Spotlight on Flex Archives - Diversity & Flexibility Alliance

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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Spotlight on Flex – Wendy Sugg

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 Wendy Sugg, Counsel, Troutman Sanders (Orange County, CA).

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

Wendy Sugg: I started working for a firm in New York, followed by a two-year clerkship for the Southern District of NY. There wasn’t a lot of flexibility in my schedule while in New York, but it was great training. I always knew I would come back to California – the idea of having to rent a car to get out of town was insane to me! I moved back here in 2003 and was a litigator at my first California firm for eight years. While there, I started doing a lot of employment litigation, and as I became more senior, I started thinking about specializing. It was a natural fit to stick with employment matters. I started looking for a full-service firm where I could continue to specialize, build a book of business, and have other departments to help with that too.

I found another firm that checked these boxes, and a year and a half later, I had my son. At the time, he had weekly medical appointments, and I wanted one day a week off in order to accommodate his needs and focus on his care. It was a great arrangement with my previous firm, and I started to build a good network and book of business. I was formally on a 75 percent, reduced hours schedule and came into the office four days a week.

I came to Troutman Sanders three years ago; they had no employment litigators or employment practice on the West Coast. It was another great opportunity to build my expertise and practice here. I was clear during the interview process that I wanted to continue working at a reduced hours schedule (now at 80 percent) because my son had just turned two, and we were still taking care of his medical needs. I felt comfortable asking for flexibility right from the start because it was what I needed. The firm had no issues with this, matched my salary, and brought me on as a direct lateral hire. In other words, instead of focusing on my schedule, we focused on developing a business and marketing plan. There wasn’t an employment attorney on board yet, and the firm had immediate business needs such as counseling clients and their employees during transition periods (such as post-merger or acquisitions).

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Spotlight on Flex – Sarah Kuehnel

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 Sarah Kuehnel, Associate, Ogletree Deakins, St. Louis, MO

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

Sarah Kuehnel: Flexibility has always been important to me because my husband has been in the military my entire career. As a second year associate at Ogletree, I first switched to a flex schedule in late 2010 because he was being deployed in January 2011. The firm was incredibly generous and let me adjust my schedule to a 50 percent reduced-hours target for the last two months of that year.

In 2011, my husband was selected for the Army Special Forces. We consciously decided that his career would take precedence since it had a tangible time limit (both from a physical and career development aspect). I was passionate about my career too, but with a limited amount of time, my husband had to advance in his career first. My original thought was to quit the firm since his career would require us to move and live in several different states over the next few years. I went to the managing shareholder to discuss my options. Rather than let me quit, Ogletree once again, was incredibly supportive, and agreed to let me work 100 percent remotely out of the St. Louis office on an hourly basis. Because the arrangement was a success, in 2014, I went to a 75 percent reduced-hours schedule. I now work at an 85 percent reduced-hours schedule – all the while continuing to work remotely for the St. Louis and now Tampa offices.

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Spotlight on Flex – Alan Bryan

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 Alan Bryan, Senior Associate General Counsel for Legal Operations & Outside Counsel Management, Walmart Stores (Bentonville, AR).

Alan BryanDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success through your career? How has Walmart supported this?

Alan Bryan:  I started at what was then Arkansas’s largest law firm as a general litigator where I was eventually made partner. I got engaged about eight years into my career and explored transferring to my firm’s Fayetteville’s office since my fiancée (now wife) was originally from there. I eventually relocated, and that move also caused me to reflect on where I was going in my career.

Even when I made partner, I realized my next chance for leadership at the firm (chairing a committee or being a section leader) was a long way off. I knew what I really wanted was to lead and influence people, and I had to think about what my long term options were. The firm, among other things, did not offer leadership opportunities for junior partners. Even in law school, I had always been interested in working in-house, and Fayetteville is roughly 25 miles south of Bentonville (where Walmart is headquartered). An opportunity presented itself, and I started working at Walmart managing litigation in July 2011. In May 2013, I was asked to lead all of the company’s outside law firms. Since then, I’ve also taken on the role of managing several of the legal department’s initiatives for its Legal Operations group.

In terms of flexibility, many organizations have what’s stated, but that doesn’t always correlate to the reality of what’s expected – time is finite, and time is money. That was certainly the case at my law firm – what was said wasn’t always what happened. I knew Walmart fully supported flexibility and the idea that you can manage how and where you work at the same time.   You have to find a place where you can secure what you want and get to where you want to be on your own terms.

My wife is a neo-natal intensive care nurse and primarily works the night shift. We had our first child within the first year I started at Walmart and our second child a year and a half later. The company understands I’m the only available caregiver in the mornings, and sometimes I have to shift when I arrive into the office to accommodate my kids’ schedules.

