Stephanie Perry became the firm’s managing partner in June, following the death of Nancy Fax. Stephanie joined Pasternak & Fidis in 2010, after practicing law for six years in Atlanta, and immediately proved herself an invaluable addition to the firm’s estates and trusts department. Eight years later, with all in agreement that she had the right skills to step into the job, her colleagues unanimously elected her as Nancy’s successor.
Nancy joined the firm as a partner in 2001 and succeeded Marcia Fidis as managing partner in 2004, a post which Marcia had filled for 18 years. Several years ago, Nancy, thinking ahead to a day when she would step down, identified Stephanie as the best person to succeed her. The partners agreed. Stephanie began to work with Nancy to plan for the succession.
The succession plan had been to allow Stephanie several years to work with Nancy so as to be ready when the time was right for Nancy to turn over the job to her. Stephanie did not expect she would be called upon to step into Nancy’s role so soon, and without Nancy’s continued availability for consult, but circumstances afforded no time for an unhurried transition. This was a field commission, and Stephanie stepped up to the challenge without hesitating.
This decision to designate a successor to Nancy well in advance was part of a larger plan to nurture a new generation of firm leaders with the goal of ensuring that the firm would continue to thrive. Stephanie’s vision for the firm’s future is all about continuity: continuing the tradition of excellent client service; continuing to focus on serving individuals and families; and continuing the seamless coordination of the firm’s Estates and Trusts Group with the complementary practice of the firm’s Divorce and Family Law Group. She does not envision making major changes. Rather, she hopes to be a steward of a natural transition of leadership to the firm’s younger partners.
In concert with planning for succession of firm management, planning for succession of the firm’s estates and trusts client work has been underway for many years. That planning required the senior lawyers—Nancy, Marcia, and Al—to train and mentor younger lawyers and give them the opportunity to take on increasingly sophisticated work for the firm’s clients, ensuring that they became familiar with the clients, their family structures, their assets, and their estate plans. Clients do not relish the thought that they may outlive their estate lawyers’ careers, and Nancy would often be asked by clients about the plan for their files if she were to retire; she routinely reassured them that the firm has a deep bench of excellent estates and trusts lawyers, at every career stage, to ensure continued service to clients notwithstanding the retirement or death of any member of the team.
Stephanie, like Anne Coventry before her, was elected to be a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC). ACTEC is a national organization of approximately 2500
lawyers elected to membership by demonstrating the highest level of integrity, commitment to the profession, competence, and experience in the field of trusts and estates. Election to ACTEC was a high honor for both Stephanie and Anne, and both credit Nancy’s mentoring, in part, for helping them to achieve this goal. Nancy was instrumental in placing the firm’s younger attorneys on a path to advance their experience, skills, and expertise as well as provide them with opportunities to serve the profession and guidance to advance their professional development.
Following Nancy’s death, Anne became the head of the firm’s Estates and Trusts Group (an office she held previously, until the birth of her youngest child five years ago). Adam Swaim, who returned to the firm in 2017 after four years at the Human Rights Campaign, recently became a partner in the firm. With the help of three treasured associates and the continued involvement of senior partners Marcia Fidis and Al Pasternak, Stephanie, Anne, and Adam—who comprise Nancy’s dream team—will lead the firm’s estates and trusts practice into the future.