After almost seventeen years of specializing in intellectual property (IP) law, Stephanie Felicetty has pivoted into a more generalist role dedicated to critical business issues. As she navigates her new role as assistant general counsel of cocoa and global initiatives at Mars Wrigley, Felicetty has found that agility and her personal dedication to upskilling throughout her career has allowed her to both adapt and succeed in the new areas of law she now practices.
For Felicetty, her career progression has been the ultimate source of knowledge and experience for her current role.
“Throughout all my professional roles, there was something new to learn from each one. From starting in private practice, where you get that core skill set in litigation and prosecution, to going in-house and building different transactional skills, I was able to build a solid skill set to leverage in future roles,” she explains.
Felicetty started her legal career in Chicago at Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione (now Brinks Gilson & Lione), one of the largest IP law firms in the US. “While there, I gained invaluable experience in patent litigation and patent prosecution, among other things. It was a great foundational experience,” she mentions.
Felicetty was with the firm for about seven years before making the switch in-house to global energy company BP America.
“I wanted to go in-house to better understand the interplay between law and business, as well as learn about how the discrete legal tasks typically done by private practice attorneys fit into the bigger strategic picture of an operating global business,” Felicetty says of her role at BP.
Building on her experience during private practice and the additional skills she acquired at BP, Felicetty accepted an opportunity to broaden her professional horizons and do commercial legal work on an expat assignment in London. All of these experiences came to a head when, in 2015, she joined Mars Wrigley as senior intellectual property counsel.
As her role at Mars Wrigley developed, so did her responsibilities. “Soon enough, people management responsibilities were added to my role, and I had an opportunity to further expand my skill set,” she says.
Alex Rogers, a partner at European IP firm Haseltine Lake Kempner, has worked closely with Stephanie over the years, most recently on successfully revoking a competitor’s patent. “What makes Stephanie a leader in her field is her ability to apply her acute legal skills and coordinate with both outside counsel and in-house technical teams to achieve impressive results,” Rogers says.
While her new responsibility of managing a team at Mars Wrigley may have been somewhat intimidating, Felicetty believes “the best way to grow is to stretch—to go outside your comfort zone and challenge yourself.” And that same philosophy is true for her current role.
“I transitioned from my comfortable focus in IP to a completely new area of the law,” she notes, “and although over the years I had tastes of the responsibilities I have now, a lot of this is still new for me––new team, new technologies, pretty much new everything.”
“The best way to grow is to stretch—to go outside your comfort zone and challenge yourself.”
This continuous stretching and upskilling, though challenging, has been empowering for Felicetty in her new role.
“Upskilling throughout your career is critical. It’s necessary for your own development, both as an attorney and as a valued business partner,” she explains. “It helps to keep things dynamic and increase motivation and engagement, and it also enables you to bring more to the table as your perspective broadens.”
In fact, the opportunity to further develop skill sets and feel empowered in her own abilities was one of the main attractions to Mars Wrigley for Felicetty.
“I knew people who had worked at Mars Wrigley and had such positive experiences. There is an intentional effort to develop associates so that they are continuously engaged and don’t become stagnant in their roles,” she says.
Now, in her current role, Felicetty works closely with the global cocoa team to navigate legal issues in the industry as well as provide guidance for other global initiatives within Mars Wrigley, which include everything from partnering with the business on developing and executing business strategies, to managing litigation, negotiating contracts, and guiding the business on external communications.
“To be honest, I deal with almost every legal issue that touches cocoa, except for IP, which has been quite a switch. Yet it has been, and continues to be, an amazing learning experience,” she contends, “I’m fortunate to be able to continue to work closely with the IP team when IP issues do arise.”
Considering quite a few of her responsibilities now center on people and human rights, Felicetty is passionate about one of Mars Wrigley’s current initiatives called Cocoa for Generations, which focuses on the ambition of creating a cocoa sector where human rights are respected, the environment is protected, and everyone in the value chain has the opportunity to thrive.
The Cocoa for Generations strategy was launched in 2018 and is backed by a $1 billion investment over ten years. Not only does it include efforts to help safeguard children and forests, but it also aims to help empower women in cocoa-growing communities.
With a long-term plan in place to support cocoa for generations to come, the world can stay a little sweeter.
Williams & Connolly is proud to work with innovative, creative, and collaborative leaders in the food, beverage, and pet industry. We congratulate our friend and client Stephanie Felicetty of Mars Wrigley for her outstanding achievements.