Spotlight on Flex - Diversity & Flexibility Alliance

The Diversity & Flexibility Alliance’s 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.

If you are a professional working a flexible schedule and would like to share your story in an upcoming Spotlight on Flex, contact Eliza Musallam.

2019 Spotlights

For June 2019, we are pleased to share insights from Dana Justus, CounselSterne 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.

I started with Sterne Kessler in May 2016 with a 1200 billable hour requirement. I originally aimed to work in the office four days and one day “off” per week, but this routine quickly proved to be too inflexible. Now, I still bill at 1200 hours/year, but I telework two days/week (typically Tuesdays and either Thursdays or Fridays). I don’t feel tethered to the office; if there’s a week where I have a lot of house projects or my son is sick, I let people know. My practice group and the firm value my arrangement because they view flexibility as an asset – my Director has told me that she never knows if I’m in the office, teleworking, or traveling, and she doesn’t care. My work is done on time, and it’s done well.

The level of support for flex and my schedule hasn’t changed at all over the years. Last year I started assisting with more litigation matters outside of the Trademark practice group. The team knew I was offline from 5 pm – 8 pm and working from home at least twice a week, and it was never an issue. I strongly believe in the idea that face time does not equal value, and I believe my work product reflects this commitment.

DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable and contributed to your overall internal and external development? How have clients supported your flex journey?

DJ: Flex is integral to my professional outlook, overall job satisfaction, and career development. My current arrangement is the perfect balance for me, especially as I’m preparing for my second maternity leave. I have quality work that I feel gratified, I’m not missing out on any professional development opportunities, and I have enough time to spend with my son and take care of personal matters. I rarely feel overwhelmed, but I also don’t feel stagnant or bored with my career.

I’ve never had to tell a client I’m working reduced hours – thanks to technology and my commitment to being flexible, the results are the same as if I were working full time in an office. There’s no difference in my availability or response time. I strongly believe it’s important to stay present for both your external and internal clients, and I’m always willing to shift my telework days if a client wants to meet in the office. Similarly, I’ll come into the office rather than dial in for an important client call or firm/group meeting because I want to be there in person. I don’t want to be viewed differently or for people to think I have any less loyalty or commitment to my work, the firm, and my clients because I work reduced hours.

I really appreciate Sterne Kessler’s adaptability and commitment to having more senior attorneys in flexible arrangements. I have never felt like a “second-class citizen” because of my reduced hours as compared to full-time associates. During my first year here, I was asked to mentor a summer associate, and my first reaction was, “But I’m not full time.” Then I realized it had nothing to do my schedule; rather it was the firm’s support and belief that I would make a good mentor. My schedule shouldn’t, and didn’t, matter in terms of the value that I could provide in that role.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self?

DJ: I feel very lucky to be in this role and strongly believe in developing and maintaining relationships from the very beginning. Monica thought of me and reached out when she needed another team member because I maintained a strong relationship with her over the years. Even though flex is not as common as the traditional associate track, it makes me happy that Sterne Kessler was, and continues to be, open to these arrangements.

DFA: What do you do to recharge? How do you pay it forward?

DJ: I’m able to accomplish a lot during my telework days, and I’m able to keep my weekends primarily open for family time. Time with them and regular yoga classes help me to recharge.

I’m still very involved with the IP community at American University Washington College of Law, and I speak on panels and review resumes for students. I believe in paying it forward because I was lucky throughout my career to be in the right place, at the right time, or to know the right person.

Teresa Reuter - Sidley Austin

For May 2019, we are pleased to share insights from Teresa Reuter, AssociateSidley 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.

The 10% reduction in billable hours may not seem like a lot, but it has been tremendously helpful in allowing me to meet work and life demands as they arise. I have less pressure to bill and more time to spend with my family and on business development matters. Flex will continue to be a priority for my career, especially starting this summer as we are relocated to Munich, Germany for one year. I’ll be working out of the firm’s Munich office and will further reduce my schedule to 60% – 70% of billable hours.

Sidley has been incredibly supportive of my career and personal development, and that support has manifested in different ways over the years. I transitioned from having more flexibility at home with an in-home caretaker to a more regulated schedule once my son started day care – it was a harder transition than I thought it would be. When discussing some of these issues with a senior partner in my group, she encouraged me to take the time I needed and to let people know I had to leave the office by a certain time to make the transition work. We all have different commitments outside of work, and I have come to learn that it’s important to communicate openly about these matters. The idea is: you’re a professional, we trust your judgment to stand by your clients, the firm, and your family, and you can make your own decisions. That’s not to say that when there’s an emergency you’re not available; you adjust accordingly, and the firm trusts that you are capable of managing this effectively.

DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable and contributed to your overall internal and external development? How have clients supported your flex journey?

TR: Becoming a parent changes your life in so many ways. I wouldn’t be a good parent and a good attorney without flex, especially with a partner who travels often for work. Flex is a necessity, and it’s helped to make my career sustainable. The 10% fewer billable hours not only gives me the breathing room I need to take care of my family life, it also gives me the room to attend work events and be more present in the legal community. It’s easy to tell people they have to “be out there and get to know people” for development purposes, but it’s a lot harder to do when you’re thinking about it on top of meeting your billable hours.

I see more clients and attorneys talking openly about flexibility and alternative schedules. I work with several women lawyers, and our use of flex is a bonding point. It’s a great feeling to know you can meet your work and personal demands by being open and effective communicators. Clients and opposing counsel will say, “I’m not in the office this day,” or “I have to leave by 3:00 p.m. to pick up my kids,” – the more we talk about flexibility, the more it will become part of the norm.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self?

TR: Before I started working reduced hours, I was too hesitant in communicating openly about deadlines and expectations; instead, I assumed everything was urgent. I also would let everyone know I was still available and reachable when I was out of the office, even if that wasn’t feasible. If I could talk to my former self, I would say that it’s OK to be on vacation; my co-workers could cover for me, and it is OK to take time to recoup and recover. It’s better for me and for the firm. Now I try to take my own advice and untether on vacation and be respectful of others who are out of the office. I want more junior associates to know it’s OK to set boundaries and to stick to them!

I would do less assuming and more communicating – not everything needs a response right away. Be more forthright with asking, “When do you need this by?” I see more junior associates doing this (and doing it well), and I wish I had done that too.

DFA: What do you do to recharge? How do you pay it forward?

TR: To recharge I try to meditate every day for at least 10 minutes; it helps me reset and keep focus. My husband and I also are avid travelers; in the past year we’ve gone scuba diving in the Galapagos Islands, on safari to see lowland gorillas, and forest elephants in Gabon. These trips require us to unplug and enjoy the world’s natural wonders.

Paying it forward, I try to be more cognizant that not everyone is working when I work. When I log in at night and send emails, I try to put them on auto-delay so people don’t feel the pressure to respond if it’s not a true emergency. It’s small things like this that encourage and train us to be better communicators and relieve some of the pressure we feel from our jobs.

Ann Rives - Crowell & Moring

For April 2019, we are pleased to share insights from Ann Rives AssociateCrowell & Moring (Washington, DC).

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

Ann Rives: I was a rising third year associate when I lateraled to the antitrust group at Crowell and Moring in 2008. I was working full time, but went on maternity leave with my first child in December 2009. Crowell has a Balanced Hours policy that allowed me to return on a reduced schedule, and when I returned to work, I came back at a 60% reduced hours schedule. This was still relatively uncommon at the time, but coupled with the leave policy, Crowell has always shown its support of flexible work and its people.

But life happens, and when my son turned one, my husband’s new job required him to travel four days a week. We knew one of us needed a more stable schedule to be present for our son, and it was going to be me. I left the firm, but the antitrust group leaders and the firm made it clear that the door would always be open if I wanted to come back – even just to work on special projects. As hard as it was to leave in 2010, it was a great feeling to know I had a place to come back to at this caliber of a firm with amazing colleagues.

I made it a point to stay in contact after I left, and once my second child entered pre-school in 2013, I reached out to see if I could work on special projects for the antitrust group. The partners and the firm were incredibly receptive; we discussed what type of work I wanted, how many hours I could give, and how we could make it all work together.

Our agreed upon arrangement (and current flex schedule) is I’m an associate and bill an hourly rate with no annual requirement – it’s bill as you go, and I work primarily from home. The work ebbs and flows, and I bill anywhere between 7 – 20 hours a week. As lawyers, we’re trained to work on tight deadlines. But if you plan ahead and think about the work in the pipeline, there are things that can be pulled out of the “need it now” lane and reassigned to “non-urgent, but essential” lane instead. I focus on the latter items – complex research with high attention to detail work – and I love it!

When you’re thinking about developing your career while starting a family, deciding to stay at home to be with your family, or dealing with life circumstances, you’re also thinking about the potential experience gap on your resume. What if you decide to leave and want to come back? That gap can be hard to overcome. If I hadn’t reached out to Crowell in 2013 and if the firm had not been so supportive, I would be dealing with an eight year gap on my resume. As I said before, life happens, and I had two more children since returning to flex work at Crowell. With four kids (two boys and two girls ranging in age from 18 months to 3, 7, and 9 year olds), flexibility is clearly a priority for me, and Crowell’s policies have been proven successful as I progress in my career!

The key to any successful flex arrangement is open and honest communication. I work with the partners to identify work I want to do; I focus on researching and writing on complex legal issues, and I’m not afraid to say if the work is not the right fit for me.

Crowell is working to find more unique flex arrangements that will keep quality people at the firm. They’ve invested heavily in my career and are smart about making long-term investments in their associates. The firm sends me to client conferences and trainings because they recognize that my flex schedule doesn’t diminish my value or contributions to the firm.

I’m not shy about sharing my flex arrangement experience with others. The more people share how flex works for them, the more junior associates can see the different avenues available for them. There’s so much value, knowledge, and experience that’s left on the table when a firm isn’t willing to embrace flex and non-traditional approaches to work schedules. I don’t know if I would have come back to work without flexibility. But because of Crowell’s openness to flex and commitment to keeping talent, I’m incredibly loyal and grateful to them.

DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable and contributed to your overall internal and external development? How have clients supported your flex journey?

AR: Clients want good work, at a fair price, and in a timely manner; beyond that, I don’t think they care how or where it gets done. This goes for internal clients too. I’m responsive to deadlines and make sure I don’t take on more than I can handle at once. My internal clients recognize the value of non-traditional work arrangements and like that they can carve out pieces of work to me. They encourage flex because they know it keeps valuable experience at the firm that would otherwise go by the wayside.

Flex makes me a better attorney between raising four kids and meeting work deadlines – I’m so much more efficient than I ever thought I could be, and it’s also made me more creative. I have to be entrepreneurial with taking on work rather than waiting for work to come to me.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self?

AR: I’m so happy with the control I have over my career development and the path I’m on – so I don’t know if I would have done much differently. I invested in relationships early at the firm, and those mentors and co-workers are now the same people that send work to me. I’m also invested in the work itself. Flex arrangements don’t just appear; the best thing you can do as a junior attorney is to build the foundation for solid relationships and set a high standard for your own work product so people trust your work and your judgment.

One thing I might have done differently early on would have been to not compare myself with anyone who’s on a traditional career path. There are always trade-offs with working flex versus full time, but you have to be cognizant of what’s good for you and your relationship with the firm. I may not be able to take on every assignment that comes my way as someone working traditional hours could, but my flex arrangement also allows me more freedom to choose the projects that interest me the most.

Also, setting boundaries is important in a client-based industry, especially when you’re working a flex schedule. If there’s a client emergency, then there’s an emergency, and that has to take priority. But it’s about knowing when and how to push back that makes you a better attorney and teammate – to be willing to ask for a bit more time to produce your best work.

DFA: What do you do to recharge? How do you pay it forward?

AR: With four kids at home, I would say finding time for myself is definitely the hardest part of my flex arrangement! Someone always needs something. But honestly, another reason I love my schedule is that part of my ability to recharge comes from switching hats between mom and attorney. I love that my kids see me playing both roles, especially my daughters. I can volunteer at my older daughter’s school and then she can see me “go be a lawyer” (in her words) at night. But when I truly recharge, I’m at the gym or trying to find a rare date night with my husband – at a restaurant that serves more than chicken nuggets!

At this point in my career, I feel like others are still paying it forward to me – I have so many amazing mentors at the firm and beyond who are committed to helping me continue to be successful with my career. But as my flex arrangement and career at Crowell grows, I’m committed to mentoring more junior associates who are struggling with finding the right balance in their career path and life circumstances.

Jay Kugler De Young - Fish & Richardson

For March 2019, we are pleased to share insights from Jay Kugler DeYoung, Principal, Fish & Richardson (Boston, MA).

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

Jay Kugler DeYoung: Before I came to Fish & Richardson in 2002, I worked for two years at a general practice firm. I wanted to focus on biotechnology prosecution, and I was happy to move to Fish & Richardson when the opportunity presented itself. I joined Fish as a full time associate, and in 2008 I came up for partner – just as I had my first child. I made partner that year and came back on a reduced hours schedule after my daughter was born. I have an hour long commute each way, and I wanted to be home to see my child and eat dinner together as a family. I moved to an 80% reduced hours schedule that consisted of coming into the office each day from 9:30 am – 5:30 pm. I telecommuted as necessary too, and I’ve never looked back.

The firm has never pressured me to go back to full time, in fact, I believe the firm sees flexibility as a win/win for everyone. I chose to reduce my hours because I wanted be involved with firm activities around associate mentoring, training, evaluation, and advancement. Over the years, I’ve expanded my internal involvement to include partner evaluation and advancement too. Internal community building and professional development are both really important to me, and if I were working full time, I wouldn’t be able to give 100% to my substantive work, professional development activities, or being a mom. Flex has been a decision that’s really worked because I’m happier, have less pressure to bill hours, can devote the time I want to client development, and am able to spend quality time with my family.

DFA: How have clients supported your flexibility?

JKD: I honestly don’t think many of my clients know I’m working flex because my hours overlap with their hours. They know I’m available when they need me, and that’s what matters. All of my clients have my personal cell phone number, and they’re incredibly respectful; no one has misused it. My desk phone rings straight to my cell phone when I’m out of the office, and everything remains seamless that way. If a client asks, I tell them I’m working from home, and it really doesn’t matter to them. They typically don’t expect me to work late in the evening or on the weekends – like me, my clients have lives outside of the office, and we respect each other’s schedules. And because of that, when there’s an emergency or issue that requires late nights or weekend work, I’m there for them and will do everything I can to assist them.

DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable and contributed to your overall internal and external development?

JKD: It’s been good for me in a number of ways. Personally, if I’d been billing full time for the past eight years, and being a mom, and committing to growing my practice and business development – something would not have survived. I’m only one person, and something would have had to give. Working flexibly allows me to come into the office every day without the pressure of billing full time and still focus on all the things that are important to me. Personally, I think the firm values the time I’m able to devote to external development as much (or more) than the billable hours they’re “losing” by me working flexibly. Fish & Richardson has always supported me; I made partner the same year I came back from maternity leave, they didn’t question my request to work reduced hours, and they’ve never pressured me to ramp up to full time.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self?

