When Stacey J. Mobley began his career with DuPont Company in 1972, he was brought on board as the corporation’s first-ever minority attorney. Today, Mobley is senior vice president, chief administrative officer, and general counsel at the $27 billion global science company, and a member of the company’s six-member office of the chief executive.
“At DuPont, nearly 35 years ago, I found a management team that was determined to change the complexion of the organization, as well as supportive colleagues and a first boss who was an icon of what a supervising attorney ought to be,” recalls Mobley. “I remember speaking with some of the other attorneys about our contrasting backgrounds, and soon realizing that to the extent I had a lot to learn about corporate practice, I also had a lot to teach about other things.”
Growing up in Chester, Pa.—not far from DuPont’s Wilmington, Del. corporate headquarters—Mobley aspired to be a pharmacist. In his fourth of five years at the Howard University School of Pharmacy, he took a course in business law and was hooked. Just months after graduating, he entered Howard University School of Law. He received his juris doctorate degree in 1971.
His first year out of law school, Mobley was granted a Reginald Heber Smith Community Lawyer Fellowship, giving him the opportunity to represent disadvantaged clients on a variety of issues often unpopular with the local Delaware County establishment. “As the fellowship came to an end, I immediately applied at DuPont,” recalls Mobley. “I’d always wanted to work in-house at a large company.”
According to Mobley, corporate America’s lack of diversity may not be intentional.
“I think there is a gap of understanding about diversity and the benefits that come with it,” he explains. “The diversity business case has been documented many times; a lot of organizations fall into the trap of doing things the same way, of repeatedly going back to the same institution to do their recruiting, and they develop a comfort level around that.”
From the start, Mobley has considered DuPont’s legal department a very special place. Over the years it has become more diverse, says Mobley, and a more robust, problem-solving organization in the process. According to him, working in a diverse atmosphere not only gives an organization a competitive edge, but also makes it more fun.
“As general counsel, my job is not to get granular with the law so much as it is to provide strategy and direction as to how DuPont Legal’s resources are being applied,” says Mobley. “We’ve become a global corporation, and I have to look beyond Wilmington. The lawyers we have in Europe, Asia, and South America are every bit as much a part of this organization’s future as the lawyers I pass walking down the hall each day.”
Mobley says that when he was hired by then-associate general counsel Chuck Welch, DuPont was taking a risk. “Even at my most egotistical moment,” says Mobley, “I cannot say that I was the most brilliant lawyer available at the time. My hope is that DuPont would say that they took a pretty good risk and got a pretty good return.”
Undoubtedly, they say that and more of this luminary leader.
From the September/October 2006 issue of Diversity & The Bar®