ND Founders Profile #45: This FouNDer Proves There Is an Alternative for Women Attorneys and Those Who Hire Them

Author: Melanie Lux

Facebook Web Nd Founders Stacey Mcconnell Stacey Mosesso McConnell (liberal studies, class of 1996) co-founded the Alt Group in 2017


Company Founded: The Alt Group Year Graduated: 1996 and 2000
Title: Co-Founder Degree: B.A., Liberal Studies and J.D.
Location: Chicago Residence Hall: Lyons

By any measure, Stacey Mosesso McConnell is a top-performing attorney. The University of Notre Dame undergrad and law school graduate launched her legal career in 2000 at New York City powerhouse Kelley Drye & Warren. There she engaged in a wide variety of commercial litigation matters, including a special assignment helping families of victims of the 9-11 terror attacks, one of them her future business partner, Kristin Lim.

Next, McConnell joined the United States Department of Justice in Washington D.C. as a trial attorney where she helped prosecute the RICO litigation against tobacco manufacturers, one of the largest civil suits ever brought by the Justice Department. 

In 2007, McConnell gave birth to her first child and with joy came twinges of doubt. “I had always assumed my career trajectory was not compatible with my idea of motherhood,” she reveals. “I felt there was no way to continue on my current path, but at the time there were very few opportunities for meaningful part-time litigation work. After a lot of reflection, I walked away.”

Over the next several years and the addition of two more children, McConnell was grateful for the privilege and flexibility of her life, but felt a deep yearning to practice law again. As she began looking around for positions, she was dismayed at what she discovered.

“By that time I had not actively practiced law for about seven years. Despite my past legal affiliations and level of my work, my options were limited by sophistication and pay and did not reflect my capabilities,” she says. “Traditional contract roles were low paying and uninteresting; firms penalized the hiatus heavily.”

Talking with other women attorneys, she found many in the same boat. The years spent focused on their families had sidelined once high-flying legal careers, regardless of past achievements or desire to return to work. When it came to women re-entering legal practice, the system was badly broken.

“I thought, this is crazy! Here’s a huge talent pool of high-achieving attorneys who are being overlooked. There had to be a solution,” she says.

That solution was The Alt Group, a company founded with respect for women’s choices and disruption in mind. McConnell and co-founder Lim saw their mission as much bigger than just getting women back in the legal workforce. “We are a great option for someone who is ready to leave a full-time role but wants to stay in the game. We’re not a temp agency. We’re reimagining how law firms and legal departments  procure alternative legal talent. Our network is primarily comprised of former ‘Big Law’ attorneys who deliver sophisticated, highly specialized legal work in ongoing, strategic engagements.” she explains.

The Alt Group was founded as a virtual company, with both McConnell and co-founder Kristin Lim, both working remotely from their respective homes in Chicago and the San Francisco area. McConnell has three children, Lim has one. They needed very little capital to launch the company but relied on the professional networks they’d built over the years. McConnell had a secret weapon to jumpstart the business: the Notre Dame alumni network. “One of the benefits of being an Irish alumni is I have friends in every city of the country,” she smiles.

What was absolutely critical was clearly communicating their mission. “The Alt Group is more than a company, it’s a movement. When talented women leave law, everybody loses. We have created a model that allows high-achieving women attorneys practice in a flexible way without sacrificing the sophistication of work while giving clients an affordable but high quality new alternative,” McConnell explains. 

The network supports corporate legal departments and law firms of all sizes. Clients turn to The Alt Group to staff up for large cases, add subject matter experts, grow their firms, and meet the normal ebb and flow of casework. Clients know when they work through The Alt Group, they will be partnered with attorneys who have been thoroughly vetted and ready to jump in without a lot of hand-holding.

The value proposition is attractive. The Alt Group’s attorneys have partner-level experience in a wide variety of practice areas, data security and privacy, technology, mergers and acquisitions, private equity, bankruptcy, intellectual property, patent, healthcare, real estate, antitrust, commercial litigation, and general business transactions.

Even so, building trust with potential clients has been critical to  getting in the door. “Lawyers are very risk averse; they cannot afford mistakes. It does take time to build relationships as our model is different. What has truly helped build our business is word-of-mouth. When companies and firms hear from others about the credentials of our attorneys and the impeccable work we produce, doors open. And we’ve found that the best clients come for all the right reasons; they need expertise and value our mission of keeping talented women attorneys in the workforce,” McConnell explains.

The COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic uncertainties have impacted The Alt Group. Women have been especially hard hit by the virus and its aftermath. “Women are more often primary caregivers and as such have borne the brunt of the new normal of work and school at home.”

She adds, “Although some law firms slowed a bit with COVID, the appetite for this kind of  value in legal procurement is  positive. Additionally, some in the legal community are realizing that ‘face time does not equal quality time’ and as a result are now more open to hiring high-caliber talent who work remotely.”

What has been most satisfying for McConnell is having the opportunity to continue doing fulfilling legal work through The Alt Group without sacrificing too much of family life—her own and that of her network. “It’s rewarding to see a client’s practice take off with our help; to connect highly qualified attorneys with work that matches their skills, availability and salary requirements; and to know that the arrangement promotes the flexibility that has previously eluded many women.”

McConnell encourages those considering founding a company to lead with compassion and rather than focus on the financial and to consider who they are helping beyond themselves. “Entrepreneurship can be demanding, but knowing you are solving even a small societal problem makes it all worthwhile.”