs. From 1987-92, he was general counsel for Sears Technology Services, which made him a key member of the legal team advising on the development and launch of the Discover Card. He began his in-house career in the mid-1980s as a staff counsel with leading insurer Allstate Corp, then a division of Sears.
“We are thrilled to have Joel join as our new chief executive – he has been a longtime supporter and chaired our key in-house counsel group, and the organization and our member firms will be extremely well served by having his full attention and considerable talents as CEO,” said Lynn Luker, who heads a business litigation law firm in New Orleans and chairs NAMWOLF’s board of directors.
“Our principal mission is bringing more business opportunities to law firms led by minorities and women, who are still underrepresented in the legal industry,” Ms. Luker added. “After an extensive search process, we chose Joel not only because of existing ties to NAMWOLF but because he brings a strong business background and can build greater connections between leading corporate law departments and our member attorneys. Joel knows how crucial decisions for choosing outside counsel are made – as a veteran of top in-house legal departments and a hands-on executive, he makes an ideal CEO.”
NAMWOLF founder and former Chair Emery Harlan, a noted employment litigator who chairs one of the nation’s largest minority-owned law firms, Gonzalez Saggio & Harlan LLP, said of Mr. Stern’s appointment: “In addition to a stellar track record running large corporate law departments and managing relations with outside counsel, Joel has been heavily involved in promoting diversity in both spheres, including speaking and presenting at many of the major professional forums. He’s also a gifted business development and executive leadership coach, as well as a true mentor. Our association and all of our NAMWOLF lawyers around the country will benefit from his leadership.”
Mr. Stern commented: “It’s a tremendous honor to have been selected as CEO of NAMWOLF. I have worked hard to promote – and implement – greater diversity and inclusion in the practice of law. I’m also a passionate supporter of NAMWOLF and its network of member firms. It has become the prime destination for helping companies identify, vet and ultimately hire minority and women owned law firms of the highest caliber. I look forward to further advancing NAMWOLF’s mission of connecting in-house law departments to top-notch attorneys and firms across the country.”
Mr. Stern’s published articles and regular speaking engagements reflect his zeal for expanding opportunities in the law. Among some of his presentations in the last several years: “Diversity is the Future – A Client’s View” (Marbury Institute, 2009); “Advancing Leadership Goals for Women in the Legal Profession” (ALFA Women’s Initiative Program, 2009); “Women Attorneys and Compensation – The Glass Ceiling” (International Bar Association, 2008); and “Contemporary Conversations on Diversity – Inclusion, Justice and the Bottom Line” (Black Women Lawyers Association of Chicago, 2008).
Mr. Stern earned his J.D. in 1984 from Cleveland Marshall College of Law; he graduated magna cum laude from Case Western Reserve University in 1981 with a B.A. in Political Science. He resides in the Chicago area with his wife and three daughters.
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