JKD: It’s all worked out very well, so in the end, I don’t think I would change anything. Finding work, colleagues, and clients you love and the opportunity to set your own schedule – I feel incredibly lucky. It’s important to do things on your own terms and show the firm, your colleagues, and yourself that you can do incredibly well and not give your entire life to your job. I may work reduced hours, but I still make a good living.

I would tell myself to identify and then ask for what you need. What will make things better for you? Ask for it! I was nervous to request reduced hours and my first two years as a reduced hours partner, but it’s all worked out in the end. I’ve seen people leave law firms to work in house because they think they’ll find more flexibility there. But it seems to me flex can be illusory in house since you might be the only lawyer! When you’re at a firm like Fish & Richardson, you’re part of team. If you need help, you have people to rely on. If you ask the firm for what you need, most of the time you’ll get a “yes.” A good firm will recognize that you’re a better, more productive person if you’re allowed to work a flexible schedule and do what you need to do. The firm has made it more of a priority to highlight internal success so people can see that flexibility and success go hand-in-hand.

DFA: What do you do to relax? How do you pay it forward?

JKD: I love gardening, going to the beach, and hanging out with my kids. In our down time together we like to bake and play video games.

I’m a group leader for the Patent Group, and we oversee associate reviews and evaluations as well as mentoring. Now I’m part of the committee that evaluates partners for advancement, and I help with D & I recruiting efforts. Externally, I’m on the board of the Massachusetts Science & Engineering Fair, which focuses on STEM education for kids all over Massachusetts, especially in underprivileged communities.

I think part of the reason why I’ve been at the firm so long and have been so successful is because I’ve had this opportunity to work flexibly, focus on growing my practice, and on my family. Because of flex, I have the time to meet my clients wherever they are and address their needs with better service and better work product.

Andrea Brockway - Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr

For February 2019, we are pleased to share insights from Andrea BrockwayCounsel, Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr (Philadelphia, PA).

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

Andrea Brockway: I started at the firm as a full-time litigation associate in 2008 after graduating from Temple Law School. In late 2010, I switched to a reduced hours schedule after the birth of my first child. The firm had a formal flex policy in place when I asked to reduce my hours, and my request was approved. Since switching to flex eight years ago, I’m now the proud mother of four children and have maintained a successful litigation practice representing clients in higher education and white collar criminal defense. The firm and my colleagues have always been supportive of my flexible work arrangement because they trust I’m going to complete the work and do it well.As a litigator, my work and deadlines vary day to day, but I try to block off Fridays to focus on my family. Even though the nature of litigation doesn’t always fit that schedule, my flex hours enable me to decline non-essential meetings scheduled on Fridays. My coworkers understand because they know I’ll always attend to my work commitments on time.

When it comes to flex, it’s not just the reduced hours, but it’s also the flexible work environment that’s been helpful for me. The firm has been very supportive of me working remotely where feasible. This locational flexibility allows me to save on commute time and also affords me the ability to work before/after traditional office hours.

I make flex a priority through communication and organization. All of my commitments are calendared – whether it’s a court deadline or bringing Valentine’s Day treats to my pre-schooler’s classroom. Everything is scheduled, and I’m available via my cell phone or email. I recently started using an app called iTimeKeep to help me stay organized and on top of my commitments. It’s been extremely beneficial for my time management and prioritizing tasks throughout the day.

DFA: How have clients supported your flexibility?

AB: Clients are people too; they have lives outside of the office, and my schedule has never been an issue for them. Again, communication is key, and everyone understands that life happens. I’m always available for my clients, and they know I deliver high-level work.

DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable and contributed to your overall internal and external development?

AB: Flex has not only made my career sustainable, it’s made my life sustainable too! My career arc and my parenthood arcs are convergent – they’re both long, important, and related to one another. I understand that high quality work is the life-blood of the firm, and I believe my flex schedule has enhanced my strengths as a litigator. As I’ve become more senior, I’ve enjoyed taking the lead on managing cases, which has also provided me more autonomy to manage my flex schedule.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self?

AB: I wouldn’t do anything differently, but I would tell my younger self to have more confidence in my decisions. I was talking with a partner the other day who advised me, “you do you,” which is so true. You have to find a way to be true to yourself and forge your own path. Flex has allowed me to do that. I would also note my appreciation of the support I have on the home front – my husband, family, neighbors, and nanny. It really does take a village, and you need teamwork from all aspects of your life.

DFA: What do you do to relax? How do you pay it forward?

AB: One of my resolutions this year is to take more time for myself to recharge. With four kids ranging in age from 2 to 8, it’s hard to carve out “me time,” but I take every 5-10 minutes of alone time as a win! I’m working on incorporating meditation into my daily schedule, and when I do have the time to go outside, I enjoy hiking and reading for pleasure. I can’t remember the last time I did this, but I would love to do it!

I pay it forward at the firm by mentoring associates regardless of whether they’re exploring flexible work or not, and I’m a member of the firm wide Career Development Committee. I believe I have some insight to offer my mentees about how to reach their own, unique version of “having it all.” At the end of the day, we’re all just trying to be our best selves.

Molly Senger - Gibson Dunn

For January 2019, we are pleased to share insights from Molly Senger, Of Counsel, Gibson Dunn (Washington, DC).

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

Molly Senger: I came to Gibson Dunn in 2011 as a third year associate after I completed a clerkship with the Honorable John D. Bates at the US District Court for the District of Columbia. I started full time, but after I had my son in January 2016, I came back from maternity leave to a 70% reduced hours schedule. The only formalized aspect of my flex schedule is my reduced hours target; what I’ve learned is you have to be flexible with your time and each day is different. I’m generally in the office every day, but my hours vary depending on what’s happening in the matters I’m working on at the time. I’ve had months in which I’ve had an arbitration and far exceeded full-time hours. But I’ve also had months in which my matters have been relatively quiet, and I’ve been able to take advantage of my flex schedule.

One thing I try to keep in mind with my flex schedule is something one of my mentors told me; “it’s unlikely you’ll find a perfect balance every day, but if you strive for it, you can find the balance you want over the long-term.” Once I started working flex, I made it a priority to be more comfortable saying “no.” I enjoy my work and give 110% to all my matters, and I want to say “yes” to a lot of things. But having been in the position of saying “yes” to too many things, I’ve learned to get over the guilt of saying “no” and figure out the right balance of what I can handle at work while also having time for family, friends, and everything else in life.

Thankfully, Gibson Dunn provides a supportive and easy learning environment for flex. I can change my reduced hours percentage at any time, and the firm does an annual true-up when I exceed my agreed-upon hours. More importantly, my colleagues and the partners I work with have helped me become more comfortable finding the right balance for me. When a partner comes to me with a new matter that I’d love to help with but I’m stretched too thin, I’m upfront about my reasons for saying “no.” I remind them to ask me again when the next new matter arises, and they do! Learning that partners understand and trust the reasons behind your “no” – and that they will come to you again – has made the process of saying “no” much easier.

DFA: How have clients supported your flexibility?

MS: I pride myself on being available whenever my clients need me and giving their matters 110% at all times. Many of the clients I work with don’t know I’m on a flex schedule. But they all know what’s going on in my life; my openness gives us something to bond over. I’m honest (probably to a fault), and I share my scheduling conflicts when they arise (i.e. my son has an ear infection, or I have an event at his school). I find when I share what’s happening in my life outside of work with partners and clients, they share with me too. We’re all people with real lives outside of the office; being open about these things goes a long way towards fostering internal and external relationships.

DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable and contributed to your overall internal and external development?

MS: Flex has made my career sustainable; I wouldn’t be able to practice law without it. It was invaluable to have role models at the firm to talk with before going on a flex schedule and now to exchange best practices and ideas. I try to pay it forward by mentoring new parents and others thinking about switching to a flex schedule.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self?

MS: It’s a marathon and not a sprint. You don’t need to do everything and say “yes” to everything. Often, people who say “yes” to too many things end up burning out or becoming overwhelmed and unhappy. You need to look-out for yourself and be mindful of your priorities – what’s working and what’s not. If something isn’t working for you at your job, talk to someone about it. Don’t think the only resolution is you have to find a new job. Gibson Dunn is a firm with flex arrangements, and it’s a place where they really try to make it work for you. Not all firms are like this.

There are never enough hours in the day. But if you like what you do, you should be able to, and can, keep doing it and also have time for the other things that make you happy. So talk to someone, and talk to them early in your career. See what options are available to make it work for you.

DFA: What do you do to relax? How do you pay it forward?

MS: I wish I could say I Soul Cycle or something else healthy, but I like to watch reality TV with my husband while having a glass of wine. When you’re working flexibly and a full-time parent, you always feel like you’re failing at something (or everything!) That’s why I love reality TV so much. You think your life is a mess until you someone sobbing on a reality TV show and you start to think, “You know what? My life is pretty good, and I’m doing OK!”

I love paying it forward with my colleagues. One of my recent case teams included several other working parents, and it’s been great to see our support for each other as we’ve scheduled court appearances and conference calls around doctor’s appointments and birthday parties. We’ve been able to seamlessly cover for each other and make sure the work still gets done – and done well! It’s nice to work with a strong group of like-minded people and start new friendships at work. We all want to pay it forward somehow, and this mentality, along with Gibson’s support of flex, is why I’ve stayed at the firm for so long.

2018 Spotlights

Adie Olson - Quarles & Brady

For November 2018, we are pleased to share insights from Adie Olson, PartnerQuarles & Brady (Chicago, IL).

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

Adie Olson: Law is actually my second career, but my legal career has come full circle with Quarles & Brady. I was a special education teacher and worked with kids with severe emotional and behavioral issues for five years. I loved teaching, but law was always in the back of my mind. I attended Marquette University Law School as an evening student and started as an associate at Quarles & Brady right after graduation in 2003.

I didn’t think I was interested in working at a large law firm, but an adjunct law professor who worked at Quarles, encouraged me to apply for their summer associate program. The firm broke down any stereotypes I had of “big law” at the time; people were really nice, and they had families and lives outside of the office. I knew it was the right place for me, especially as I started my full-time, legal career with them with a six-week old baby at home!

It was pure luck that when I started at Quarles, they were defending a special education class action law suit. I had the substantive background – maybe not the litigation skills (yet) – for a case full of educational acronyms and was able to hit the ground running. I never set out to be a litigator, but things happen for a reason. There is a serendipity aspect to it, but you also have to be open to opportunities that come your way.

I also believe every lawyer should start off as a litigator. You learn about all aspects of a transaction – what went right/wrong, you develop amazing people skills, and you learn how to be a fantastic lawyer. I can be a very intense person, so litigation brought out the best and worst in me at times. By the time I was a fourth year associate, three of my cases went to trial in one year, I was working long days, and I was pregnant with my second child. This was a turning point for me. My career, as exciting as it was, was not sustainable as-is. I knew I wanted to have more time to spend with my growing family.

At that time, a flex schedule didn’t enter my mind. We had a large number of amazing female litigators, many of whom also had young kids. While I had strong role models, I didn’t know anyone who had a formal flex schedule. Even though I was surrounded by these supportive and talented women, I didn’t find a way to strike a balance. A year and a half after having my second child, I quit the firm. I couldn’t quite figure out the rhythm of having two small kids and working full-time in litigation. Flexibility was just starting to gain some traction in the profession, but I hadn’t personally seen it applied in litigation.

An offer to go in-house as a corporate attorney for a global company presented itself, and I took the job to see what the life of in-house counsel looked like. I was at the company for one year, and despite working with fabulous people, serendipity struck again. My law school offered me a new position to create and coordinate pro bono programs at the school. I took this opportunity because I had always been heavily involved with pro bono work while at the firm. At Quarles, it’s ingrained in the culture to provide direct pro bono legal services to the indigent.

I stayed at the law school for two years before returning to Quarles in November 2010. The pro bono program was up and running, and I had better work-life control at this point in my career. The firm contacted me for a position as a contract lawyer focused on political law compliance. I had great learning experiences here previously and had maintained great relationships with my colleagues. I decided to go back to the firm at a 75% reduced hours schedule. As a newly divorced, single mother of two, I couldn’t say no to yet another great opportunity that crossed my path. During the first year, I realized that the firm was where I was meant to be long-term, and this area of law had a lot of potential for new business. A year or so after returning to Quarles, I switched to the partnership track as a full-time senior associate. There’s been no looking back since. Even though I’m full time now, my informal flex schedule is fluid.

Flexibility comes down to what your practice looks like. I telecommute frequently, and I build my practice in a way that works for my family and my career. All of my clients’ needs are met without missing a beat, and I’m able to develop new business with a non-traditional schedule. The firm has been wonderfully supportive. Quarles focuses on quality client work; they want good people working here, and in order to have good people doing quality work, you need to have happy people. Flexibility makes that possible.

I made income partner in 2014 and equity partner in 2017 all the while integrating some type of flex. My practice lends itself to informal flexibility. I think it’s important to note there are so many options out there for flex – not just reduced hours. Quarles recognizes that people will succeed if they are given the opportunity to mold their career as individual – one size does not fit most. For example, when I wanted to move my practice from the Milwaukee office to the Chicago office, it wasn’t an issue. The ease of my transfer is just another example of the firm’s openness to flex.

DFA: How have clients supported this?

AO: I have really good relationships with my clients; we understand the challenges of working hard and balancing obligations outside of work. We have a mutual respect for each other. The quality of my work or client relationships do not suffer because of my flex schedule. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I’m available/accessible to my clients and deliver quality work; where that physically happens doesn’t matter. The majority of my clients are outside of Chicago, so where I’m taking a call or sending an email is often just not relevant. My clients have always felt comfortable calling my cell phone and know that I’m dedicated to our work together no matter where I am. Flexibility makes that possible.

DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable and contributed to your overall internal and external development?

AO: Having the autonomy to determine what my practice looks like lets me focus on diversity work within the firm. I chair the women’s leadership initiative firmwide, and I’ve become a resource for people who are looking for ways to stay in big law through non-traditional paths. I wouldn’t be able to invest time in our firm’s diversity work if I didn’t have flexibility with my schedule.

Talent retention is such an important issue for law firms, and when you have flex, you’re willing to invest in your career and in the firm. Quarles has always been a forward-looking law firm. You believe in the firm and want to do a good job because a firm with flex becomes a good place to work. Flexibility increases productivity and modernizes the profession.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self?

AO: I think my first year self was really intense and really tired! I would instead, go back to my 2007 self and let her know that I didn’t need to leave the firm to find the flexibility that worked for me. I didn’t want to leave at that time, but I didn’t know how to shift gears. It’s OK to feel overwhelmed and to ask for help. I could have said I didn’t want to be a litigator anymore and explored what other paths the firm had to offer. Flex was just not prevalent yet, and it was hard to see it working in litigation back then. It’s so much more common now in all practice areas, and there’s structure and support for flex. As a whole in the profession, we are recognizing that success isn’t a singular path. You don’t have to go the traditional associate way, and the path from income to equity partner isn’t based solely on the number of years you’ve dedicated to the firm. I’d tell myself to slow down and to look at all of the options available to me. You can be dedicated and talented, and work flexibly.

DFA: What do you do to relax? How do you pay it forward?

AO: My kids are 12 and 15 years old now. I thoroughly enjoy being with them and watching them come into their own. I love that they still want to hang out together, so that is my weekend and relaxation time. I also believe that my kids are resilient and resourceful, in part, because they’ve been a part of my professional journey at every step.

