On brand lawyering
Inside Abercrombie & Fitch’s corporate headquarters, oversized posters of their recent marketing campaigns hang in hallways and meeting rooms. Outside, employees fly by on scooters and skateboards, commuting between buildings on the company’s sprawling, wooded campus in suburban New Albany, Ohio, which resembles a cross between an East Coast prep school and the coolest summer camp you never went to as a child.
On a warm and sunny October afternoon, Stacia Jones ’00, the company’s senior director and legal counsel, emerged from a meeting in the fashion giant’s distribution center dressed in flip-flops, jeans torn strategically at the knees, a white tank top, a flannel shirt tied around her waist, and a biker jacket. At Abercrombie & Fitch, everyone from the interns to key members of the legal team dress with casual, comfortable, and effortless style—just like Abercrombie itself.
“I love the clothes. I love dressing in ripped jeans. One of my family members, when she sees me, always asks, ‘Did you go to work today? You’re an attorney—where is your suit?’” she said with a laugh. “I respond, ‘Yeah, I’m an attorney—a good one—and I wear ripped-up jeans!’ I wear flip-flops and I enjoy it.”
Jones joined Abercrombie & Fitch’s legal team in 2008, after working as an associate at the Columbus office of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP for eight years. At Vorys, she was a member of the employment law group; she represented a number of large companies (including Abercrombie & Fitch, as outside counsel) in a variety of industries, and advised employers on labor and employment matters.
“I worked very aggressively and very hard from the first day I walked into Vorys. I was one of those people who, the more work that I had, the better I felt,” Jones said. On a typical day, she billed 10 or more different matters, and one partner told her “that he liked working with me as a young associate because I wasn’t afraid to do some of the things other associates were afraid to do, like being in front of clients and taking depositions.”
Then, one of her mentors at Vorys left the firm for a job at Abercrombie & Fitch and invited Jones to follow her there.
“I really enjoyed being in a law firm and never thought I would leave. I enjoyed Vorys and all of my clients,” Jones said, “but when the opportunity was presented for me to come in-house with Abercrombie, I didn’t feel like I could pass it up.”
For Jones, who was voted best-dressed as a student at Columbus Alternative High School, Abercrombie & Fitch was a perfect cultural fit.
“At Vorys, I might have lost some of my coolness,” she said jokingly. “I wore pantyhose and suits every day. But certainly, when I came here, I got all of my swag and coolness back.”
Initially, Jones was hired as a senior manager and legal counsel at Abercrombie & Fitch, and she focused on domestic employment-related legal matters. Today she manages all legal matters relating to labor and employment for the entire globe, including Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the U.S. She handles everything from legal issues of health and safety to maintenance and construction. And she travels a lot.
“This year I’ve been to Paris four or five times. I’ve been to Germany and Italy. I’m going to Asia, and to cities all around the U.S.,” she said. “We have almost 1,000 stores and more than 50,000 associates around the world, and they all fall into my area of responsibility.”
A typical day for Jones begins bright and early, as she joins phone conferences with colleagues in Asia and Europe, and it ends late, with more phone conferences (with people in California, and sometimes, again, Asia). In between, she handles the diverse array of issues that arise in the stores, home office, and distribution centers.
“We’re at a point where I am watching our trajectory as a company going upward. I really feel that we have great things in our future that are coming down the pike. And I’m glad that I am here to be a part of it,” she said.
In general, Jones said she finds the practice of law highly rewarding. “Anyone who goes to law school—they are setting themselves up for an opportunity to have a lot of success and happiness,” she said, offering the following advice to current law students:
“When law students get out and start working, relationships are so important. To me, that means not focusing on impersonal forms of communication like email, but actually going to offices, making phone calls, and being present. And being confident in their presentation —make sure that they build strong relationships and get people to trust them and have confidence in their abilities. When you make mistakes, which will happen, you will be in a place, because of your relationships and the confidence you garnered, where partners and clients will continue to trust and work with you.”
Oh, and sometimes business suits are overrated.