Insights (Blog) - Diversity & Flexibility Alliance

Spotlight on Flex – Dana Justus

Our 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 June 2019, we are pleased to share insights from Dana Justus, Counsel, Sterne Kessler Goldstein & Fox (Washington, DC)

Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success with your career? How has the firm supported this?

Dana Justus: A healthy combination of luck and maintaining strong relationships! I worked before and during law school as a paralegal and then student associate/law clerk at an Intellectual Property (IP) firm in DC. While there, I developed a great relationship with a partner, Monica Talley, who’s since became a Director at Sterne Kessler. After graduation, I worked in the trademark group for another general practice firm for five years. Although I loved the people I worked with, the workload was very demanding and my husband did not have much flexibility at his own job. I knew that our future family life would be dependent on one of us (likely me) finding what I considered to be a potentially non-existent, “dream” reduced-hours trademark attorney job.

During my last year at my prior firm, I billed 2600 hours while pregnant, and I knew that schedule wouldn’t be sustainable for our long-term lives – particularly as my husband had just made partner at his firm. In what turned out to be a massive stroke of luck, Monica Talley reached out to me about moving to Sterne Kessler as a “reduced hours” associate in the trademark practice group. I really liked the fact that Monica and the firm had brought in another reduced hours associate the prior year, so the groundwork had been laid to add a similar position to the group. Also, the workload sounded like my ideal balance – not too much litigation or “all hands on deck” situations. It was the type of work I wanted, with the flexibility I needed, at a firm I liked, with a partner I already knew and respected immensely – my “dream” job come true!

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Action Step –
You Have a Telecommuting Policy. Now What?

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.

While telecommuting has taken place on an informal and ad hoc basis for years, more organizations are implementing formal, written remote work policies. According to our 2017 Law Firm Benchmarking Survey, 61% of respondents indicated that their formal flexible work policies for attorneys included telecommuting. Remote work is an important job feature for many employees, and a formal telecommuting policy is an effective way to set parameters and expectations around working outside of the office.

However, organizations still struggle with gaining traction with their telecommuting policies. Common issues include: How do we make sure employees know about it? How do we increase usage rates? How do we make sure employees are teleworking in accordance with the firm’s policy? Here are some ways to overcome these issues and gain momentum with your telecommuting policy.

Education & Training is Key

First, offer education and training on a regular basis, not just when the telecommuting policy is launched. Training should include educating leaders and group heads on the business case, providing teleworkers with guidance on how to telecommute successfully while continuing to develop professionally, teaching supervisors best practices for managing remote workers, and training the entire organization on unconscious bias associated with flexible work.

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Spotlight on Flex – Teresa Reuter

Our 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 May 2019, we are pleased to share insights from Teresa Reuter, Associate, Sidley Austin LLP (Chicago, IL)

Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success with your career? How has the firm supported this?

TR: After graduating from law school in 2009, I clerked for a year in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia and then joined a large law firm in Atlanta. In 2013 my husband’s job took us to the Midwest at which point I joined Sidley as a lateral in its Chicago office. I worked full time until I came back from maternity leave in April 2017. Since then, I’ve been working a 90% reduced hours schedule.

With the addition to our family, I knew I needed to make adjustments to my schedule. I wanted to be fully engaged with work and also have some “give” with my hours to adjust to life with our newborn and a husband who travels for work. My reduced hours gives me that balance. Sidley guaranteed me the option to work a reduced hours schedule upon returning from leave, but I still was nervous to ask for it. Without any hesitation, my practice group leader and Sidley fully supported my request, and I’ve been working reduced hours ever since. I come into the office every day, and I have the flexibility to take care of work and personal matters as they’re scheduled or occur. With my reduced hours, I adjust my schedule to the changing demands of life. For instance, ever since transitioning my son to a daycare, I leave at 5 pm a few days a week to pick him up.

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