Stephanie Kyoko McKinnon / From Paul Weiss to Vice Media

Stephanie is the Vice President, Mergers & Acquisitions, Legal for Vice Media in Brooklyn. New York.  She manages legal for all of VICE's strategic corporate projects, including international expansion, joint ventures, market entry, investments, equity raises and acquisitions.  Recent projects include joint ventures in the Middle East, India and Africa and a $450 million investment by TPG in VICE.  She's very proud of VICE's content, even if content creation is not really her area of expertise.

Stephanie is very far from her hometown of Camrose, Alberta.  She graduated from Simon Fraser University and will sometimes tell Americans that she's from Vancouver, unless they, too, are big hockey fans and could find Edmonton on a map.  She was an adventure guide in the Rockies prior to law school and she still spends all her free time adventuring in new places.  She likes to pretend she's a pretty good travel photographer.  Her Mom and her dog believe her.

Stephanie outside of the Vice office.

Stephanie outside of the Vice office.

Let’s start with the basics. Did you always imagine yourself going to law school?

Definitely not.  4-year-old me wanted to be an artist and 18-year-old me wanted to be a surgeon.  Most of my extended family had been telling me I should be a lawyer my whole life, so when I told my brother I wanted to go to law school, he laughed and laughed.

What did the journey from big law to your lawfully uncommon career look like?  

I was a mid-level associate at Paul Weiss and I was just starting to look to leave.  Some former associates had told me to start looking before I really wanted to leave because it could take ages.  I asked a Paul Weiss partner for help and he set up a few introductions so I could meet people in the sports and media industries, since big law lawyers typically go in-house through people they know.  I also set up a daily alert for Glassdoor job postings for positions in the sports and media industries.  I responded to a job posting for a sports-focused digital media startup and I got the job, which is not typically how big law lawyers go in-house.  

Then a year and half later, I was looking to move again and a partner that I had worked for at Paul Weiss, who had left Paul Weiss to become Co-President of VICE, asked if I would come to VICE.  I jumped at the chance and haven't looked back.

What got your juices flowing or tickled your fancy while at law school?  

Law school is a wonderful opportunity to be surrounded by other intelligent, curious, and interesting people who are willing to share their thoughts and experiences and opinions with you.  The people that I met at law school were easily the best part of going to law school.

What made your blood boil or made you snooze while at law school?

I had one interaction with a professor at the faculty who told me that he didn't read part of my final exam but it didn't matter because I wasn't in the running for the gold medal anyway and I shouldn't bother contesting the grade because professors generally defer to other professors unless the grade is really off.  That drove me nuts.

Stephanie at her graduation.

Stephanie at her graduation.

Do you still see law all around you?

I don't think I've ever seen law all around me, which maybe means I was doing law school wrong.  It is so much more interesting (to me) to see people and how people, in practice, handle particular situations regardless of what the law says they should, or could, do.

You are at a coffee house speaking to a first-year law student. What advice would you give them? 

Enjoy yourself.  This is the least amount of stress you're going to have in your whole career.

What does a day in your life look like? Give us the rundown!

My work is deal-related, so sometimes I'll end up in all-day negotiations (sometimes in a foreign country).  When I'm not spending all my time closing a particular deal, I tend to have a few in earlier stages and my day can vary a bit more.  

In a typical day, I try to exercise in the morning before work.  Then I go to the Williamsburg office (or ferry to the DUMBO one).  

First, I try to triage the emails that have come in overnight from Asia and Europe over coffee and respond to anything that needs immediate attention.  

Depending on my meetings and calls for the day, I may or may not have a solid block of time to focus on larger tasks.  If I don't have a few hours to concentrate in between meetings, I'll try to knock out shorter documents or anything that needs input from others during the day.  I tend to end up reviewing long drafts at home after work or over the weekend.  

Stephanie with her camera while travelling in Krakow, Poland.

Stephanie with her camera while travelling in Krakow, Poland.

If you were given the blessing and curse of an extra hour every day to do whatever you wanted, what would it be?

If there were no consequences and I didn't have any work, I would watch an hour of escapist TV and eat chips.

Any regrets? (Yeah, we are retrospective like that).

Never.  If I wanted to do something else or be someone else, I would.  It's never too late.