Spotlight on Flex Archives - Diversity & Flexibility Alliance

Spotlight on Flex – Dr. Cindy Kelley

Most months 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.

Although we typically highlight an attorney from a member organization, this month we wanted to showcase Dr. Cindy Kelley, Vice President, Medical Education, Summa Health (Akron, OH) one of this year’s Flex Success® Award honorees as she was unable to attend our Annual Conference due to a last minute conflict.  Dr. Kelley, along with her co-honoree, Lori Mihalich Levin (Dentons), exemplifies how flexibility works across industries and across client/partner relationships.  We are thrilled to share her personal Flex Success® story with you.

Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success with your schedule? How has your organization contributed to this?

Dr. Cindy Kelley: I have learned that with planning ahead and clear communication, a flexible schedule is possible.  With four daughters, I’ve realized that one-on-one time with each of them is a rarity but is so important.  So, I’ve started blocking the first hour on my Friday schedule so that each week, I can take one of them to breakfast before school and work.  Things do come up and we have to be flexible!  But I’ve learned that if you don’t at least make a plan, time will pass you by, and you’ll miss these opportunities.  My organization contributes to this flexibility by trusting us to get our work done and focusing on outcomes rather than the process.  In addition, my boss not only talks about the importance of work-life balance; he lives it.  This gives us permission to live it too.

DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable and contributed to business/professional development opportunities?
CK: My career would not have been possible without the support of my institution, and specifically, my partners as I shifted and changed my schedule early on.  Just one-and-a-half-years into my first job as a family medicine residency faculty member, I went to my boss in tears telling him that I didn’t think I could continue working full-time and taking obstetrics call.  I hadn’t anticipated how hard it would be to manage my schedule with a toddler and a newborn while my husband worked ED shifts.  We talked about what I needed and discussed a potential plan.  He took this to my entire group and they supported the change in my schedule.  Since that time, I have worked all kinds of schedules.  I am forever grateful to my partners for their support.

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Spotlight on Flex – Heidi B. (Goldstein) Friedman

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 August 2018, we are pleased to share insights from Heidi B. (Goldstein) Friedman, Partner at Thompson Hine (Cleveland, OH). 

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

Heidi (Goldstein) Friedman: There is a reason that I have been at Thompson Hine for 23 years. The firm has always supported my practice as well as my personal life and professional interests. I started flexing my schedule 18 years ago after I had my first child, who is now leaving for college! My initial flexible arrangement started with a slight reduction in overall billable hours, and although I focused on flexibility where I was able to grab it, my goal was to take every other Friday off with my newborn daughter to see what those mommy and me classes were all about. Over time and after I had my son three years later, I would aim to take one day off each week, and I also added some telecommuting to the mix. To me, the key was being able to work flexible hours in a flexible location. As my children grew, so did my practice, and my life circumstances also changed. I was suddenly a single parent and promoted to partner while trying to build a national practice that required quite a bit of travel. There is no doubt that my kids were my priority, and I had to be present in any way I could. At the same time, I wanted every client to feel like they were also a priority (and they are) and that I was honored to be a part of their team.

Even though my kids are older and require less attention (i.e., they don’t like being around me nearly as much!), I still want to remain engaged with them. Additionally, I have worked very hard to build a strong practice supporting large manufacturing companies on environmental, health and safety issues, so I still spend quite a bit of time on airplanes. Although I have now long been committed to the firm at full time plus, I continue to use flexibility as a way to be successful by telecommuting multiple days a week. My days fill up quickly with client meetings and travel but also with my kids’ activities and appointments. I try my best to never miss a soccer game or track meet for my son, and I definitely did not want to miss a single event during my daughter’s senior year

While my hours and schedule have changed over the years, my focus on making sure I also provide valuable and innovative client service delivery, has not. Flexibility lets me determine when and where I work without sacrificing responsiveness and service to my clients. At the end of the day, I want to be my best self for my clients and my family, and flexibility allows me to do this.

