Q&A With
Stephanie Clifford
General Counsel
What are some of the things you like about working at Stout?
I greatly appreciate the stability of Stout’s Executive Team as well as Stout’s continued growth and forward-looking direction despite the trying economic times brought on by COVID-19.

I also really admire the culture of excellence that exists throughout the organization. We really seem to drive each other to be the best that we can be, all the time, and all for the greater good of our clients.
The General Counsel is a new position at Stout.
What does your role bring to the firm?
Beyond bringing structure and stability to the legal team, the addition of a General Counsel gives the company an Executive Level person whose job it is to learn about and integrate themselves into every aspect of the company. The General Counsel is the one person that is uniquely positioned to provide senior management with a comprehensive view of the legal implications that business decisions and long-term growth strategies will have on the company now and in the future. Furthermore, because the General Counsel is involved in every aspect of the company, they are frequently a point person when unforeseen circumstances with wide-ranging impacts arise (e.g., COVID-19).
What do you like about working in the legal field?
I enjoy the opportunities for personal and professional growth that the legal profession provides. For example, while I spent the first 11 years of my professional career focused primarily on labor and employment law, very little of my time has been spent in that area over the last nine years as I transitioned into the General Counsel role. Every day presents a new series of challenges and opportunities – there really is never a dull moment (although I do admit that there are days that I could use a dull moment or two).
What attracted you to come work for Stout? 
As a new lawyer fresh out of law school, I had the privilege of working with Stout as one of my first clients. I had the opportunity to learn about the business, the culture, and extraordinary reputation through my former law firm’s work. As my path took a new turn and I went to an in-house legal department I watched Stout continue to grow and mature. To come full circle and be named as Stout’s first General Counsel was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.
What did you do before working at Stout?
I spent eight years at RGIS, an inventory services company, including the last five years as its General Counsel. Prior to moving to an in-house position, I spent 11 years in private practice as an employment lawyer and litigator at Clark Hill.
How did you adapt to joining the firm and moving to a full virtual setting?
Before we went virtual, a quick phone call was typically the most effective way to communicate with colleagues in other offices. Given that I was only in the office for nine days before we entered into our current virtual existence, I had little opportunity to meet the vast majority of my Stout colleagues in our Detroit office and elsewhere. Tools like Zoom have given me the ability to meet many of my colleagues “face-to-face” and, in many ways, better connect with them than in the pre-COVID world where that same person would have just been a voice on the phone. 

Of course, working in a full remote setting does have its drawbacks. I miss those “water cooler” chats and unscheduled, informal conversations that strengthen relationships and can often lead to efficient and effective problem solving.

I also have yet to adapt to our dog’s ability to immediately transition from “sleeping baby” to “full-on Cujo” whenever someone happens to walk by, or even glance at, our house.
What drives you to do a good job?
Two words – client service. Consistently providing top shelf service for both my internal and external clients has been a driving force of mine since I first became an attorney because excellent client service promotes growth.

While my area of expertise may be legal, we are all working toward the same goal – excellent service to our clients, whether each client is internal or external. It’s not always easy, as the two, in my world, can sometimes conflict. Protecting my internal client – Stout – while servicing Stout’s clients creates a challenging balance that requires a practical approach, holistic view, and sometimes, a whole lot of creativity.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 
Sorry. I’m not familiar with this concept you call “free time.” Luckily, I enjoy cooking.  While not necessarily done in my free time, I love trying new recipes and experimenting with new foods.
What’s a fun fact about you?
When I really need to shut my brain down, I secretly enjoy watching silly animal videos on social media.