I’m passionate about providing high quality access to leadership and business development opportunities for women. This includes working on related firm policies, coordinating networking events, and more. It’s also about authenticity; you have to be yourself in order to be successful with business development, and this looks different for everyone. You have to do it in a way that makes sense to you. For me, I generally play a long game to generate new business though meaningful relationships with clients and in the community. Women have to unabashedly support other women in all aspects of our lives. As lawyers, we are so “heads down” sometimes that we forget to focus on building our internal networks too. I hope my passion for advancing women and D & I helps build other women up.

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Mark Miller - Norton Rose

October 2018

For October 2018, we are pleased to share insights from Mark Miller, PartnerNorton Rose Fulbright (Houston, TX).

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

Mark Miller: I just celebrated my 31st year at the firm doing ERISA work. I’m based in the Houston office, but for the past six years I split part of the month with our New York office. In the fall of 2012, I was billing hour after hour, and while I was driving home one night, the song Behind Blue Eyes came on. I thought. “I just want to pause…” I didn’t want to change jobs or law firms; I just wanted a pause. I always envisioned myself with a one job, one firm legal career; I had great clients, I loved the firm, and I didn’t want to change that.

I wrote a memo to the managing partner explaining how grateful I was to do the work I was doing, how much I loved my job, appreciated my clients, and enjoyed working with my colleagues. But I also explained my intention to take a five month sabbatical (from April to September). I didn’t want to telecommute or go reduced hours; I wanted to see if I could really unplug from big law. I needed more than a vacation, and I didn’t want to quit. It would have been easy to change law firms, but it would have been the same cycle over and over. That’s what I was trying to break away from.

The managing partner asked about the precedence for my request. I told him there wasn’t one, but the firm had a maternity/paternity leave policy, and we supported people going to rehab. He took my memo into consideration, and a few days later my request was fully approved. Among the many things this experience taught me, it affirmed the fact that you need to ask for what you want. I was ready and willing to quit my job if I had to, and I’m thankful it didn’t come to that.

I traveled on an open cargo ship that allowed passengers from New York to Italy. From Italy, I traveled to Cape Town, South Africa and made my way up the east coast of Africa. I had no formal plans or itinerary, and my journey fell into three phases. The first was while I was on the container ship. There was no internet, a crew that didn’t speak English, and just the sea – it was a silent retreat. The second phase happened while I was in Africa. There was a moment where I thought I was done with big law. Why should I go back to billing hours after hours and living in 10 minute increments? At that moment, I felt that my experiment worked. I was exploring the world, meeting incredible people, and I didn’t want to go back. By the time I made it to Uganda, I entered the third phase of my sabbatical and realized I could go back to big law.

What changed was while in Africa, the response to “thank you” is “with pleasure” instead of “you’re welcome.” This simple phrase really resonated with me. If I could implement a “with pleasure” service model to my clients and be adventurous, then there was no limit to how I could respond to clients’ needs. I came back to the firm, and I paired my clients down to the 20% that provided 80% of the revenue. I incorporated a “with pleasure” service model to this 20%, and I’ve received more business and revenue since then. Everybody wins just by shifting their mindset and service model. I don’t focus on the billable hours anymore.

I truly believe there’s more than one way to work in big law successfully. Firms can and should create different forms of flexibility to foster loyalty, retention, and great legal services. When you look at the financial hit a firm takes when a lawyer leaves versus the income lost by letting someone take a pause… to me it’s a no brainer. People quit law firms out of frustration. When you let them take a pause, they will come back refreshed, more loyal, and I bet generate more income than before.

DFA: How have clients supported this?

MM: I want to help change the paradigm on flexibility in big law so more people can participate in an Adult Time Out (ATO). I gave a presentation about my experience to a 500 person human resources seminar and proposed incorporating ATOs in open enrollment. I was thrilled when one of my clients took my suggestion and implemented a three month ATO!

My practice focuses on executive compensation and pension plans. It’s typically jumping from one project to another as fast as you can. By shifting my business model, I slowed the pace down and let clients see all the issues in the larger picture. It’s generated more work with my current clients, and talking about my experience has been one of my biggest client development boons. People want to hear about it, and now there’s a potential movie deal in the works too! It’s really unbelievable.

DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable and contributed to your overall internal and external development?

MM: I believe in doing programs where you can prove the results. I’m the proof for this type of flexibility. Firms offer wellness programs on the bet that it will reduce medical care/costs in 10-15 years. That’s a bet. An ATO is the same deal; if you trust the process, there will be exponential returns on investment no matter what level of attorney is asking for it.

Don’t get me wrong; I was scared, and I knew this was way out of left field. But I knew I had to do something. This was not a vacation; it was a life experience. I showed up in Africa not knowing a soul. I’m naturally an introvert, but I would make myself go up to people and start talking. It’s more exciting to live life like this, and this adventure is such a part of me. I would wake up every morning with the intention of, “I can’t wait for today’s adventure to happen to me.” Life is not short; we waste time, and then life becomes short. Work can be more than just sitting behind a desk writing memos. My ATO changed me, and practicing law is so much more enjoyable now.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self?

MM: Don’t waste time in your life, and don’t put things off thinking that you’ll do it once you make senior associate or partner – whether it’s taking an ATO, vacation, or walking up to a potential client. Replace fear with being curious, and see what happens.

DFA: What do you do to relax?

MM: I like to do triathlons and mountain climbing. I joined a running club and have met so many people from that too! Lawyers have to be willing to step outside the circle of big law and embrace the adventures that will happen.


Dr. Cindy Kelley - Summa Health

September 2018

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.
I have also experienced times when I need to work more in order to meet my professional goals.  For a year, I traveled almost every month to complete a health policy fellowship.  This fellowship culminated in a publication and opened the door to my current position.  In order to make it happen, my husband shifted his schedule and took over many more duties at home.  He made it work.  We have a true partnership, and we shift and change for each other.  I feel extremely lucky to have such a partner in life, and a wonderful role model for my daughters.

DFA: Looking back, would you do anything differently, or what would you tell your younger self?

CK: I believe that things happen for a reason.  My path towards becoming a physician was not exactly a straight, smooth one, but I wouldn’t change anything because it made me the person I am.  Those early lessons have helped me face even bigger challenges, which in turn, are hopefully helping me learn and grow so I can handle the next wave.

I am actively working to do this every day, but I would tell my younger self to try to enjoy this moment.  Don’t be consumed with what’s coming next.  It will come.  But these moments will pass, and you sure don’t want to miss them.

DFA: How do you recharge, and how do you pay it forward?

CK: I recharge by taking walks with my dog, Max (my girls join me sometimes, too), reading, writing, and by practicing yoga.  I also love driving my Miata.  Mazda first manufactured this car the year I turned 16, and I was immediately in love.  For my 40th birthday, my husband surprised me with a red one.  I said, “No, I can’t take this,” all the way home.  When I drive it, nothing can bring me down, especially if I crank late 1980’s-early 1990’s pop music!

To pay it forward, I volunteer for various community activities throughout the year that Summa is involved in.  I want to be an example for my girls so they understand that it is our responsibility to take care of each other in this world…and this extends far beyond our immediate families.  Our local public school system has a very strong community outreach program, and so far, my oldest daughter is showing me up with her involvement.  This makes me very proud.

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If you are a professional working a flexible schedule and would like to share your story in an upcoming Spotlight on Flex, contact Eliza Musallam.

Heidi B. Friedman - Thompson Hine

August 2018 Spotlight

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!

I have the best team in the world, and several of the men who work with me are the most engaged and amazing fathers I have ever seen. I would never question it if they were not in the office, if they went home for dinner, or left to attend one of their kids’ events. I fully support that and encourage them to do so. Work is not limited to normal business hours these days; in most cases, you can control when and where it happens and provide yourself flexibility around delivery. Men want to be just as present with their families as women do, and it is really important to not view flex as a solely a women’s issue.

DFA: How have the firm and clients contributed to your flex success? How has flexibility contributed to your business development and sustainability of working at a firm?

HGF: The vast majority of my clients know I often work from home, and it does not matter to them if I am at the office, at my home or if I just finished a meeting with EPA when I return their call and provide them with solutions to their legal issues that align with their business goals. Most of my clients call my cell phone first if they need to reach me, and I pride myself on being uber-responsive. Flexibility has contributed to my business development too. My clients know my involvement with national organizations and my commitment to women’s issues, and I have helped a number of them create their own women’s programs and initiatives. My personal flex experience is one example I often use when speaking with in-house counsel on how to retain and promote women (and men). I have always been very open with my clients about my personal story regarding flex, life situations, and work, which has been a way for me to connect with those clients who have gone through similar situations.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self? Would you do anything differently?

HGF: I am not sure if I would do anything differently. The best advice I would give is don’t be afraid to ask for what you need to make yourself happy or more successful. I cannot tell you how many times younger associates come see me (often female associates) to express their frustrations. My first question is always, “Have you talked to anyone about this?” The answer is almost always “No.” I try to help them create plans that will allow them to find the success or happiness they want – sometimes it can be as simple as changing their schedule or the team they are working with currently. A lot of people expect someone to come to find them and ask, “Are you happy? What can I do for you?” I try hard to do this for those people I value or those that I have developed a relationship with both inside and outside the firm, but the reality is that in most cases, this is not going to happen in today’s busy world. Fortunately, Thompson Hine is extremely innovative, and more importantly, willing to innovate. It is really about asking for what you want here.

I also realized later in my career that you need a really good sponsor – someone who is going to stand up and fight for why you deserve to be paid “x” amount or why you deserve this opportunity. Women tend to think they need another woman to be their sponsor, but some of my best sponsors have been men. At most firms, the leadership tends to be male-dominated. Only looking for a woman is going to narrow your ability to find a good sponsor. The key is finding someone who feels invested in you and your success. Once you find that person, treat him or her like gold – such a relationship is priceless. Thompson Hine has many women in leadership roles, including Debbie Read who is the firm’s Managing Partner, and five out of nine of our Executive Committee members are women or diverse.

DFA: How do you pay it forward, and how do you recharge your batteries?

HGF: I started the firm’s women’s initiative with April Miller Boise (now Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary at Meritor, Inc.) over 10 years ago. At the time, several of the larger accounting firms had launched women’s programs, but Thompson Hine was one of the first national law firms to have a formal women’s initiative that was both inward and outward facing. Several of the firm’s offices had ad hoc women’s programs, but there was no coordination (some duplication), and no mission. With the support and push from our previous managing partner, David Hooker, we convened a group of partners to formulate the mission of our Spotlight on Women Program®, which included the dual goals of connecting professional women in the cities where we have a presence and hiring, retaining and promoting women at our firm.

For example, we created a mother-to-be mentoring program that paired expectant moms with a mentor who had been through the process. We developed and implemented a gender-neutral flexible schedule policy and created a flex coordinator position to serve as a liaison between the practice group leaders and the associate’s committee. The key is that we don’t call it a part-time policy – it is a true flexible schedule policy where not only do men utilize it, but they had seats at the table during the implementation stage.

I also helped formalize the 1,500 Women in the Law Committee for the Defense Research Institute (DRI), the largest defense bar organization in the country. Last October was the end of my two-year tenure as head of that committee, and it’s become one of the organization’s most productive. It provides members with many leadership, speaking and networking opportunities, and that has been a wonderful way for me to pay it forward.

In addition I’m involved in a variety of local, regional and national programs supporting women in the law. I worked with Ann Harlan (former General Counsel of Smuckers; currently co-founder of Harlan Peterson Consulting) to help establish Case Western Reserve University School of Law’s Women in the Law Institute. I have also been active in the National Association of Women Lawyers, DirectWomen (with the mission to put more women on corporate boards), the University of Texas Women’s Consortium and I currently serve as a liaison to the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women. I speak and write regularly on topics related to flexibility and supporting women in the law at a variety of conferences and programs.

Although I enjoy my involvement with these organizations and the relationships (both mentor and mentee) that I have developed, to me, the most important way to pay it forward is to support other men and women who are trying to succeed. If you do not have someone providing guidance, you will struggle to be successful. I try to mentor and sponsor people at the firm by assigning them meaningful work and supporting them in their business development efforts.  It is also about making sure they are as happy as possible, including supporting their family lives and needs to work flexibly. I also try to mentor and support women outside of the firm who have met through these various organizations.

Doing yoga, traveling, and drinking wine all help me relax and revitalize! I remarried three years ago, and any time I can spend with my incredible husband is also a recharge for me.

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If you are a professional working a flexible schedule and would like to share your story in an upcoming Spotlight on Flex, contact Eliza Musallam.

Kelsey Morris - Akin Gump

July 2018 Spotlight

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.

Even though I’m committed to my flexibility, I’m not so rigid with it that I end up sacrificing other things as a consequence. You have to be conscious of your clients and colleagues’ needs, and you have to prioritize those as much as possible. I utilize our available technology, and it allows for accessibility both ways.

Part of my flex success also means being patient with other people and respectful of their time commitments too. I try to make my personal schedule something that’s just running in the background – it doesn’t and shouldn’t impact day-to-day matters. Most importantly though, I try to enjoy my flexibility. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished at the firm and how I’ve done it. Akin Gump gave me the options to make it work. You don’t want to ever feel like flexibility is a burden or feel ashamed about it, especially when the firm offers and supports it!

DFA: How have the firm and clients contributed to your flex success? How has flexibility contributed to your business development and sustainability of working at a firm?

KM: Akin Gump shows support by making its flex options known. A lot of firms don’t even offer flexible work. Flex can play out in different ways depending on the partners you work for or which practice group you’re in, but having a formal policy as the backbone is key. The firm also facilitates flex with the technology in place. Attorneys can be available regardless of whether they’re in the office. And helpfully, Akin Gump’s culture acknowledges the existence of life outside the office – the firm promotes a healthy approach to practicing law through flexibility.

Flex allows me to do work I enjoy in a sustainable way. I couldn’t envision myself coming back to work as a big law litigator while my daughter was so young. Flex makes it possible. Flex also promotes more careful and deliberate career development; it challenges you to be thoughtful about your next steps.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self? Would you do anything differently?

KM: I would have had more conversations about alternative career paths and flexibility earlier in my career. I was not proactive about seeking that out, but thankfully I had people who were proactive about sharing their experiences. For a new attorney, it’s good to start looking at options early, and find role models you want to emulate later in your career.

DFA: How do you pay it forward, and how do you recharge your batteries?

KM: I’m not an extrovert; I tend to be shy. But I make it a personal policy to always say “yes” when a younger attorney or law student wants to talk. My alma mater, Pepperdine, has a robust alumni network, and students are encouraged to outreach to alumni. Whenever I receive those requests, I really try to make time, even if it ends up just being a quick phone call – that’s always doable. There are so many people in my life that were willing to share their time and meet me, go to lunch, or have a phone call; their advice has been invaluable. Those shared experiences were such a huge impact on my life, and I strive to be as open and transparent with my experiences too.

I recharge by sleeping and exercise – two basic human functions that we tend to forget about. I also love spending time with my family, and my flex schedule gives me that opportunity. Moments with my daughter make me feel so much more balanced and empowered to keep going and do really good work; I know my family is there, and I’ll see them. That’s a big deal!

