Insights (Blog) - Diversity & Flexibility Alliance

Spotlight on Flex – Anita Agajanian

The Spotlight on Flex showcases professionals from member organizations who exemplify personal and professional success while working a flexible schedule. Their stories illustrate the long-term benefits that flexible schedules offer to both individuals and organizations.

For April 2018, we are pleased to share insights from Anita Agajanian, Partner, DLA Piper (Boston, MA).  

Anita AgajanianDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success through your schedule?

Anita Agajanian: I came to the Boston office of DLA Piper as a new lateral partner. I had been at the main office of another Boston firm for years prior to my move. It was a leap of faith to come to DLA Piper because it was such a different type of law firm than what I was used to. The Boston office had only been established two years at that point and was, at the time, one of the firm’s smaller locations. I decided to make that leap though, because I believed in DLA Piper’s commitment to its real estate practice and the firm’s national and global reach. As a young partner, I knew I could have a broader practice at a firm like DLA Piper.

When I first started here, I was working full time. But after I had my first child 11 years ago, I knew I wanted to switch to a reduced hours schedule. The firm is, and always has been, very supportive of attorneys to work flexibly – they are quite transparent about it. DLA Piper has policies in place and encourages attorneys to utilize them. I had a lot of confidence when I approached the idea to work a reduced hours schedule because I knew the firm was committed to it. It was really more of a personal question about what would work for me, rather than what would work for the firm. I wasn’t concerned about the reaction to my change in schedule because I knew everyone would be supportive.

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Action Step –
Truly Inclusive Flexible Work and Leave Policies Must Include Staff

The Alliance’s Action Steps are designed to assist organizations with implementing practical strategies and policies related to diversity and flexibility.  Members can access full versions of all of the Alliance’s Action Steps in the Member Resource Center.

Many organizations offer vastly different flex and leave benefits to employees at different levels of seniority and with different responsibilities. For example, at a number of law firms, attorneys have access to better flexibility and leave policies than professional staff. Given the integral role that staff plays at companies and firms, we recommend that organizations make their formal flex and leave policies more widely available to staff in order to promote higher satisfaction and retention rates. While the flex work types offered should reflect the diverse needs of staff and may differ from those offered to other professionals, providing flexibility to all employees is important to realizing your organization’s inclusion objectives.

The results of our 2017 Law Firm Flexibility Benchmarking Survey, which tracks workplace flexibility in law firms, show there has been little progress on closing the gap between the level of formal flex and leave policies offered to staff as compared to attorneys. While nearly all participating firms (94% of this year’s respondents) have a flex policy for attorneys, only 16.7% of participating firms report having a flex policy for staff. It’s worth noting the difference between firms offering paid gender-neutral leave to attorneys (89% of firms surveyed), as compared to firms offering paid gender-neutral leave to all staff (61% of firms surveyed). Of the firms surveyed, 22% do not offer any paid parental leave for staff.

These results serve as a good reminder to make sure your flex and leave policies are inclusive of all employees. Here are some ways to reduce the disparity in flex and leave benefits among employees…

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Spotlight on Flex – Lori Mihalich-Levin and Dr. Cindy Kelley

The Spotlight on Flex showcases professionals from member organizations who exemplify personal and professional success while working a flexible schedule. Their stories illustrate the long-term benefits that flexible schedules offer to both individuals and organizations.

This month’s Spotlight on Flex features our 2018 Flex Success® Award Honorees, Lori Mihalich-Levin and her client, Dr. Cindy Kelley. The Flex Success® Award recognizes partners at Alliance member organizations who have achieved a high level of success while working a reduced hours schedule as well as a client who has been integral to making workplace flexibility so successful. We wanted our members to have the chance to get to know this year’s Honorees a little earlier, and we are looking forward to formally presenting their awards at our rescheduled Annual Conference on September 27, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Lori focuses her practice on Medicare reimbursement counseling, with a special focus on Medicare graduate medical education (GME) payments to teaching hospitals. She represents academic medical centers, teaching hospitals, community hospitals, and health systems, as well as a broad array of other health care organizations.

Lori has worked a 60% reduced hours schedule while representing hospitals, academic medical centers, medical schools and health systems as a Partner in Dentons Healthcare Practice since August 2015 in Washington, DC. In just two years, she was able to bring in 20 new clients to the firm and build a premier practice around legal issues related to graduate medical education. Her reduced hours schedule has allowed her to care for her two small children, while also building Mindful Return, LLC, a personal business that assists new parents in their transition back to work from parental leave, and writing a book Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave. She is also the Chair of the firm’s Flexibility and Parental Leave Task Force, part of its Women LEAD initiative, where she champions the success of diverse attorneys and has been instrumental in updating the firm’s parental leave policies.

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