Rona Sisson

By Erin Flynn Jay

Rona Sisson, 55, who recently began writing a career advice column for the Local, is hooked on the beauty of the area. Her family moved to Chestnut Hill and bought a house in 1992. “After living in Center City, we loved the walkability, parks and historic beauty of Chestnut Hill,” she said last week, “including the architecture. I love Morris Arboretum, the sense of community, the Wissahickon, Forbidden Drive and access to Center City with the trains.”

Sisson actually moved to Ambler in 2005 but moved back last year to Chestnut Hill. In five years, Sisson plans on looking back on the spring of 2020 and saying, “Wow, remember when I froze (and reheated and ate) a Schmitter after McNally’s closed for a bit?” And she plans to get more involved in volunteering at Morris and more gardening.

Born and raised in southwestern Michigan, Sisson earned a B.A. from Stanford University and a degree from the University of Notre Dame Law School. She has served on the Small Business Board of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. An avid sailor, she is passionate about navigating not only on the water but also the changing legal landscape.

An Executive Director at Mestel & Company, the nation’s leading attorney placement firm, Sisson specializes in Associate, Counsel and Partner placements in the Philadelphia and New York metropolitan regions. She joined Mestel in 2019 after managing her own legal search firm, Oxford Legal, for 25 years. She got into legal search after starting her family and leaving her full-time attorney’s job as a litigator.

Sisson likes the flexibility of legal search as it is not a 9-to-5 desk job and has provided satisfaction of “helping people at different stages of their legal careers, from their first years of work through retirement planning.” It has been a way for her to leverage the “counselor” side of being an attorney without some of the day-to-day stressors of the practice of law.

There are massive challenges currently, of course, for all small business owners right now during the COVID-19 crisis — sales, staffing, cash flow, business planning, etc. “The Philadelphia region has been supportive of women business owners with programming through the Chamber (Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce), for example, and a host of networking organizations,” she said.

“One challenge in my mind for many women business owners is the time crunch of balancing life’s duties and demands with your professional life. Having always worked a bit of ‘flex from home,’ I know that finding that quiet space especially now can be challenging.”

Sisson’s work in legal search has always involved extensive phone work, so the lockdown itself hasn’t changed her day-to-day efforts much, except that hiring moves along more slowly now. “In mid-March a friend and I did a massive Costco run, and I loaded up the freezer. Daily I am walking or running. My daughter is shopping for me. There is lots more Zoom and Facetime with family and friends. Daily prayers for frontline workers, those who have passed, for a safer summer and rest of the year. I try not to watch the news too much.”

Regarding those who have not even started their careers yet — in other words, students — Sisson thinks it is a terrible shame that students cannot celebrate together their high school or college graduations this spring since Zooming cannot replace the real thing. Her advice for graduates is to plan for get-togethers once the Centers for Disease Control and local and state governments decide it is safe to reopen our society.

“There may be some natural anger about not having an official graduation ceremony,” she said, “so try to put more energy into sharing your happiness on your accomplishment through notes, letters, phone calls and ways to connect with your fellow classmates.”

Sisson moved to this area because of marriage to her now-former spouse, attorney Brian Calistri. They have two children, Michael Calistri, 25, and Hannah Calistri, 21.

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