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If you are a professional working a flexible schedule and would like to share your story in an upcoming Spotlight on Flex, contact Eliza Musallam.


Michelle Humes - Shutts & Bowen

June 2018 Spotlight

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.

I realized after time that the firm would support my decision to work reduced hours when I was ready to start a family. I also realized I didn’t have to choose between having a family or focusing on my career. Flex has definitely been in place here in some shape or form for quite some time. Not only did the firm support a part-time request from the current Orlando Office Co-Managing Partner over 25 years ago, but there are several other associates and partners who already work reduced hours at the firm.

I was working full time until I gave birth to my twin girls in 2015. After my maternity leave, I came back to work at 80% reduced hours which meant I was in the office Monday – Thursday and off on Fridays. I was officially on this schedule for a year-and-a-half, but in 2017, after the real estate market starting heating up again, I began working 90% reduced hours. Once again, Shutts showed its commitment to me and flexibility, and with the support of the Real Estate Group’s PGL, we re-worked my schedule to officially be at 90% reduced hours plus a true up for the first quarter of 2017.

I love not having the pressure to be in the office by 8 or 9 am. With my flex schedule, I can bill one-two hours in the early morning, spend time with my girls to start their days off, and then come into the office. I leave every day between 5 – 5:30 pm, and my PGL knows (and approves) this. My Fridays are out of the office, but I’m still connected. I bill two-four hours on Fridays working from home and still get to spend quality time with my girls. Flex gives me the ability to complete my work whether or not I’m in the office and has allowed me to thrive professionally. Flex also allows me to spend quality time with my family and keep the balance I need to be happy and, in turn, successful.

DFA: How have the firm and clients contributed to your flex success? How has flexibility contributed to your business development and sustainability of working at a firm?

MH: When I was up for partner, my PGL discussed the process with me. She asked if this next step was what I wanted – what it meant internally and externally. She made it clear that she and the firm fully supported whatever decision I made (whether I wanted to make partner or postpone for another year). My goal since starting as an associate with the firm was to make partner, so I chose partnership, and I was promoted in January 2018. Once promoted, I was able to maintain my flex schedule.

While I don’t advertise my reduced office schedule, I subtly convey my availability to others. If they ask for a 5 pm call, I’ll simply ask if we could move it up to 4 pm instead. There has never been any pushback. Most of the time, it’s just a matter of speaking up. If a closing is scheduled for Friday, I’ll ask if we can shoot for a paper-closing on the Thursday prior – this way I can have most of the legwork completed, and I can monitor the closing from out of the office with the help of my team. That’s one of the best things about working at Shutts – we’re a team. Everyone works together to get to the finish line.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self? Would you do anything differently?

MH: The same thing I’ve been saying for the past 12 years, “This too shall pass” and “You can do it!” I’ve been really fortunate and blessed that the winding road has led me here – I have been guided to the right places at the right times, and supplemented with hard work, I’ve developed a strong foundation in my career along the way. I graduated at a terrible time for the economy and did not go to a top tier law school; yet I was still afforded a job at a Top 5 Florida law firm. It’s always going to be hard work; there’s definitely been tears and sweat (and possibly a little blood), but I wouldn’t change anything.

DFA: How do you pay it forward, and how do you recharge your batteries?

MH: I exercise two-three days a week; this gives me the stress relief and mental breaks during the week. On the weekends, I really enjoy spending time with my family at the beach, pool, or on our boat to enjoy the great Florida outdoors.

To pay it forward, I try to keep an open door policy, especially with the younger associates. When I started at Shutts, I was already familiar with people because I had been an assistant here for three years. I knew there were people whose offices I could walk into and ask for help or general advice. I try to provide that same outlet I had to other young associates. I always try to make myself available if someone needs to talk or needs help with legal concepts that seemed so foreign to me when I first started.

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If you are a professional working a flexible schedule and would like to share your story in an upcoming Spotlight on Flex, contact Eliza Musallam.

Lisa Hansen - Lathrop & Gage

May 2018 Spotlight

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.

Flexibility has been so important to my family, and my schedule has adjusted over the years as my children have grown. I would not have been able to stay with the firm for these past 15 years had they not supported my request for reduced hours. When I first starting working flex in 2002, there wasn’t a formal procedure in place because it wasn’t that common at the firm. I came up with my own proposal, and luckily it was approved. The firm has progressed so much on these issues and has implemented flex into the culture – now there is a formal process in place. It’s less daunting for an associate to work a flex schedule, especially when they see others like me can succeed at the firm.

DFA: How have the firm and clients contributed to your flex success? How has flexibility contributed to your business development and sustainability of working at a firm?

LH: Some clients know I leave at a certain time, and there are others that have no idea I’m working reduced hours. Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter because I’m in the office every day, and I’ve always been available to handle any matters that arise.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self? Would you do anything differently?

LH: I’m not sure I would have done anything differently. You have to be confident in what you want, and you don’t have to follow someone else’s structure. There’s more than one way to incorporate flex into your career and be successful. It’s what works for you. The stress level may vary over the years, but looking back, I can’t even imagine what the whirlwind would have been like when I had three kids under 5 and working without flex. In some respects, it’s easier now since my kids are older. But the bottom line is to not compare yourself to others. You have to make your own path.

DFA: How do you pay it forward, and how do you recharge your batteries?

LH: I’ve always tried to make time for younger associates who have questions or want to talk about work-life issues. I try to mentor them and be a resource for them. I’m happiest when I’m spending time with my family – it’s how I best recharge my batteries from any stresses at work.

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If you are a professional working a flexible schedule and would like to share your story in an upcoming Spotlight on Flex, contact Eliza Musallam.

Anita Agajanian - DLA Piper

April 2018

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.

Under my initial flex schedule, I worked four days a week, with one day at home with my son. However, I quickly learned this schedule was not flexible enough to really control my time and meet my clients’ needs. I readjusted and remained at the same reduced hours but came into the office five days a week (and this is my current schedule). My reduced hours may have remained the same on paper, but there are weeks when I work more than a full time schedule, and there are other weeks when I work less. Coming into the office five days a week gives me the flexibility to leave early or be out on the days I need to be in order to fulfill my other obligations.

DFA: How have the firm and clients contributed to your flex success? How has flexibility contributed to your business development and sustainability of working at a firm?

AA: The goal is that when I’m working, I am giving my clients my full attention, and when I’m with my family, I am giving them my full attention. Having a flexible schedule lets me do this. One of the things that surprised me about becoming a partner was how many non-billable responsibilities you have, as compared to being an associate. It’s absolutely true that working flexibly affords me more time to focus on business development that I wouldn’t have on a full time schedule. I can participate in opportunities outside of the firm like being involved in the community, my kids’ schools, and other events that have incidental business development advantages. I don’t think most of my clients know I work reduced hours. I don’t hide it, but because I’m in the office five days a week, it’s not obvious.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self? Would you do anything differently?

AA: I would tell my first year self to prioritize. Not everything has the same priority, and this is a skill you develop more and more as you gain more experience. You need to set goals as a first year or junior associate and be confident that you’ll achieve them. You shouldn’t be afraid to say no to requests for your time, and focus on the things that matter.

DFA: How do you pay it forward, and how do you recharge your batteries?

AA: The number one way I pay it forward is through mentoring, particularly young women in and outside of the firm. I get as much reward from mentoring as I feel that I’m giving to others. These relationships are really important to me, and I see women I’ve mentored in law school or as junior associates assume positions where they are, or could now be, my clients.

And the number one way I recharge is by spending time with my family. I really enjoy cooking, and now that my kids are older, my zen moments come from cooking, with a glass of wine in hand, surrounded by my family.

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If you are a professional working a flexible schedule and would like to share your story in an upcoming Spotlight on Flex, contact Eliza Musallam.

Lori Mihalich-Levin, Dentons and Dr. Cindy Kelley, Summa Health

March 2018

This month’s Spotlight on Flex features our 2018 Flex Success® Award Honorees, Lori Mihalich-Levin, Partner at Dentons and her client, Dr. Cindy Kelley, Vice President of Medical Education, Summa Health. 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.

“Ultimately the key to a successful flexible work arrangement is to be flexible and transparent,” explained Ms. Mihalich-Levin. “I am so thankful for the trust, support and encouragement that Cindy has offered me as well as her willingness to accommodate my schedule,” she added referring to her client, Dr. Cindy Kelley, Vice President of Medical Education, Summa Health.

Since 1998, when she completed a Primary Care Teaching Associateship during medical school, Dr. Cindy Kelley knew that education would be part of her career. She did not know, however, that she would be fortunate enough to realize this vision at the hospital where she spent years following her father on rounds in her hometown of Akron, Ohio.

Cindy, the youngest of three girls, was born and raised in Akron, Ohio. After graduating from high school, she attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and then travelled across the state for her medical school training at Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. Intrigued by the opportunity to work with one of her mentors, Dr. Jack Brose, in his family medicine practice, and also developing curricula and teaching students, she completed a teaching associateship and was bitten by the education bug. She was accepted into the Family Medicine residency program at Summa Health and, upon graduation, took a faculty position. Her particular interests included curriculum design, chronic pain management, osteopathic principles, and women’s health. She also developed an interest in health policy, which led to her completion of the American Osteopathic Association’s Health Policy fellowship, ultimately authoring the lead article in the June 2014 issue of the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, “Impact of the single accreditation agreement on GME governance and the physician workforce.”

In November 2015, Dr. Kelley stepped into the role of Vice President of Medical Education/Designated Institutional Official at Summa Health where she oversees 17 residency and fellowship programs. She is proud to lead medical education in the system that trained her and that meets its mission to bring high-quality, innovative, and compassionate care to the greater Akron community.

“Lori and her Dentons team were critical to our success in overcoming significant challenges at our organization last year. I am so thankful for people like Lori who have a passion for finding that balance in life that allows them to pursue their careers while raising a family,” stated Dr. Kelley. “Summa Health certainly benefited from this passion, as do all organizations that support workplace diversity and flexibility.”

Rebecca Springer - Crowell & Moring

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 wanted, and what 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.

I think it’s important for our profession to understand that flex shouldn’t just be a family or mommy issue. I started working flexibly before I had kids. My practice is largely a counseling practice which typically results in fewer billable hours than a litigation practice. I wanted flexibility to focus on building my practice without feeling I had to cave to the pressure of billing hours.

I’ve made flex a success in my career because I’ve been proactive; you have to think about what you’re able to do, what works for you, and what will work for the firm. You have to advocate for the schedule and structure (within reason) you want for your career. I’ve made flex a priority by having the willingness to say, “This is what I want for my career.” I am very fortunate to work for a firm that never valued me less or treated me differently simply because I asked for a different career path.

I think in order to be successful working a flexible schedule, you have to be as flexible with the firm as you are asking the firm to be with you. There are times I’m on calls or working later in the evening than I might want to be, but then there are times I can put work aside in the middle of the day to lead a Brownie meeting or go see the school play. Even though I have a reduced hours target, I don’t think anyone at my firm has ever doubted that I am 100% committed to our clients and our practice. Because of my commitment to the work, the firm has been committed to letting me forge a path that has worked for me.

Sometimes you can be your toughest critic when trying to decide whether to work a flexible schedule. It’s tough to get over the self-doubt and perception of, “Am I taking a step backwards by doing this?” I had to redefine what success meant to me. I had to convince myself that I didn’t have to bill 2000 hours every year in order to see myself as successful. My advice to others is be comfortable with your choices and know that everyone’s path is different.

DFA: How have the firm and clients contributed to your flex success? How has flexibility contributed to your business development and sustainability of working at a firm?

RS: The firm has been fantastic about encouraging me and others to have a flex schedule. There is no “second class citizen” feeling or distinctions with my full-time colleagues; flex is really accepted and recognized as part of the firm culture. From the client perspective, I would say 99% of my clients have no idea I work reduced hours – they just know I get their work done, and I do it well. That’s the key. I don’t hide my schedule, but it’s never been a question either.

Flexibility has given me more time to focus on contributing to the firm through various committees, non-billable business, and professional development opportunities because I don’t feel the pressure to be billing all the time. I can speak at conferences, learn new subject areas, etc. Having flexibility is what made it possible for me to stay at a big firm for my career. I never would have remained at the firm if there had been only one career path or a strict “up or out” philosophy.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self? Would you do anything differently?

RS: I would start thinking earlier about what I wanted my career to look like, and how was I going to get there. I specialized within labor and employment, and that’s served me very well. I was able to build an expertise around the intersection between employment law and government contracts; having a niche really helped me to develop skills that were valued and build my reputation both within and outside the firm. One key piece of advice I would give to anyone who wants to create a different career path is to find a way to contribute that makes you unique and ensures you add value.

It’s possible to have a really rewarding career in big law if you’re proactive about advocating for yourself. I was very fortunate that there was willingness to create a flex schedule and career that works for me. I know that’s not always the case at every firm or within every practice group. But you still have to ask for what you want; you’ll never know what will work unless you do.

DFA: How do you pay it forward, and how do you recharge your batteries?

RS: I try to pay it forward by being supportive of other attorneys who want to work a flex schedule. I’m open about my choices and my career path, and I encourage others to advocate for what they want. I want to show them, especially now as a partner, that success is possible without being on a traditional path.

To recharge, I’m always looking for ways to do more with my kids (who are 7 and 8 years old). They are at a great age where they are old enough where we can do really fun things with them, but they are young enough that they still think my husband and I are cool – I know that probably won’t last long! I also indulge in my love for musical theater whenever I can and see shows in DC or New York!

Danielle Katzir - Gibson Dunn

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.

There are a few mental adjustments I’ve made with a lasting impact and contributed to my flex success. There’s a reason there’s so much literature out there on how women work, and it’s simply not nuanced or precise enough to say that we just prefer to work reduced hours. Controlling the experience of those hours is just as important. I think it’s important to root ourselves in that research base. It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling alone or insecure – we’re not. We should feel empowered to take that information to form strategies that are better tailored to make work as satisfying and productive an experience as possible.

I think about the difference between “flex time” and “part time” as a distinction with substance. The truth is, I am not a part time lawyer. I am a 100%, full time partner on all of my matters. There’s no change in the quality of my work, my presence, or my responsiveness. I’ve simply chosen to work a lower annual target to not only meet my required hours, but to also control the experience of those hours. That could mean curating the mix of transactions on my plate, ensuring sufficient time for the kind of research and knowledge management efforts that I enjoy, pro bono work, or other community involvement.

There’s also a misconception that family is the only acceptable reason to need flexible hours, or there will be stigma if there is another reason behind it. Family is certainly an important factor, but it’s not the only reason to need or want flexibility. I started to work a flex schedule even before I was married. The reality is that we occupy several meaningful roles in our lives at once: we are siblings, daughters, sons, spouses, partners, caretakers, community activists, and friends. Nurturing those relationships – creating the support system that is critical to making flex work – requires thoughtful investment.

In terms of practical strategies for success, it’s about being intentional and strategic with your time. There’s always a knee-jerk reaction to say “yes” to everything to please everyone. For me, it’s always been important to be a Jill-of-all-trades. I’ve always valued exposure to a broad base of work, so I need to be really thoughtful about what I take on. This skill takes time. You’re going to get it wrong sometimes, and that’s okay. I did, several times as a junior associate, and still wouldn’t say I’ve perfected it.

