Spotlight on Flex Archives - Diversity & Flexibility Alliance

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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Spotlight on Flex –
A Reflective Look Back At 2016

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.

As the year comes to a close, here’s a look back at some of the highlights from our 2016 Spotlight on Flex interviewees:

 

Megan Devaney
Partner, Winston & Strawn LLP (Chicago, IL)

To make flex successful, I worked with my Practice Group Leaders to make sure I was staffed on projects that would expand my skills set and not just do “leftover” work.  We met on a regular basis to discuss what I was working on, if I had too little or too much work, and to make sure there was a constant balance of quality matters on my plate.  I surrounded myself (and continue to do so) with people who are, and a firm that is, supportive of me and my schedule. [Full interview]

 

Jennifer Morrissey
Counsel, Dentons (Washington, DC)

When life changed, I asked for the help that I needed to manage work and family commitments. You simply have to ask for what you want. We do it for our clients all the time in negotiations, so why not do the same for ourselves?  And if things aren’t working out, or if there’s a problem, it is far more constructive to bring a proposed solution along with your “ask”. It may not be a solution that ultimately works, but at least it will start the thought process and possibly open up other solutions. And finally, there’s always a sacrifice – that’s not just for flex – that’s life. [Full interview]

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Spotlight on Flex – Lori Brandes

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 Brandes, Ph.D., Of Counsel in the Washington, DC office of Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox P.L.L.C.

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

Lori Brandes: I started at Sterne Kessler as a technical specialist right after I completed my Ph.D. in Pharmacology in 2002. A year later, I entered law school and switched to a student associate position with a reduced hours schedule while attending classes in the evening. Once I became a first year associate, I returned to a full time schedule, but switched back to reduced hours in 2009. I’ve been on a reduced hours schedule ever since.

The best example, however, is my current arrangement. In January 2015 my husband and I moved from Washington, DC to a 65 acre farm in West Virginia for a lifestyle change. I wanted to continue working at the firm, and the firm supported my decision. Since moving, I telecommute daily in addition to working a 90 percent reduced hours schedule. I come into the DC office two-three times/month to attend internal meetings and meet with clients. This is why I believe my current, holistic flex schedule is a true testament of the firm and me making flexibility a priority and a success.

DFA: How have clients, the firm, and your practice area contributed to your flex success? 

LB: I work primarily in patent prosecution, so much of my work focuses on drafting patent applications and working with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to obtain patents. The logistics of this particular work make my telecommuting arrangement seamless – I can file documents at the USPTO electronically and still meet with clients and USPTO examiners in person when necessary. There are so many technological resources available today that I can do anything in my home office that I can do at my DC office.

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Spotlight on Flex – Antonia Sequeira

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 Antonia Sequeira, Partner in the Mountain View office of Fenwick & West LLP.

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

Antonia Sequeira: Before attending law school, I was a researcher on the Drosophila Genome Project at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and I also worked in various medical environments, including a clinical laboratory and an emergency room. When exploring where to take my career next, I was admitted to both biomedical PhD programs and to law schools. I became particularly interested in patents as a unique way to merge my scientific background and my strong writing skills. I ultimately decided to pursue law and attended UC Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law. I started as a summer associate at Fenwick & West and joined as a first year associate in the patent group right after graduation. During my first five years I split my practice between patent prosecution and patent litigation, working with a variety of different technologies, including medical device and software.

In 2008, I switched to a 70 percent, reduced hours schedule and moved my focus to patent prosecution/patent portfolio building. I was on this schedule when I made partner in January 2015. Recently, I switched to a 90 percent, reduced hours schedule. For me, both of these reduced hours schedules have meant that I don’t have particular days of the week that I take off – I still work full days. What it does mean, however, is I have the flexibility to not have to work as often on the weekends and at night. My schedule gives me the flexibility during the day to mentor associates and focus on business development. I’m the only female partner in the patent group (and the first female associate ever to be made partner in the patent group), and I do a great deal of mentoring and promoting of women and diversity in the firm. I also have a four year old daughter, and my schedule means I have less stress about lost work hours if I want to leave the office early and attend my daughter’s preschool events.

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Spotlight on Flex – Jamie Drewry

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 Jamie Drewry, Partner in the Indianapolis office of Faegre Baker Daniels LLP.

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

Jamie Drewry: I summered at FaegreBD in 2006 and then started as a full time, first year associate in 2007. As a first year associate, my primary focus was to build relationships with the partners in my group; I had a very internal versus external focus. In 2013, I was a sixth year associate and had my first child. The firm has a very generous maternity leave policy, and I was out on leave for about four months. I came back full time, but when I found out I was pregnant with my second child about one year later, I started to explore flex as an option. I knew the firm had flexible schedule options, but I really hadn’t looked into them before.

FaegreBD made switching to a flex schedule an easy choice. It was clear the firm meant what they advertised on paper regarding their flex policy. I moved to a schedule with 80 percent of the standard billable hour requirement in 2015 and went on another four month maternity leave after the birth of my second child. I was put up for partner while on leave, returned to work at an 80 percent, reduced hours schedule, and was made partner at the end of that year. This is my first full year as a partner, and it’s clear the firm has been incredibly supportive of my career and schedule.

I’m still in the office five days a week from 9am – 5pm, but I try to work from home one day a week. I focus on my kids in the morning and evening. Once the kids are in bed, I return my focus to work with the goal of preserving my weekends.

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Spotlight on Flex – Erik Lemmon

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 Erik Lemmon, Associate in the Denver office of Holland & Hart LLP.

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

Erik Lemmon: After college I attended the US Navy’s Officer Candidate School to train to be a pilot. Although I really loved being in the Navy and serving my country, I wasn’t passionate about the flying, especially given the months away from home the job entailed. I transferred to the Reserves on active duty to complete my commitment and started law school in 2005. I summered at Holland & Hart in 2007, and I started as a first year associate in the fall of 2008 in the Denver office.

My wife, a child clinical psychologist with a busy practice, and I moved to Arizona for her clinical internship in early 2010 after we had our first child. I switched firms when we moved, but we returned to Colorado and Holland & Hart in 2011. In 2013, we had our second child, and I knew something had to give. With a four year old daughter and newborn at home, I wanted to be involved at work, but I wanted to be a fully involved parent as well. If I wasn’t going to miss being an integral part of my family to be a pilot for the Navy, then I certainly wasn’t going to miss it to be a full time lawyer.

At first I didn’t think about the firm’s flex time program; I was looking at smaller firms and exploring in-house opportunities. I talked to a friend at the firm, and she suggested staying at Holland and working reduced hours. After speaking with the firm’s flex coordinator, I went to an 80 percent schedule. Looking back, I can’t believe I didn’t think about this option right away, and when I talk to male and female associates, I highly encourage them to explore flex as an option for their own careers. The firm is incredibly supportive and has a true-up policy; I’m compensated for any work above my agreed upon hours plus receive a bonus for exceeding them.

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