A 1973 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, Stanley looked for a job in West Virginia after getting married. She worked for Columbia Gas Transmission, then as a part-time law clerk for a federal judge.
She was hired as a federal prosecutor at a time when the Department of Justice encouraged U.S. attorneys to hire more women and minorities. For a while, Stanley even job shared with another new mother.
"I did that for 15 years and I loved it. It was a great job," she said.
There weren't too many women in the courthouse at the time, she said.
"Everybody was as man - the court reporter, deputy clerk, all the marshals, all the probation officers - everyone was a man," Stanley said. "I would often be the only woman in the whole room during a hearing. So, you can't help but feel like you stick out."
Being the first female in her position, she said she set a higher standard for herself "because I felt like I had to demonstrate that women were as good or better than men. So, I've always tried to be the best. I felt like if I didn't do well that it would be more difficult for other women coming behind me."
Becoming a U.S. magistrate judge was less stressful and came at the right time in her life.
"When you're a young lawyer, you want to learn how to try cases and present matters to a jury, so that was great," she said. "But I also really got worn out and kind of burned out so that when I was in my mid-40s, it was a great time to go on the bench because I still got courtroom work but all I had to worry about was making decisions, and I can make decisions. I don't agonize over them for too long."