It’s also important to set yourself up for success by creating as many resources and areas of support as you can. I’ll never forget a piece of advice I received as a young lawyer, “What you have in this job is money. What you don’t always have is time; buy yourself that time.” I’ve really taken that to heart. That includes everything from setting up backup child care, to a sacred babysitting commitment twice a month so I can go out with my husband for dinner and a movie.

Finally, develop a specialty that makes you indispensable – this is key. The jackpot for anyone, especially when you’re working flex, is to have your own bank of clients to feed your workload. For me, it was EB-5 financing. Being open to these opportunities – which can mean something as simple as saying yes when someone says “hey, do you want to get smart on this” – can change the course of your career.

DFA: How have the firm and clients contributed to your flex success? How has flexibility contributed to your business development and sustainability of working at a firm?

DK: The firm and the clients are really the reason for my flex success. The firm’s commitment to promotion and retention of women, to diversity, and to an environment of inclusion, has been unwavering. I made lots of assumptions early on as a junior associate about big firms, and Gibson has really proven me dead wrong.

My schedule isn’t something I necessarily advertise, but not because I’m concerned the firm, clients, or colleagues won’t be supportive. Mostly because it feels unnecessary, and because I’m most often met with, “I had no idea you were flex time.” To me, this is the greatest compliment and exactly how I want to practice. I’m rarely asked why I structure my time the way I do because the quality of my work speaks for itself. Among my partners, the response is always, “Let’s figure this out,” so I can play a significant role in meaningful transactions, keep me fully integrated in the group, stay on the cutting edge of the industry, and maintain my schedule as much as possible.

One of the most pleasant surprises has been the outpouring of support from male counterparts. I fully expected some pushback, especially in the male-dominated real estate space. To the contrary, they’ve been some of my loudest cheerleaders. It’s also been great to see such a strong base of clients who value diversity and understand the role flexibility has to play in that. They are demanding their service providers have the same priorities within their organizational culture.

The firm was also very supportive of my work in the EB-5 space. This exploded in the real estate sector after the recession. We identified an opportunity, and although there were a lot of immigration lawyers in the space, there weren’t many sophisticated real estate legal shops handling these transactions. I did my research, met with lead players in the field, and I had firm backing every step of the way – whether it was a marketing budget, credit for business development, or opportunities for writing and research. Now I’m a national, and the firm’s resident, expert on it. This means every transaction, both in and out of the real estate department and from all practice and geographic areas throughout the firm, that touches EB-5 comes across my desk. It also gives me qualitative exposure, outside of traditional billable hours, to speaking and writing opportunities that contribute to my business development and overall professional satisfaction.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self? Would you do anything differently?

DK: I would say don’t assume anything. In an ideal world, all of these opportunities and support systems would exist, formally or informally, and they would be open and immediately available. You wouldn’t have any discomfort about making “the ask.” Just because you don’t know about it, doesn’t mean it’s not out there. And just because it’s not out there doesn’t mean it couldn’t be, or there’s not a critical mass of people who want to help you pave a way.

Forgive yourself. It’s a tough job. If you only give yourself a three or four month trial period on flex, there’s a decent chance you’re going to be disappointed. You don’t need to be. Give yourself enough time to collect sufficient data points and to engage in meaningful trial and error. Learning forgiveness is not an easy skill, and that takes time too. Being a parent has forced me to be better at that, and I don’t think it’s an accident that being a mom and really succeeding at work happened at the same time for me. You don’t have a choice when you have kids, and that adaptability and resiliency has translated nicely into my professional sphere.

Seek out mentorship as much as you can. Women mentors are amazing, and I’ve been very lucky to have a balanced set of both junior and senior women. But I also have male mentors from corners of the firm, and the broader industry, that I would least expect. Just because people are busy doesn’t mean they won’t make time; chances are, they’ll enjoy the opportunity.

DFA: How do you pay it forward, and how do you recharge your batteries?

DK: I have three kids under the age of five, so sometimes I feel like the only batteries I recharge are when a toy breaks. I also have two siblings who are 18, and I play an active role in their lives, including helping them navigate the challenges of their freshman year in college. So, truthfully, I’m exhausted, but highly satisfied. Candidly, I find this to be the much harder part of flex time than balancing the work. I try to put my kids to bed and read with them most nights. I try to assess whether that last bit of work I’m trying to do in the evening is mission critical (or just a desire to finish as much as I can), or whether I’m better served doing something else with those few hours of downtime. I try to sit down every night and have dinner with my husband. I try to go to bed with intentionality. I try to call my large extended family every day on the way to or from work just to say hi. I try to thank my colleagues for their support as often as I can remember. I try not to feel guilty where recharging doesn’t involve a regular trip to the gym or a fancy pilates class – if sleeping in on a Saturday morning isn’t particularly glamorous, but wildly restorative, I’ll take it.

2017 Spotlights

Indira Sharma - Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP

November 2017

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.

DFA: How have the firm and clients contributed to your flex success? How has flexibility contributed to your business development and sustainability of working at a firm?

IS: There’s never been any major issues with me working flexibly. The firm has a policy, and the partners trusted I would manage my flex schedule well. There weren’t many people working flex when I first started, but now partners know me and my work and are fully supportive. They know I will complete the work, and do it well.

As I’ve become more senior, I manage several cases on my own, and that makes flex so much easier. I’ve been developing my book of business and deepening my relationship with other firm clients. I don’t generally announce my schedule when I first start working with them, but I’ve noticed that several of my clients are also working parents and general counsel at large companies. We bond over this, and that’s when I openly share my flex schedule with them. They’re always supportive; they know I’m an outstanding attorney, and my schedule doesn’t affect my capabilities. Flexibility is a significant part of me, so when I’m ready to share it, I will, because it’s part of the relationship-building process.

I’m a big advocate for lawyer wellness. We burn out so quickly, women especially, because we carry on a full time job at home too. I don’t think you can be a truly happy lawyer without flex, and it doesn’t have to be reduced hours. It just needs to be any form of flex. Flex has made me a genuinely happy lawyer, which I think is really rare. I really love the practice of law. I love thinking on my feet, arguing in court, and writing motions – and I believe I’m good at it too! But I also enjoy spending time with my family and kids. I like to be active in their classrooms and be involved in my community. It really feeds my soul, and flex is the only way that makes it possible.

I really enjoy business development, and not enough junior attorneys focus on it – they seem to be only focused on their billable hours. I learned to pay more attention to business development as a junior attorney, and I used some of the extra time from my flex schedule for it because I knew it was the best thing for me professionally long term.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self? Would you do anything differently?

IS: I wouldn’t change this, but I would reiterate to younger attorneys to focus on developing a high business development acumen early in their careers. As the Chair of the firm’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee, I see a lot of bias against women in general, especially when it comes to working flex. I would tell any first year associate, especially young female associates, to be strong and commit to your values. You’re going to run into a lot of bumps along the road, and there will be people who don’t want to work with you. You have to be okay with that. At the end of the day, you are responsible for you – you have to decide what you want and what’s most important. My family, health, and well-being are what’s important to me. You can’t excel at work unless you are taking care of yourself first.

DFA: How do you pay it forward, and how do you recharge your batteries?

IS: Within the legal community, I pay it forward by serving as: the Chair-Elect of the Young Lawyers Section for the Maryland State Bar Association; a member of the Executive Board of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Maryland and Mentoring Chair; and a member of the Young Lawyers Division Council for the Baltimore City Bar Association. Within the community, I serve on the Board and am the Immediate Past Chair of Community Law in Action which pairs and mentors inner city high school students with lawyers to help them be advocates for change. I’ve been on the alumni board of my law school for the past six years and currently serve on the Board as Treasurer for my Hindu temple.

I’m a huge proponent of meditation; I get up very early, exercise, and then meditate. It grounds me and gives me the mental and physical recharge I need. I focus on spending my time on the things that are meaningful to me; I’m the first person to volunteer to mentor for any opportunity both in and outside of the legal community. I think it’s so valuable, and it helps keep me going.

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If you are a professional working a flexible schedule and would like to share your story in an upcoming Spotlight on Flex, contact Eliza Musallam.

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Wendy Sugg - Troutman Sanders

October 2017

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.

The firm has never pressured me to go full time. I typically leave the office before 6 pm, but I log back on when I need to. Now I come into the office five days a week, but on Fridays I try to leave by 3 pm. I use Fridays to focus on client development or to focus on me. I have the flexibility to do the work wherever I need to because at the end of the day, the work is getting done. It would be a problem if I didn’t have this type of flexibility because I’ve become so used to it. I love what I do and the area of law I specialize in; I get to be involved from the early stages with a client and help them set up policies and procedures to avoid employment/labor issues down the road. This is a type of work I can do anywhere, which helps in maintaining control over my schedule.

DFA: How have the firm and clients contributed to your flex success? How has flexibility contributed to your business development and sustainability of working at a firm?

WS: The firm has been great, and my clients don’t really know I work a reduced hours schedule. My practice area tends to be 50/50 male/female, but most of my clients are female. We all have shared family responsibilities, and there’s lots of understanding between us. I’ve set a tone with my clients that I’m responsive to their needs, and we respect each other’s time out of the office. If there is a request, I ask right away “when do you need this?” The more you communicate about a deadline, the more you can plan and schedule to make sure you’re meeting their needs.

I don’t know if I would do anything different if I were working full time because my goal and focus has always been on client development. It’s definitely a benefit that I can mentally note that Fridays are not heavy days, and I can use that day to meet with clients or make a connection. Or I can use that day to write a quick post for the firm’s labor and employment blog about any new developments so my name is out there internally and externally. It’s great not being tied down to the Orange County office; some days I work in the San Diego office and continue to build internal relationships there too.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self? Would you do anything differently?

WS: Know that opposing counsel’s attitude problems are not your problems. You can’t take things personally, and you don’t know what other people are going through outside of the office. It took me awhile to step back and say, “I know what I’m doing, and I’m comfortable with what I’m doing.”

You also have to advocate for yourself all of the time. Don’t assume people are going to do this for you. At my one of my former firms, I brought in a large new client while I was an associate and didn’t receive credit for it. In fact, during my review, I was told I needed to focus on more client development because the reviewing committee had no idea about my role with bringing in the client. This was a good learning experience, and it taught me to be more vocal about my achievements. Now when a new matter comes in, I’m very clear about how and where credit is going to be given.

Don’t let an opportunity to be vocal about your accomplishments go by. It’s not tooting your own horn; it’s important to do it. We often think of ourselves as part of a team, and everyone on the team has the same goals – to do the best work for the client and firm. But you have to realize that everyone still has their own agenda. You are not the first item on other people’s agendas.

DFA: How do you pay it forward, and how do you recharge your batteries?

WS: I’m pretty open with associates about my schedule, and people ask me questions on how they should approach their own holistic flex. I try to be an active mentor with associates as they are navigating their lives. I’ve run the gauntlet on the East Coast, West Coast, clerkships, law firms, etc., so I can offer a wide range of perspectives.

To recharge, the thing I do the most is hiking. I live close to the ocean and trails and am able to get away for an hour for a mental break. Go climb a hill – it’s great! It clears your mind; you can’t do anything else, and you can’t look at your phone. I love it! I feel really recharged afterwards.

Also, literally being the only labor and employment counsel on the West Coast gives me a sense of calm, though that adds pressure when it’s busy. I know my practice area is valued and I’m respected. It takes a lot of juggling to balance my personal life with my practice, but it’s why flexibility really allows me to have a successful practice.

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Sarah Kuehnel - Ogletree Deakins

September 2017

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.

I’ve made flexibility a success by working remotely for more than six years. I was 100 percent remote in 2011 while we lived in Kentucky and from 2012-2014 when we lived in North Carolina. I’ve been working remotely in Destin, FL since August 2014. Once I knew we would be in Destin for several years, at my request, the firm sponsored me to take the Florida Bar. Now about half of my work is in Florida and the other half is in St. Louis. I travel back to St. Louis about once a month, and this travel is also covered by the firm. This arrangement has worked out very well because when my husband is gone, I stay longer in St. Louis (which is home for me). When he’s stateside, I try to limit my time in St. Louis so we can be together.

Since my husband is deployed so often, our time together is very important to me. If Ogletree hadn’t been supportive of my “ask,” I don’t know where I would be in my career or if I would even have a career at this point. The firm has given me the technology and resources to perform my job as if I were 100 percent physically present in St. Louis. More importantly, Ogletree has made it possible for me to succeed and progress in a career that’s not always portable.

As an employment litigator, this arrangement works for me because I plan ahead and remain flexible when plans change. Planning is incredibly important even though so much of it is out of my control – we could win summary judgement or settle the case as we are preparing for trial. Now that I’m taking the lead in more matters, I have more control over scheduling mediations and depositions. Sometimes I have to push work up or down, but I like to take the lead whenever I have the opportunity. I’ve also started taking on more work in North Florida, which requires less travel and juggling schedules. I’m able to leverage my location into an advantage for the firm since we don’t have an office in the panhandle area.

DFA: How have the firm and clients contributed to your flex success? How has flexibility contributed to your business development and sustainability of working at a firm?

SK: I have a handful of clients in the panhandle who know I work remotely for Ogletree, and my St. Louis clients know I work remotely too. All of them, and everyone at Ogletree, are incredibly supportive. In this day and age, technology is so effective that it makes remote work seamless.

Flexibility has contributed to my business development because Ogletree doesn’t have an office in the Florida panhandle – our closest office is about four hours away – and working remotely here has allowed me to target new clients where we did not previously have a physical presence. I also make sure I market myself internally and make plans to meet with partners and clients anytime I’m physically in an office for work. I always let people know that through me, the firm has a presence in the panhandle of Florida, and I can be a local resource for them.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self? Would you do anything differently?

SK: I would tell my younger self three things. First, don’t assume the answer to something you want or need is “no” just because no one else has asked before. We sometimes let assumptions take over, especially in big law, and a lot of times it’s because no one has asked the questions before. No one would have offered to pay for me to take the Florida bar had I not asked for it. I made the case as to why it would benefit the firm, and the firm embraced and supported my plan to our mutual benefit.

Second, I would tell myself to focus on the big picture. It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day grind, making your hours, or sending something off to the client. But as I’ve progressed in my career, it’s been helpful for me to focus on the end game instead, figure out my ultimate goal, and how to get there. Set the time aside now to make this work in the future. I’m up for shareholder, so I’ve been increasingly focused on my marketing efforts since early this year. Starting earlier certainly would not have hurt.

Third, I’ve learned it is important to embrace your personal boundaries, and do what you need to do for your mental health. These are both so frequently overlooked. We really have to take care of ourselves and make these priorities. It’s ok that it looks different for everybody.

DFA: How do you pay it forward, and how do you recharge your batteries?

SK: Planning ahead is essential to paying it forward. When I give work to younger associates, I make sure I’m clear on deadlines to avoid associates working on weekends. I also encourage younger associates to take time off and tell them not to work on my projects on nights or weekends when it’s not necessary. When the shareholders I work for need help, I’m ready to assist in any way I can. If I can make their lives easier, then I do since they have been instrumental to my career success.