The firm did not have a formal policy when I first broached the subject of working flex 18 years ago. It was more of a “you get what you negotiate” process. I had medical issues with both of my pregnancies, and my practice group leader never hesitated to give me the time I needed. Thompson Hine has always been immensely supportive with a “family first” mentality and culture, and my reduced hours schedule was never a detriment to my professional development. During my second pregnancy, my doctor ordered three months of mandatory bed rest and I could not work at all; yet shortly after my son was born, I made partner. That was close to 16 years ago, and this is just one of the many reasons why I have stayed with the firm for 23 years!

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Spotlight on Flex – Kelsey Morris

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 July 2018, we are pleased to share insights from Kelsey Morris, Associate, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld (Irvine, CA)

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

Kelsey Morris: Right after law school, I started at Akin Gump’s LA office, and I was there from 2011-2015. I left to complete a one year, federal clerkship with the US District Court for the Central District of California. My daughter was born right at the end of my clerkship in 2016. At this point, I was at a crossroads in my career – I knew I wanted to continue practicing and spend the most time I could with my daughter while she was young. I just didn’t see a path forward at big law that would meet those needs at the time. I decided to start teaching legal writing at USC law school and took on projects as an independent contractor to keep up my legal practice. I was doing this for about five months when a former colleague from Akin Gump called and asked if I would join the litigation practice in the firm’s Irvine, CA office. My daughter was almost a year old, and I had a clearer vision of how I wanted to practice law and how much time I wanted to be available for my family versus work. I knew I wanted to come back and how I wanted to come back.

Akin Gump, and particularly the partners in Irvine, graciously worked with me to find the right arrangement. This year, I am working at a 60% reduced hours schedule and come into the office at least three days a week. It may not be a traditional schedule, but I make sure I’m fully present when I’m here, and I’m logged in and available remotely the rest of the week.

My flex success doesn’t just originate with me – without the practical support and understanding of my colleagues in Irvine, this wouldn’t work. For my part, though, I think success comes from mentally committing to my schedule. I was fortunate to have worked for senior women who were on flex schedules when I first started at the firm, and they were open with me about what flex looked like for them. I learned that for the sake of yourself and your work, you have to commit to your flex schedule – whatever that may look like. Someone on a 60% reduced hours schedule can’t take on the same case load as someone working at 100% and then still only work 60%. It doesn’t work that way. You have to communicate your schedule from the beginning and mentally note that you took a pay cut for the reduced hours. When you take on too much, you’re doing a disservice to yourself, the firm, and your clients. You also confuse your colleagues because they won’t know how much work they can and should be giving you. When you make a commitment to flex, you make it fairer for everybody.

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Spotlight on Flex – Michelle Humes

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 June 2018, we are pleased to share insights from Michelle Humes, Partner, Shutts & Bowen (Orlando, FL). 

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

Michelle Humes: Since I can remember (I think I was about seven years old), I always wanted to be a lawyer – my grandfather and uncle are both lawyers. But while in college, I started to have some doubts and wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue school for another three years. I was also worried about being able to balance working as an attorney and eventually having a family. So after college, I took a year off, and through a series of events, ended up working as an assistant at a law firm. I had wanted to be a lawyer, and here I was working at a law firm. I felt like it was fate’s way of telling me to go to law school. Since I was already working in the legal field, I decided to keep working while going to school. I started at Shutts & Bowen as the assistant to the Practice Group Leader (PGL) of the Construction Litigation Group in July 2006. In August 2006, I started in the evening law student program at Barry University; I continued to work full time and went to school at night for three years. In 2009, the firm created a summer associate position for me in the Orlando office. That fall I switched to the full-time program, graduated, and took the bar in July 2010. I started working at the firm in August that same year

At the time the economy was terrible, and the Orlando office didn’t have any summer associates or new hires. But right away, because of my history with the firm, and with the support of the Construction Litigation Group’s PGL, Shutts demonstrated its commitment to me and my career by hiring me as a contract associate. After a full year, they were able to switch me to a traditional associate position. I worked in the Construction Litigation Group for three years and then transitioned to the Real Estate Group at the end of 2013.

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Spotlight on Flex – Lisa Hansen

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 May 2018, we are pleased to share insights from Lisa Hansen, Partner, Lathrop & Gage (Kansas City, MO).  