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Spotlight on Flex – Anne Marie Pisano

 

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 Anne Marie Pisano, Principal at Goldberg Kohn, in Chicago, IL

Anne Marie PisanoDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success through your career?

Anne Marie Pisano:  Goldberg Kohn is a one office firm based in Chicago, and I started here as a summer associate and then as a first year associate after graduation. My husband and I are very passionate about pursuing our careers while at the same time being completely committed to each other. When an amazing professional opportunity presented itself for him in DC, we knew we had to take it. I was a mid-level associate at the time, pregnant with our first child, and I really loved working at Goldberg – I didn’t know what my options were. I spoke with the chairperson of the commercial finance practice group, and he told me that even if I moved to DC, he and the firm didn’t want to lose me as an associate. It was incredible, and we worked together to create a telecommuting arrangement. I would work the same amount of hours, for the same compensation, and have the same expectations as any other full time, Chicago-based associate – I would just be based in the DC-metro area. It was a very organic arrangement; I would come to Chicago when deals closed and to meet with clients as I deemed necessary.

This arrangement started over 14 years ago. What I love about Goldberg Kohn is that over the years, my family and professional situation has evolved, and my flex arrangement has evolved to match my needs as well. When I started telecommuting, technology was not what it is today, and during my first maternity leave, there was a desire to push our tech options forward. This was not just for me but for other attorneys at GK who wanted to leave the office in the evening to spend time with their families and log back into the system later, if necessary. The firm made the investment to make this happen, and I had complete, remote access to the firm’s system. I was able to recreate my entire office desktop at home, and it’s been a win for all attorneys since then.

After I had my second child, I realized that in addition to telecommuting, I wanted to work reduced hours. Without question, the firm supported my request, and we agreed on a flex schedule where I would work 80 percent. In fact, I made principal (we are a single-tier partnership), while telecommuting and working reduced hours! We stayed in the DC area for 12 years, and two years ago, we moved to Pennsylvania (where my husband and I grew up) to be closer to family. Now that my third child is in school full time, I returned to working full time. I’ll go into the office in Chicago about once a month for two/three days at a time, but I still telecommute about 95 percent of the time.

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Spotlight on Flex – Nerissa Coyle McGinn

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 Nerissa Coyle McGinn, Chief Diversity Partner, in the Chicago, IL Office of Loeb & Loeb.

Nerissa Coyle McGinnDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success through your career?

Nerissa Coyle McGinn:  When I was a sixth year associate, four partners left my law firm and started Loeb & Loeb’s Chicago office. They brought me with them as the only associate. At the time, I was in my early 30’s, married, and I knew I wanted to start a family very soon. The partners also knew this, and I asked for immediate vesting with my benefits to be eligible for Loeb’s maternity leave (now our parental leave policy).

Looking back, it’s amazing how supportive the firm has always been. Even from my first request regarding the vesting of my child care benefits, the partners who brought me to Loeb negotiated on my behalf, and the firm agreed to my vesting request. They worked with me to create a reduced hours schedule even before the firm had a reduced hours policy. I had my first child just after my one year anniversary with Loeb & Loeb in 2005. I returned from that leave at a 60 percent, reduced hours schedule, and I’ve been on this schedule ever since. Over the years, how my 60 percent looks has changed as my family’s needs and the firm’s expectations of me have changed. At first, I was in the office Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. I wanted to have two back-to-back days in the office for more consistency rather than work every other day and feel like I was always playing “catch up.” As my kids got older, I started coming into the office every day but working shorter hours. I made partner five years ago, and because I work shorter days, I’m also able to telecommute part of the workday. This arrangement has worked for as long as it has because the firm is flexible with me, and I’m flexible with the firm.

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Spotlight on Flex – Jessica Brown

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 Jessica Brown, Partner, in the Denver, CO Office of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher.

Jessica BrownDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success through your career?

Jessica Brown: It’s almost surprising to me, but I’ve been at the firm for more than 22 years. I was a summer associate here, clerked for a judge after graduating from law school, and then started as an associate in January 1995.

I made partner effective 2002, had my first child in 2006, and started working a reduced hours schedule in 2007. There have been times when I’ve been working full time hours or traveling extensively, and I have to be able to roll with that. I never expect to work reduced hours on a daily or weekly basis but rather over the course of the year. Fortunately, I have an incredible support system through my husband, our nanny, and the firm.

I’m in the office every day, and I’m required to bill 1300 hours per year. I don’t adhere to a set schedule because I don’t know how that could work in a client services industry. You could have an “aspirational schedule,” where you choose to be off or work from home a certain day of the week, but it’s important to be flexible about your flexibility. Work priorities won’t always align with your schedule, and you have to adjust seamlessly.