Responsiveness is huge to client satisfaction, but it doesn’t mean I can’t unplug for an hour to do yoga, exercise, or simply not look at my phone. When I take trips, I set boundaries, try to limit checking email, and use the rest of my time to disconnect

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Alan Bryan - Walmart

August 2017


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.

DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable and contributed to your overall internal and external development?

AB: I “formally” flex one day a week, but there is no formality as to which day; the nature and duties of my personal and professional roles fluctuate on a weekly basis. Some of that has to do with my wife having a fluctuating schedule. I’ve spent the majority of my six years here with two infants/toddlers and a wife who works the night shift with no set days – there’s no question that flexibility, and Walmart’s flexible work schedule, has made my career more sustainable.

We’re a two income family, and my schedule is heavily dictated by my wife’s availability. I try to plan my flex day around her work, and without flex, I wouldn’t be able to be as involved with our family life.

I didn’t negotiate for flexibility when I first started at Walmart because it wasn’t top of mind. However, within six weeks of starting here, we found out we were expecting our first child. So even though flex wasn’t part of my hiring negotiation, it quickly became a formal conversation with leadership. When I made “the ask,” Walmart was fully on board and ready to make flexibility part of my regular schedule and a success for both of us.

No matter your organization, you have to develop internally as well as externally. I had to establish trust with my team and leadership; I had to show I could get results and do what was needed no matter where I was working. By creating this trust, it made my request to work one day a week from home and shift my hours as necessary so much easier. I showed I was responsible, accessible, and could make this schedule a success for everyone.

One of the misconceptions about flex is people think you won’t be accessible. If you say your working hours are 9-5 or 12-8, then those are your working hours no matter where you are. A cell phone or email is always on and near you. That’s the advantage of technology; it allows for seamless, flexible work-life today. Productivity doesn’t vanish all of sudden just because you left the physical confines of your office.

Flex has also allowed me to be a better person, husband, and father, but it also contributes to my overall happiness. You can’t develop, internally or externally, with a negative attitude and expect to reach the leadership level. Flex allows me to be present, even when I’m not physically present, without sacrificing my accessibility. We have the technology to support this, and I don’t have to make the hard choice between being with my family or participating in a critical work meeting – I can do both.

I think my situation is just one of the many reasons to make flex part of the business case. It’s a talent retention and overall employee happiness tool. Happy employees are productive employees. Even something as simple as cutting out commute time is huge. I live almost 30 miles away from Bentonville, and every time I go into the office, I have to factor about an hour of traffic each way. Multiply that time for five days a week, and that’s 10 hours of the “work” week lost in a car; the best I can do during this time is a conference call over my hands-free system. When I flex, I gain that time back and actually work longer hours. The difference is by recapturing those saved hours, it takes the pressure off of other time commitments, and I’m happier and more productive.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self? 

AB: I would tell myself to get more involved. When I first started practicing, my gut instinct was to put my head down and work as hard as I could. What I neglected was critical relationship building opportunities and participating in events that could have furthered my development – all for the sake of working really hard. Like everything else, networking takes time. But you have to put the pen down, step away from the computer, and get out there! It will pay a much bigger dividend down that road. I put so much effort into my billable work that I neglected developing outside of the office as well. You have to nurture other parts of your mind and body. I ultimately got to where I was going, but I was not as well-rounded as I could have been had I taken more time to do more personal and professional development sooner.

This is also the lesson of a rigid versus flexible work schedule. When an employer is too rigid and forces that “head-down mentality”, it’s bad for both the employee and the organization. For the employee, it leads to less happiness inside and outside the office and not holistically developing themselves. For an employer, it can mean greater attrition or less productivity for unhappy employees. It’s as important to develop yourself away from your desk as it is to develop at it.

DFA: How do you pay it forward?

AB: I’m blessed to have the opportunity to realize “what I wish I had known” and to realize what we need to be doing in the profession around diversity, inclusion, flexibility, development, and social justice. We need to be leading as lawyers and should be the example for other professions. Sometimes we’re far behind. I’ve tried to pay it forward by speaking out in a pragmatic and diplomatic way to advance these issues and advise upcoming generations on things I wish I had known when I was their age.

I try to lead and influence others, in groups or individually, by being a servant leader. I put everything I have into whether I’m speaking to a crowd of hundreds or having a one-on-one conversation. That’s a critical component of our culture at Walmart. I want to help others achieve their goals and get to where they want to be. Maybe it’s listening with an empathetic ear, or maybe it’s helping someone on a project. No matter what it is, we can all be leaders in so many different ways with how we act and treat one another.

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Anne Marie Pisano - Goldberg Kohn

 July 2017

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.

DFA: How have the firm and clients contributed to your flex success? How has flexibility contributed to your business development and sustainability of working at a firm?

AMP: While working reduced hours, I was able to create some of my first and best client relationships. People would tell me “you’re so focused on my deal,” or “you respond so quickly.” The key for me was to take on fewer matters than my full-time counterparts, but to give those matters 100 percent of my attention. With a lighter work load, I was able to really focus on each client and matter I was on and respond quickly. Working remotely also helped with business development since we have clients all over the US. Because I was in DC (and now Pennsylvania), I’m a “boot on the ground” on the east coast and able to deepen and strengthen existing client relationships while at the same time develop new ones with institutions who may not have a presence in Chicago.

Goldberg Kohn believes in client sharing, and this fosters flex success and business development for everyone. Clients are the firm’s clients, not an individual principal’s client (although one or two principals may serve as the primary points-of-contact). Principals at GK are encouraged to not only bring on new clients, but to introduce and share those client relationships with other partners and institutionalize the relationship within the firm. Because of this philosophy, the partners at GK never hesitated to introduce me to clients in Chicago or to travel to the east coast to help me develop new client relationships here. I’ve always been able to grow professionally while telecommuting and working reduced hours.

I’ve been working flexibly for so long that it’s ingrained into my daily experience. I don’t think I could practice law without it. Flex allows me to still be professionally accessible and prioritize family time. I just can’t imagine working any other way. When I moved to DC, I was the only person working remotely. Now there are five of us all together at all levels (two partners, two associates, and one counsel) working remotely.

The firm recognizes flexibility as a win for everybody and is motivated to find solutions that will work for each attorney. Goldberg Kohn is absolutely committed to producing excellent legal work and great client service. As long as that is getting done, it doesn’t matter where it’s happening. We’re smaller than most firms we compete with, but being smaller means each attorney makes up a bigger part of the entire organization. I’m the perfect example of how the firm has shown its commitment to spending time and resources to make sure attorneys are succeeding and staying. Flex is simply part of the culture.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self? Would you do anything differently?

AMP: I believe in the butterfly effect. I wouldn’t change anything about the start of my career, but if I could go back, I would tell my younger self to trust more. I’m at a great firm with great colleagues who are committed to seeing me succeed. At GK, it’s part of our culture to want to see associates succeed – when they succeed, we as a firm succeed. When I was a young associate I saw smart, hardworking, successful principals, many of whom were men, leave at a reasonable time to be with their families and then log back in when needed. I knew there would be no flex stigma with my work arrangement, and the firm would support me.

Young associates need to look at the long-term; it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Sometimes the right answer is “no” so you can avoid burnout and present your best-self to your clients and colleagues. We have to always provide top-quality legal work and excellent service to our clients; to do so, we have to make choices that work with our lives as a whole at that moment.

I would also tell my younger, working mom self that it’s OK to farm things out. You don’t have to do everything. There’s lots of parts about being a parent and running a household that aren’t much fun (like running errands or doing laundry), so do the things you want to do. Spend quality time with your spouse and kids, and delegate the rest when you can.

DFA: How do you pay it forward, and how do you recharge your batteries?

AMP: I recharge by spending time with my family and friends – those personal relationships are so important. My oldest child will be going to college in a few years, so I try to spend as much time with her as possible.

I pay it forward by being active with the firm. I’m a member of the women’s initiative committee and served on the firm’s diversity committee. I informally mentor women associates. We have exceptional, young female associates, and I’m happy to share my experiences at the firm with them as an example of how they can succeed too.

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Nerissa Coyle McGinn - Loeb & Loeb

June 2017

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.

Before I started working flex, I was practicing general commercial litigation and then focused on IP litigation. I knew this area of law was not going to work with my needs, or more importantly, my family’s needs. So I reinvented myself – I looked at the non-litigation aspects of my practice and focused on IP and advertising counseling instead. My husband has a demanding job and often travels for work. Loeb gave me the flexibility to figure out what would work for my family and the firm.

DFA: How have clients contributed to your flex success?

NCM: My schedule isn’t something I announce to clients when I first start working with them, and I’m not sure if they all know I work flexibly. My office phone automatically forwards calls to my cell phone, so I’m always available. I may take a client call at 6 pm during family time, and even though that’s not ideal, it’s a small sacrifice for the amount of flexibility I have overall. No matter where you are in your career, but especially as a partner, you still want to be responsive to your clients. Part time or reduced hours doesn’t work when you’re rigid with your schedule. You have to be as flexible with your schedule as the firm has been supportive of you.

DFA: How has flexibility contributed to your business development and sustainability of working at a large firm?

NCM: I don’t have the pressure to bill as many hours. Instead, I have the choice of what to do with my 40 percent, non-billable hours, and I view those hours as time for my family and business development. When I first switched to reduced hours and had two small kids at home, I used one of my off days to teach at a law school. I also did more public speaking and attended conferences – all things to build my name in the Chicago legal community and in my overall practice area.

I also serve as the firm’s Chief Diversity Partner, and this is something I couldn’t do if I was working full time. I feel very strongly about this role, and I took it on because of the challenges I was seeing within the firm, especially as a flex attorney. For my first maternity leave, I asked for six months of leave (instead of the standard three) and to come back reduced hours; I ended up receiving eight months because we weren’t able to finalize the terms of my part-time schedule. We didn’t have a part time policy in place yet, and my negotiating power was that I wasn’t there. I told the firm I wouldn’t come back as a full time associate just to hammer out the details of what my reduced hours schedule would look like. I know not everyone can do this. I’m lucky that my family was in a financial position that I could stay out of work for an extra two months, and this added to my negotiating power. But this is why advocating on behalf of others who are grappling with career decisions during life changes is so important to me. I want other attorneys to have the same opportunities I did.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self?

NCM: Two things. First, focus on becoming an expert in a particular area. If you have an area of expertise, that becomes invaluable to the firm and your career. Second, build relationships and start networking early in your career. Don’t wait until it’s time to make partner.

DFA: How do you pay it forward, and how do you recharge your batteries?

NCM: I exercise every day, and I try to mediate every day as well. A lot of my happiness and joy comes from being with my kids; it’s like the Peace Corps slogan, “It’s the toughest job you’ll ever love.” Seeing their joy of being together makes me happy and helps me recharge. Three years ago, I decided to start running “mom camp” where the kids and I do a summer adventure together instead of sending them to a traditional overnight camp. We’ve done a Revolutionary War trip and visited Monticello, the DC monuments, Philadelphia, and Boston’s Freedom Trail; we drove Route 66; and we’ve traveled to New Orleans, Las Vegas, and Memphis to see the Civil Rights Museum. I want to spend as much time with my kids while I can because I only have this time with them once. I want to take advantage of every moment. When I die, they aren’t going to put “Partner at Loeb & Loeb” on my tombstone – it’s hopefully going to say “Mother” and “Wife.” I’ll have time to focus on other things during different points in my life, but right now, the most important things to me are raising my kids and enjoying my family.

As for paying it forward, there was a time when I debated whether or not to keep working. I realized, however, that by continuing to work, I not only was helping other women at the firm, but women and men outside of the firm. The research supports that by continuing to work, I am making it more likely that my husband will hire and promote more women at his company.

It also reaches to the next generation. My daughter, my son, and their friends will have different views on what they can do and what women can do. Being able to influence the next generation is one of the reasons why I wanted to take on the role of Chief Diversity Partner – it’s been one of the most fulfilling aspects of my job. With the Alliance’s help, we recently updated the firm’s parental leave policy. Once it was approved, I called one of our female attorneys on leave and told her she was going to have extra paid time off through the new policy. She was so thankful that she started crying. I would go through all the hard work and time it took to update the policy again for that reaction and the satisfaction of knowing that we made a difference.

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Jessica Brown - Gibson Dunn & Crutcher

May 2017

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.

DFA: How has flexibility contributed to your business development and sustainability of working at a large firm?

JB: Before I had kids, my passion for my work was undivided. After I had my first daughter, my passion was split between my job and new family. I welcomed the opportunity to work reduced hours because the flexibility allowed me to focus on both. The firm’s continued support has given me the flexibility to expand my focus to other passions – in particular, women’s issues and gender justice.

Working flexibly allows me to dedicate time and be involved with community organizations I believe in. For example, I am the immediate past president of the Colorado Women’s Bar Association, the immediate past chair of the Legal Aid Foundation of Colorado, a board member for the National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations, and a member of the board of trustees and development committee chair for Stanley British Primary School. My community involvement has allowed me to develop close relationships with clients and potential clients. I would not have been able to cultivate these relationships or be so involved with these organizations without working a flex schedule.

DFA: How have clients contributed to your flex success?

JB: Clients (other than my close friends) don’t know about my schedule because it’s a non-issue. I am 100 percent engaged and committed to my matters and never let my schedule interfere. If I need to manage my hours, then I reduce the number of matters I take on.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self?

JB: Ask for what you need to make the workplace work for you – I did, and I wouldn’t do anything differently. I had an amazing time working as an associate and had great mentors and sponsors. Without them, the job has been more challenging, but it is also extremely rewarding.

DFA: How do you pay it forward, and how do you recharge your batteries?

JB: Lately I have been recharging by trying to get enough sleep. For years, I didn’t. It’s amazing what a difference being well-rested makes – it’s a boon to productivity and clarity. I also incorporate activity during the day when I can. Instead of meeting over coffee, I try to schedule walk-’n’- talks. Pilates also helps me to recharge.

To pay it forward, I stay up to date on issues around flexibility, the leadership gap, talent development, and inclusiveness. I speak and sometimes write on these topics, too. My aim is to encourage women to stay in the profession and encourage them to make the workplace work for them.

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Jennifer Nowlin - Walmart

April 2017

This month, we are pleased to share insights from Jennifer Nowlin, Associate General Counsel, Labor and Employment, in the Bentonville, AR office of Walmart.

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.

My supervisor approved, and I’ve been working this flex schedule since 2008. As a flex attorney, I’ve focused on three things to make my schedule and career thrive: 1) earn trust early; 2) pulse check often; and 3) bend but don’t break.

For “earn trust early” it’s important to establish trust with your supervisors, peers, and clients – this is especially true when you’re working any type of flex schedule. You need to demonstrate that your schedule is not going to interfere with your work performance. I found that once I established trust, the specifics of where and when I worked faded to the background.

When I first started working flex nine years ago, I did a 30 and 90 day check-in with my supervisor which consisted of candid conversations about what was working and what wasn’t. This was part of my “pulse check often.” On the flip side, however, my supervisors have consistently made it a point to ask me the same questions for my perspective and to make sure I’m receiving the benefits of my flexibility. I’m grateful for that communication. Even now I make sure to pulse check and ask my supervisors if they’re hearing anything from clients or if there’s anything we need to address. This is integral to why my flex schedule has been a success for so many years.