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

Lisa Hansen: I was previously at another firm and then came to Lathrop & Gage as a lateral associate in 1998. I was working a full time schedule at the time, but once I came back from my first maternity leave, I switched to a 75% reduced hours schedule in 2002. I wanted to continue practicing, but I knew a full time schedule was not going to work for my needs with a newborn at home. I also knew I didn’t want to limit myself to certain days in or out of the office. I wanted the flexibility to leave the office when I needed to – without any questions asked. The firm was very supportive of my “ask” even though there weren’t many other flex attorneys at the firm at the time.

My schedule has shifted slightly over the years as my kids have gotten older. But I’ve always come into the office every day, and I’ve left when I needed to in order to be present for other obligations. I made partner while working reduced hours in 2015, and I’ve remained on this flex schedule ever since.

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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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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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Spotlight on Flex – Rebecca Springer

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 February 2018, we are pleased to share insights from Rebecca Springer, Partner, Crowell & Moring  (Washington, DC). 

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

Rebecca Springer: I started at Crowell & Moring as a first year associate after I graduated from law school. I knew I wanted to be in DC, and I knew I wanted to focus on labor and employment law. However, I also started at the firm thinking I would stay for a few years, make enough money to pay off my student loans, grow my legal experience, and then leave to figure out what I really wanted to do! No one was more surprised than I was when the firm turned out to be a great place for me to build a career. I’ve been fortunate to work at a great firm, with great people, do really interesting work, and have a fulfilling career, all the while being able to get married, have a family, and enjoy other outside interests like performing in a local singing group.

While I was mid-career, I thought about leaving because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay on the partner track. At the time, I thought the only alternative was to leave the firm and pursue something else. I talked with my practice group leaders, and they made it clear they wanted me to stay – my trajectory didn’t have to be a traditional path to partnership. They asked me what I wanted, and what I thought would be a realistic career path in order to stay; they let me know I was valued from the start. So for the past 10 years, I’ve worked reduced hours (ranging between 75% – 85%), and while working this flex schedule, I became a partner in January 2018.

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Spotlight on Flex – Danielle Katzir

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 January 2018, we are pleased to share insights from Danielle Katzir, Partner, Gibson Dunn (Los Angeles, CA). 

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

Danielle Katzir: I think it comes down to flex is not a one size fits all – not for the individual or the job – and flex isn’t static over the course of your career. I’ve been on some type of flex time arrangement for seven years now, but my targeted hours have varied, as needed, to best meet my needs and goals, those of the firm, and my clients. When my kids were younger, I wanted to spend more time at home with them working remotely. Now with three active toddlers, many mornings I can’t wait to jump in the car to clear my head, and I’m in the office every day. Flex is a two way street – it’s best if you’re as flexible with the job as you want the job to be with you. It’s about creatively defining flexibility and frequently looking at it from a more macro level; it’s not necessarily how predictable my day, week, or month is. Our industry often lacks this kind of certainty. It’s more about asking myself, “What do I want to achieve, professionally and personally, this quarter or year? The next 3-5 years?” Start at that point and backwards-engineer the workload to make those goals achievable in a timeframe that works for you. Be willing to revisit and re-evaluate that plan frequently.

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Spotlight on Flex – Indira Sharma

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, we are pleased to share insights from Indira Sharma, Counsel and Chair of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee, Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP (Baltimore, MD).

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

Indira Sharma: I started working at Saul Ewing right after I graduated from law school in 2006 and was on a full time schedule from 2006-2010. After I had my first child at the end of 2009, I returned to work reduced hours at 65 percent for about a year before transitioning to 70 percent reduced hours. I don’t have a set schedule; as it is with the practice of law, it just depends on the day. Instead of focusing on what days I’m in the office or not, I focus on making myself available. When there’s extra time, I spend it taking care of more things at home for my family and the community.

It’s been trial and error to get to this point. At first I thought I would take a certain weekday off, but I realized it wasn’t realistic as a litigator. So when there are family commitments, I work around them just as I would work around a deposition schedule. There are times where I’ve had to bend for work and times when I’ve had to bend for my personal life – it just depends what’s more important at the moment.

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