For me, working every day makes sense because I’m always busy, though not always with billable work. I recently reviewed my hours for the past five years and was amazed to find that I worked almost the exact same number of total hours each year. The only thing that fluctuated was the ratio of my billable hours to my non-billable (e.g., community service and pro bono) hours.

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Spotlight on Flex – Jennifer Nowlin

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 Jennifer Nowlin, Associate General Counsel, Labor and Employment, in the Bentonville, AR Office of Walmart Legal.

Jennifer NowlinDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success through your career? 

Jennifer Nowlin: I started practicing law as a commercial litigator at a Dallas firm. I’d been practicing for less than one year when my husband was offered a job at Walmart in Bentonville, AR. We had to decide whether it was time for us to relocate, but I knew my marketability was limited with such little experience under my belt. From the beginning, Walmart supported my family’s needs; the company allowed us to stay in Dallas while my husband traveled back and forth to Bentonville. We kept this arrangement for a year and finally relocated to Bentonville when I joined Walmart’s legal department in 2005. I started with the employment practices legal team, but in 2009, I joined the legal team supporting labor relations, and I’ve been with them ever since.

Walmart had developed a Professional Work Option Program, and when I had my first child in 2007, I was one of the early participants in it. I really wanted to spend time at home with my newborn, but I also wasn’t ready to stop working all together. I talked with my supervisor at the time, and she encouraged me to develop different work scenarios that would work for me. If my first choice wasn’t accepted, then I would move on to my next scenario and so forth. My first choice was to work a 3/5 schedule which meant three days in the office, and two days off.

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Spotlight on Flex – Lori Mihalich-Levin

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 Lori Mihalich-Levin, Partner in the Washington, DC office of Dentons.

Lori Mihalich-Levin

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

Lori Mihalich-Levin: Prior to joining Dentons, I was a Director at the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). While there, I had my second child, and I quickly realized, like all new parents, that 1 + 1 suddenly equaled 85. I was being pulled in so many different directions, especially as I was preparing to return to work. I wanted and needed something that could help guide new mothers through this journey, and that’s what inspired me to start a new parents group at my office and a program called Mindful Return. I wanted to create a resource to help other moms with their maternity leaves and return to work transitions.

I was already telecommuting one day a week, and as Mindful Return started to grow, I realized I needed more flexibility to focus on work and develop the company. I wanted to be able to use my Fridays to work on Mindful Return, and I started to look at returning to private practice at a reduced hours schedule in order to do so. I knew it was going to be tough to find the perfect fit – I had no book of business at the time, wanted to come in with a reduced hours schedule, and the firm had to have a great health care practice.

Dentons checked every box. The firm was very familiar with the success of flex schedules, and more importantly, understood that people working flex had the same high-quality work as their full-time counterparts. In fact, during the interview process, I debated whether to ask to come in at the counsel or partner level. The more I thought about it, I saw no reason why I shouldn’t ask to join as a lateral partner. It was very indicative that from the beginning, Dentons not only supported my request, but was excited to meet it too. I joined the Health Care practice group a year and a half ago, as a partner, and at a 60 percent reduced hours schedule. I’m in the office Monday through Thursday, and I typically leave around 4:30 pm. I’m off on Fridays, but if a client issue or other business obligation comes up on a Friday, then I’m available. This experience reaffirmed for me that you have to ask for what you want. If you don’t, you’ll never know what’s available to you.

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Spotlight on Flex – Andrea Hogan

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 Andrea Hogan, Partner in the San Francisco office of Latham & Watkins LLP.

Andrea HoganDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success through your career?

Andrea Hogan: I’ve been with Latham & Watkins my entire career; I started in the DC office in 2005 after graduating from Georgetown University Law Center. The firm has an unassigned program for new associates, so I was able to work on projects within different departments and practice groups as a junior associate. Coming out of law school, I was very interested in regulatory work, and that interest was solidified when I began working with the Environment, Land & Resources Department.

For reasons related to my husband’s job, I transferred to Latham’s Chicago office as a junior associate. When I was a mid-level associate, we moved back to California, and I’ve been in Latham’s San Francisco office ever since.

I had my first child when I was a sixth year associate, and when I came back from leave, I took advantage of the firm’s Pace Reduction Option for Returning Associates To Adjust Program (PRO RATA). This allows associates to on-ramp from leave and work a reduced hours schedule for six months – no questions asked and no approval required. I’ve stayed on an 85 percent reduced hours schedule ever since. I’m in the office every day but with shorter hours because that’s what works best for me and my family. In 2014, I had my second child, and while out on leave, I was promoted to partner.

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