“Bend but don’t break” simply means being flexible with your flexibility. It’s a delicate balance to know when to give, while maintaining the integrity of the arrangement. Being too rigid with your schedule is a quick way to undermine your value and flexibility (second only to failing to earn the trust of your colleagues and clients). But pretending flexibility is working when it’s constantly being gutted is not good for anyone. That’s where pulse checks come in and why they are necessary for success. If it’s not working for the individual, the client, or the business, then something has to be adjusted. Over the years I’ve worked with my supervisors to make needed adjustments – it’s always been an examination of where I am and where the company and clients are. I’ve been very lucky to have forward-thinking supervisors who recognize the value of flexibility and honor my schedule. In turn, I can confidently accommodate business needs during certain seasons, even if it slightly alters my schedule for a time, with full confidence that Walmart will continue to give me and my flexibility that kind of support.

DFA: How has the organization contributed to your flex success?

JN: When I was on the employment law team, my internal clients didn’t know I was working a flex schedule. I managed expectations by proposing deadlines that worked with my availability, and the majority of the time that worked for the clients too. If something was time sensitive, I worked with the client to make sure it was completed on time, but I could often accomplish this by switching things around and re-ordering priorities. You have to do this so you can manage your time accordingly. Now my internal clients know my schedule, and they also know I’m just a phone call away if they need me. We’re always accessible simply by the nature of what we do, but this doesn’t change my flexibility. It just allows me to be with my children 98% of the time I’m scheduled to be with them and spend the other one to two percent on the matters that need my attention.

DFA: How has flexibility contributed to your career sustainability? 

JN: My kids are 3, 6, and 9 years old, and it was really important for me to be available for them while they are young. I was fortunate that I didn’t have to choose between my family or my career because I was able to find a way to balance both at Walmart. We adopted our youngest child from China, and he had a lot of needs the first few months he was home – the most important being time to bond with me. My supervisors were so supportive during this period, and I was able to work from home during this critical time. Walmart has my loyalty for all the ways they have supported me and my family throughout the years.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self?

JN: Don’t be shy about asking for what you want. Ask yourself, “What do I really want? How am I going to make that clear? What are the mutual benefits of my ask?” Present the facts, and be thoughtful with your request. They might say no, but they could also say yes.

DFA: How do you pay it forward, and how do you recharge your batteries?

JN: I feed my creative side by writing, painting, decorating cakes, or making things for our home. Engaging the other side of my brain energizes me (even though I typically do these activities after everyone is in bed, and I should be asleep!). I pay it forward by mentoring junior attorneys and talking openly about my flex schedule. I tell them to “copy and paste” what works for them; it’s their responsibility to find their own form of flex success!

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Lori Mihalich Levin - Dentons

February 2017

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.

Flexibility is a success in my career because I made it a priority. It’s important for me to have a sense of balance. I can’t achieve that if I don’t have control over my schedule. I’ve made flexibility a priority by being open with my clients and colleagues with my schedule. I also go “dark” from 5 – 8 pm to focus on my family. This adds to my professional success because it gives me the breather I need during the day to be with my kids, cook dinner, take a break from work, etc. Then I’m able to be fully present at work. I prioritize what needs to be done first, and my clients always know how to reach me in case of an emergency.

DFA: How have clients contributed to your flex success?

LML: The clients I’m in regular contact with know I leave at 4:30 pm to pick up my kids. Other clients, however, aren’t aware of my schedule. If it’s going to be a factor in our professional relationship, then I let them know.

DFA: How has flexibility contributed to your business development and sustainability of working at a large firm?

LML: When I came to the firm, my practice group leader communicated my schedule to the entire group so everyone knew my hours, and there were no questions or speculation as to why I wasn’t in the office on Fridays or after 4:30 pm. That was so important because not only did it show support from the top for my flex schedule, it also helped me set boundaries so it didn’t become “normal” to see me in the office at 7:30 pm.

Flex has made me happier because I split my professional time between Dentons and Mindful Return and use both the technical and creative sides of my brain without burning out. My life has been all about business development for the past 18 months; I had to start a legal practice at a new firm from scratch. But my flexibility has played a huge role with the success of my internal and external business development and has provided several opportunities for me to show my value. I launched GME @ Dentons, a newsletter which provides monthly updates and a quarterly webinar series on issues related to graduate medical education. I also brought a colleague with me from AAMC, have engaged two senior advisors to help expand the business, and I sit on the Women’s LEAD committee at the firm. I’m not any less engaged in business development opportunities just because I work reduced hours. I still attend conferences, travel to pitch prospective clients, and speak at American Health Lawyer Association meetings. Even on a part-time schedule, I have to prioritize what’s important to me and to the firm.

I read Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown, and it taught me to find the areas where you want to direct your energy. Make choices that focus on what you want to do versus what you don’t want to do. I choose to focus on my family, on developing and growing my legal practice, on my clients, and on growing Mindful Return.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self?

LML: I would say calm down – it’s going to be OK. You ARE going to find a way to make work and life fit together. I would also emphasize how important it is to have experiences across the board as a young associate to learn what your interests are. Once you figure it out, go for it!

DFA: How do you pay it forward, and how do you recharge your batteries?

LML: I recharge by practicing yoga and meditation (daily, in small doses), by trying to get enough sleep, unplugging from technology from 5 – 8 pm, and having regularly-scheduled recharge time with my husband. We hold each other accountable and make sure we are taking the time for each other and ourselves.

Internally, I pay it forward by participating in the Women’s LEAD committee and chairing our Flexibility and Parental Leave Task Force. I want things to be just as good, if not better, for the next generation of parent lawyers at the firm. I also take an active role in recruiting and look for the next generation of leaders who may not want the “traditional” work schedule. I want to be an example for them and show how there are so many different schedules that work and are successful.

Externally, I’m so proud of my work with Mindful Return. I know I’m helping the next generation of working moms to feel less intimidated than I did about transitioning back to work after maternity leave. I’m especially proud of my upcoming book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return From Maternity Leave coming out this April 2017. When you find your passion, you want to get up and go to work in the morning, so do what you love! I’m fortunate that I’ve found my two passions through my work at Dentons and Mindful Return, and that I’ve found a firm in Dentons that is supportive both of my career and my flexibility.

Andrea Hogan - Latham & Watkins

January 2017

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.

Maintaining flexibility for me is critical because my husband travels quite a bit for work, and it’s a priority for us that one of us is home each night to have dinner with the kids and put them to bed. Afterwards, I can easily log back on in the evening.

I’ve made flexibility a priority because my husband and I made the decision that we both wanted to pursue challenging (and hopefully successful) careers and be very involved in our children’s lives. I know many couples face the same challenges and are committed to the same goals. Latham is definitely committed to programs that allow lawyers to find balance between their personal and client demands. Two programs in particular assist with this: the first is the Reduced Pace Program where you can choose to work a reduced hours schedule; and the second is the PRO RATA Program I mentioned earlier.

The success of anyone using either of these programs comes from being transparent with your team and your supervisors. You shouldn’t have to hide working a flex schedule, and I don’t want associates on my team to feel they can’t be open and honest about their scheduling needs. People are very aware of the programs and respect them. I was able to use the PRO RATA Program, jump right back in, and not worry about seeking approval to work reduced hours when I came back from my maternity leaves.

Another testament of the firm’s commitment to flex is the fact that I made partner while working reduced hours and while I was on leave. Latham made sure I had access to strong mentors, substantive work assignments, and advancement opportunities. My reduced hours did not have a negative impact on any of these areas while I was an associate or now, as a partner. To the contrary, I think having reduced hours partners is just another example of how Latham promotes diversity – programs like Reduced Pace set a good example of the different life and work experiences that are encouraged at the firm.

DFA: How have clients contributed to your flex success?

AH: My schedule has never been an issue one way or the other. I have clients all over the country and in different time zones. If I need to get back online, then I do.

DFA: How has flexibility contributed to your business development and sustainability of working at a large firm?

AH: Without the PRO RATA or the Reduced Pace Programs, my husband and I would have had to have serious discussions about our career trajectories and other options; it would have been a difficult decision for both of us. Given the flexibility I have had at Latham (and many other factors), I never considered working at another law firm. I’ve been able to learn so much from people senior to me as I advanced in my career.

I do a large amount of professional development by attending conferences and writing articles. I don’t know if I would have been able to do these extra activities without a reduced hours schedule on top of regular client demands. I also think Latham is very focused on identifying business development opportunities for women and diverse attorneys. The firm created the Women’s Leadership Academy for partners in 2014, an annual, in-person training event that brings Latham attendees from all of our domestic and international offices. It also provides the opportunity to expand your internal network and enhance business development skills.

Another way the firm promotes flexibility is through its home office technology package. This allows attorneys to essentially set up a technological replica of their work office at home to facilitate telecommuting. The firm is very pro-active about supporting remote work and provides all the equipment you need. It’s available for everyone, not just for people dealing with childcare issues.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self?

AH: When I was a junior associate, I wasn’t thinking that much about when I would have children. Now, however, I’ve had a lot of discussions with female associates who are talking and thinking about the issues of being a working parent at early stages in their career. Starting a family has a lot to do with many personal factors in someone’s life and frequently has less to do with their careers; you can’t always plan it out. I would encourage my first year self to not try to map out my personal and family life around my career because it’s very hard to predict. You don’t know when you’re going to be the busiest or what years will be the most pivotal for you. It’s a personal decision. I think more firms are embracing flexibility and will let you take the time you need, when you need it.

I would also tell myself to be more confident and not to let the perception of male confidence overshadow what you know. I encourage female, junior associates to be more confident and put their hands up. Jump into opportunities! Don’t be intimidated by your male peers.

There are going to be times in your career when you’ll feel tapped out, and you’ll be asked by supervisors to stretch yourself. The decision about when to take those extra cases or assignments has to be strategic. There are times when you should stretch yourself for those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. And there will be times when you have to take a step back and know your limitations. Your first career priority is always to provide top quality work and great client service, but you have to take care of yourself too. Finding that balance and knowing your limits is important. That means learning to say “no” – it’s a skill you develop as you become more senior too.

DFA: How do you pay it forward, and how do you recharge your batteries?

AH: My perspective has changed over the past five years. When I just had one child, I felt like being at home with him was still work (typically “fun” work, but hard work nonetheless). As my kids have grown, spending time with them has really turned into my time to recharge. My alone time though, is going for a run or spending time with girlfriends who are dealing with the same issues at work or raising kids. I need that outlet to vent and relax.

While we’ve come a long way with reduced hours schedules and flexibility, the reality is the majority of partners in large law firms don’t take advantage of it. I’m open about my schedule and talk about it as much as people want to hear about it. I had, and have, great mentors, and I formally mentor two associates through the firm’s mentoring program. I also informally mentor female associates coming through the ranks and try to be as involved as possible with their professional development. I know how helpful it is to have an experienced attorney as a sounding board; I want to be able to counsel and give that perspective to other young associates dealing with similar life situations.

I also pay it forward internally at the firm by serving as the San Francisco office’s leader for the global Parent Lawyers Group, on the firm’s Recruiting Committee, and as local chair of the Environment, Land & Resources Department. Although these commitments take time, they also make me feel more connected to my colleagues and more invested in the firm and my career.

2016 Spotlights

Lori Brandes - Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox

November 2016

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.

Sterne Kessler’s support throughout the years has been essential to my professional success and sustainability. They make telecommuting easy and have a formal program in place. The firm provides all the technology I need so my home office is just an extension of my DC office.

Not many of my clients know I work remotely, and I think one of the best compliments is hearing a client’s surprise once they learn about my schedule. That reaction is proof of how flex can be seamless and successful. At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember (regardless of your schedule) is to be responsive and give top quality work.

DFA: How has flexibility contributed to your business development and sustainability of working at a large firm? 

LB: My flex arrangement has allowed me to continue my career with the firm. Without it, I’m not sure I would have been able to stay at Sterne Kessler when we moved to West Virginia. Working flexibly has also renewed my awareness of developing my relationships with internal and external clients. I know successful business arrangements require maintaining good contact, and when I’m in the office, I make it a point to carve out time to see people I regularly correspond with via email.

Flex schedules are more common among my clients too. I’ve been able to develop deeper relationships with them because many are utilizing some type of holistic flex too.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self? How do you pay it forward, and how do you recharge your batteries?

LB: You shouldn’t be afraid to ask for flex – we all have different reasons for why we need it. I wouldn’t change anything I did to be where I am today. I’m glad we made the decision for a lifestyle change and moved to West Virginia.

My husband often travels for work, and we try to reserve the weekends for us to recharge together. We both love our daytime jobs, and they remain our primary focus. But the process of building up our land (and the possibility of one day making it into a true working farm with products for the market) invigorates both of us.

I pay it forward by mentoring junior associates, especially those considering flex schedules. I also mentor Ph.D. students from my alma mater, George Washington University, to highlight ways they can use their degree in alternative careers such as law. In many ways, I have pursued a nontraditional legal path. But, my entire journey has taught me not to be scared to try something different.

Antonia Sequeira - Fenwick & West

October 2016

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.

Flex is a priority because I don’t see how I could manage my schedule without it. My husband also works full time, so we have to balance family commitments between us. It’s also essential for me to be able to run my practice and have time for business development and administrative contributions to the firm. This level of flexibility in my schedule has been successful for me because I don’t enforce a hard time-stop each day. Instead, I’m available whenever needed. Many have told me that my schedule is seamless; I may look almost full time, but my billable requirement is less.

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

AS: The firm contributed to my flex success by making the process easy to start and allowing anyone in the firm to have a flex schedule. Although we don’t have a dedicated flex coordinator/ambassador in the firm, we have an informal group of reduced hours attorneys (both partners and associates) that gathers regularly to share our flex experiences and discuss any issues.

I have not openly announced my schedule to my clients, but I freely share it with them when asked – they are all very supportive of it. My schedule has always been seamless, and clients have never noticed a difference with my availability, work, or responsiveness while working reduced hours.

DFA: How has flexibility contributed to your business development and sustainability of working at a large firm?

AS: My job would be more challenging without flex. Flex gives me the ability to have a long-term, sustainable career at a large firm. My reduced hours schedule has given me the ability to spend time on business development and promote the firm through writing articles, speaking engagements, and planning client events. These are some of the many other important aspects of maintaining my practice.

When I first moved to a reduced hours schedule as a mid-level associate, it allowed me to focus more on internal development including fostering relationships with partners in my group and across the firm. It also gave me the time to spend on external business development and promotion. Over time, the external business development aspect has become one of the largest parts of my schedule that has been a success. I have more time not only for external promotion but also for deepening relationships with existing clients and growing their patent portfolios. There’s a substantial amount of work that goes into engaging each new client – sometimes numerous initial discussions about myself and the firm and additional work with establishing the company within the firm (e.g., conflict checks, engagement letters, billing arrangements, and waivers). With my schedule, I can take the time to focus on all of this and turn potential clients into new ones.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self?

AS: I would tell myself to stress a little less about immediately fitting in all of the things I wanted to accomplish in my practice. I probably could not have started my flex schedule earlier given how busy I was my first few years of practice between patent prosecution and litigation work. But flexibility definitely made accomplishing everything easier once I switched to a reduced hours schedule – my career became more sustainable and more fun again.

DFA: How do you pay it forward, and how do you recharge your batteries?

AS: I like to exercise regularly and spend time with my family. This allows me to have a break from the sometimes intense patent practice, and I’m able to recharge.

I also firmly believe in mentoring/training associates and doing pro bono work. As part of the firm’s Pro Bono Review Committee, I review all the proposals that come into the firm. I do pro bono work on a regular basis with the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo at their Share of Cost clinics and with Election Protection and Verified Voting. I’m also on the board of WOGRAMMER, a non-profit that promotes females in engineering and showcases the cutting edge technology they’ve built.

Jamie Drewry - Faegre Baker Daniels

September 2016

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.

I made flex a priority with the firm by asking, being up front, and being honest with what I was looking for. I made it a success for me personally by taking the time early in my career to invest in the group and the partners I worked with so I could build their trust before I needed to make “the ask.” Firms can have these policies, but there’s a lot of responsibility on the individual to make that schedule a success. When I was on my maternity leaves, I fully expected the quality of work I received when I came back to be the same. It was – and that’s because the partners I worked for, and the associates I worked side-by-side with, trusted me. That may not be the case if you don’t take the time to develop the internal relationships first.

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

JD: The firm completely respected the requests I made. They make it easy to work outside of the office too. I may not physically be in the office with my colleagues at times, but the technology in place allows me to work as if I were. We also have the Women’s Forum for Achievement (which is not just limited to women), and it’s been a fantastic group to build support and have an outlet to discuss flex and other topics with one another.

Some clients know I work reduced hours, and some don’t, but it doesn’t matter. The quality of my work and my responsiveness stay the same regardless of my schedule.

DFA: How has flexibility contributed to your business development and sustainability of working at a large firm?

JD: Flexibility as an option is the reason why I stayed. It provided the “release valve” I needed to sustain my career. I cut my billable hours down to 80 percent, but I haven’t cut back my business development hours. I think these business development hours will benefit me in the long run and will be a worthwhile investment.

I’ve had a gradual, organic transition from associate to partner. I definitely have a more client focused lens now. Before I focused internally with my business development; now I focus on the external relationships while maintaining strong connections with colleagues.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self?

JD: I didn’t go into law with the intention of working flex. When you have the time to invest in your work, it’s worth it. At some point in time, for whatever reason, you’ll need to make “the ask.” You’ll want to have that credit in the bank – so it’s important to think long term.

I probably waited too long to ask about flex options, and in hindsight, had I known how little it impacted my career trajectory, I would have made “the ask” much earlier. Don’t assume that people know what you want; you’re the only person that can make the decision for what’s best for you. Be vocal about what you need!

DFA: How do you pay it forward, and how do you recharge your batteries?

JD: It’s really about doing everything I can to preserve that time with my kids in the mornings, before their bed time, and the weekends. My husband (also a partner at a law firm) and I have a standing date every weekend and have a scheduled babysitter – we may not have definite plans, but we make sure we go out and take that time for ourselves.

As a patent lawyer with an engineering background, I’m a strong advocate for girls in science and math education. I’m involved with my alma mater and my local Society of Women Engineers chapter. I volunteer for events through both of these organizations to help encourage women to go into these fields. I also promote flex schedules to junior associates so they know they can do it!

Erik Lemmon - Holland & Hart

August 2016

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.

I needed flexibility to take a more balanced approach to my life. I sometimes leave work at 5:30pm or earlier to attend my kids’ recitals or coach their sports. We eat dinner together as a family. I made it clear to my partners I would still be on and responsive to clients’ needs – my commitment to my job wouldn’t change, only how I managed that commitment was changing. Moving to a flex schedule has made all the difference for my overall well-being.

Partner and firm leadership buy-in to flex also makes a big difference. I haven’t experienced flex stigma, but it’s because of the support from people like Liz Sharrer (the firm’s Chair who also worked a flex schedule) and the other partners with whom I work. Holland & Hart also has a great telecommuting policy which gives me even more flexibility if I need to work from home, leave work early, or take care of something on the weekends.

DFA: How has flexibility contributed to your business development and sustainability while working at a large firm?

EL: It’s made all the difference. I was having trouble balancing work and my personal/family life, and that lack of balance was not sustainable for me. If the firm didn’t have a flex policy, I wouldn’t be here, or I would be on a very different trajectory. My flex schedule works for me.

The firm requires 100 business development hours per year, and my business development requirement also shifted to 80 hours per year when I switched to a reduced hours schedule. This actually leaves me more time to focus on it; I do the business development that I want to do and feel actually helps to grow my practice.

Life is too short not to give your all in everything you do. Once I was able to slow things down at work just a little, I was able to take a breath and see I could really excel at being an exceptional lawyer, father, husband, and coach. I’ve learned that balance, flexibility, and having the time to be good at all facets of my life is what makes me happy.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self?

EL: I would tell me, or any first year associate, to establish themselves and build the trust with their partners and co-workers before they go to a flex schedule. Flex is always an option in the future. Once you feel like you’ve established yourself and fully understand what flex means (it doesn’t mean you’re shutting down completely at 4pm everyday), then it’s always something to consider. Take the time to learn as much as you can. Prove to others that you want to be there and take ownership of your work no matter what your schedule is.

DFA: How do you pay it forward, and how do you recharge your batteries?

EL: I exercise to recharge; I run, lift weights, and cycle. I pay it forward by not hiding my schedule. I wish more men would be open about working flex because I know they’re out there. I hope that my transparency can help combat any stigma male or female attorneys think they may experience by working flex.

Cheryl Tedeschi Sloane - White & Case

JULY 2016

This month, we are pleased to share insights from Cheryl Tedeschi Sloane, Associate in the Miami office of White & Case LLP.

Cheryl T. SloaneDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success with your career?

Cheryl Tedeschi Sloane: I first came to White & Case as a summer associate. Upon graduation, I joined the firm’s financial restructuring group until leaving for a federal clerkship a couple of years later. While exploring post-clerkship opportunities, I ran into a few partners from the firm’s litigation practice and realized that returning as a litigator was the right choice. Eventually I had my first child, and then came my second. I was nine months pregnant when preparing for a two-week jury trial and also co-parenting a toddler with my working husband. It was an intense time. After the trial and the arrival of our second child, I was certain of two things: I loved my job, and I required a new schedule. Because I truly enjoyed the work and the people at White & Case, I decided I had to find out whether I could make the firm’s flexible work policy work for me before exploring any other options.

The litigation group was busy when I was preparing to return from maternity leave, and the partners were ready to integrate me back at 100 percent. I appreciated being needed and wanted, but I knew I needed to come back at 80 percent. The firm’s Regional Section Head and the office’s practice head listened carefully to my “ask” and supported me in implementing this new arrangement. Ultimately, the firm’s flex time policy did exactly what it is supposed to – it got me to stay.

No one in our Miami office was working reduced hours under the firm’s formal policy at the time, so I didn’t have a blueprint for success. My biggest fear was getting flexibility at the cost of being overlooked for the good work our department was generating. It truly was a leap of faith, and I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t an either/or proposition. One person in particular was instrumental in making sure my flex arrangement got off on the right foot. A litigation partner contacted me right after I made my “ask.” She told me that she fully supported me, and she had an integration plan that would capitalize on my litigation skills for her upcoming jury trial. That phone call meant everything to me. Having just completed a trial months before, I was excited about this opportunity and cautiously optimistic about how it would work with my new schedule. It worked out great! We both understood there were times when I would need to work greater than 80 percent to win the trial, but by taking on discrete parts of the case, I could control the “how, when, and where” the work was performed. During my review that year, I was able to say that I came back from a five-month maternity leave, had two jury trials under my belt, and was on reduced hours.

DFA: How has working flexibly enhanced your career sustainability and business development?

CTS: I was – probably like many other women – worried about how becoming a mother would affect the passion I felt for my career. I pleasantly discovered that having kids reaffirmed my career choice; I had this multi-faceted life that I really enjoyed. Again, it was not an either/or proposition, and the firm’s flex policy ensured that. There’s a misconception that flex time is something people would like to do versus it’s something they need for sustainability. Flexibility keeps people from dropping out.

I think professional development and business development go hand-in-hand. I have to demonstrate to partners and clients alike how I’m going to add value on cases and then make good on those promises. Being on flex means making the most out of every opportunity. For example, although traveling for business cuts into my flex arrangement, I’ve found it highly beneficial to my development. A three-hour flight is valuable time with a partner, mentor, or client. It’s not just about logging hours – it’s about utilizing my time to develop my business acumen.

DFA: Would you do anything different or what would you tell your first year associate self?

CTS: I would tell my younger self that everything comes in ebbs and flows. There will be times when your work predominates and times when it cannot. Step back and ask yourself if, on the whole, you are getting what you want. I’d also tell my younger, “flex time” self that just because you’re on a reduced hours schedule, don’t think you can still do it all, all the time. You’ll still miss cocktail hours and teacher conferences. And as soon as you see an avalanche of work heading your way, talk to your partner so they’re prepared to step up. Call in the troops (i.e., grandparents, babysitters, friends) to help fill in the gaps. Buy frozen dinners. Knowing that things are covered back home will greatly reduce your stress and allow you to focus on what’s going on at work. In short, anticipate and plan ahead because even with flexibility, you can’t be all things at all times.

DFA: How do you recharge your batteries and pay it forward?

CTS: I tell our firm’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion to use me as a flex-time example and resource. I speak candidly and openly with recruits and associates about my arrangement, and I’ve shared my experience with women at other firms who are exploring the idea of going on flex.

On a personal level, I recharge by reclaiming one hour a day for myself – 9 pm. Unless work requires me to log back on in the evening at that time, this magical hour is mine. I found a gym that offers classes at 9 pm and a guitar instructor who was willing to give weekly lessons at 9 pm. I’ve also started monthly 9 pm meet ups with my local network of friends at a neighborhood café. This one hour carve out is really special and definitely helps recharge my batteries.

Evynn Overton - Beveridge & Diamond

JUNE 2016

This month, we are pleased to share insights from Evynn Overton, Principal in the Baltimore office of Beveridge & Diamond PC.

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

Evynn Overton: I had my first child during my third year of law school, and I knew heading into the work world I needed and wanted a job with flexibility. I learned I was pregnant while I was a summer associate at Beveridge & Diamond (B&D). When I received my offer, I spoke with the firm and asked if flex options were available as an incoming first year associate. The firm said absolutely; they encouraged and supported my schedule from the very beginning. I started as a reduced hours, first year associate in the fall of 2004 at a 60 percent schedule and was in the office three days a week.

After I had my second child and was simultaneously taking on more responsibility with my case matters, I increased to a 70 percent schedule and came into the office four days a week. At times my work on matters exceeded 70 percent of full time, but I was comfortable with the arrangement because I had chosen to take on (and was excited about) the additional work. I also had flexible support at home, and B&D was fair to me with my compensation. As I became more senior, I gradually shifted to an 80 percent reduced hours schedule, and when I returned to work after the birth of my third child, I stayed on an 80 percent schedule with four days in the office.

In order for flexibility to work well, it has to work both ways. I prioritized client needs, and I made it clear to my colleagues that I had availability on my days “off” if something came up. I volunteered to switch my schedule when needed, and I never felt like I was losing out on major opportunities because I was willing to be flexible too. I worked hard to plan and stay ahead on projects to try to avoid unexpected issues. I was fortunate to work with colleagues who helped make this possible. My schedule definitely hasn’t always been easy over the years, but it has allowed me to play a very active role both at work and at home.

Now that my children are in school, I’m back to a full time schedule but telecommute on Fridays. I wanted to preserve this day at home to be able to have lunch with my kids or go to any of their activities. I switched to a full time schedule before I made partner, but the firm made it clear this was not a requirement in order to promote me. My switch in hours happened because at the time, I was billing full time hours on a reduced hours schedule (and compensation). A junior partner advocated on my behalf to switch to full time because my hours warranted it, and she felt strongly that I be compensated as much as my full time peers. Some people at my firm actually wanted me to stay on a reduced hours schedule to show younger associates that making partner was achievable while working flex hours.

DFA: How have clients contributed to your flex success?

EO: I love the clients I work with – many of them are also trying to balance their schedules for work, life, and family. I don’t necessarily focus on flex with my clients, but they know I have a family. I make sure they know if they need to reach me, I’ll respond. I plan and focus on being proactive versus reactive. Surprises still happen but hopefully not as often. I think clients understand we’re all trying to manage various areas of our lives – they get it, and the firm gets it.

DFA: How has flexibility contributed to your business development and sustainability of working at a large firm?

EO: I wouldn’t be in private practice without flexibility. I don’t think this type of schedule (and this career in general) is for the faint of heart. The career and the juggling require a lot of energy in order to thrive. Even with flexibility, my schedule is challenging, but it’s definitely more sustainable. When you’re on flex, you have to make time for professional and business development just like everyone else, even if it cuts into your personal and billable time.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self?

EO: I would tell myself not to worry as much. It’s a leap of faith, and you keep going. You have to continuously tweak your schedule and make it work for you. The worry, anticipation, and fear of failing will just hold you back.

There were two women in my office working flexibly when I first started, so I knew it was possible to sustain a career at the firm and succeed. Just being present is a way to showcase that flexibility works.

DFA: How do you pay it forward, and how do you recharge your batteries?

EO: I pay it forward by discussing flex with others and making it clear that reduced hours does not equal under-performance. Reduced hours attorneys are being compensated differently for fewer hours, but they still make important contributions to the firm. I try to help others in my firm, whether they’re working flexibly or working with flex attorneys, to understand this as well. It’s critical to be working with a team of people who support and understand what you do without resentment. Communication is also integral to your personal success. When I work with people, they know my schedule and availability. When I work with younger flex associates, I try to be very conscious and respectful of their schedules too.

I run to recharge; I don’t think I would be able to do any of this without running. It’s my outlet. It’s essential to keeping your energy high, and it’s just as equally why I’m still here. I also recharge by being with family and finding little ways to take care of myself. I want my kids to know their mom has a successful career, and I want to be an active role model for them while staying engaged in their activities too.

Marsha Rose Gillentine - Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox

MAY 2016

This month, we are pleased to share insights from Marsha Rose Gillentine, Director in the Washington, DC office of Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox P.L.L.C.

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

Marsha Rose Gillentine: I’ve always believed in personal “check-ins” and reevaluating goals through different points in my career. One of the most important times I did a check-in was while I was completing my Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I asked myself where I wanted to be and how was I going to get there – being a bench chemist was not consistent with those answers. So two weeks after defending my dissertation, I started at the George Mason University School of Law and became a student associate at Sterne Kessler in May 2002. That fall, I switched to the evening program and continued as a student associate at the firm throughout the academic year. I couldn’t turn down the opportunity for the fantastic work experience and the chance to work with such awesome people.

Working during the day and attending classes at night was my first exposure to flex and exemplified part of the balance I was looking for. I graduated from George Mason in three and a half years, and I started as an associate at Sterne Kessler after graduation. I knew flexibility was going to be a key component to my success, and I’ve been on and off of some type of flex schedule for the past 14 years at the firm – including as an associate. For the past two years, I’ve been at about a 75 percent reduced hours schedule.

I chose to work reduced hours because my husband works full time, and we have a three year old daughter. My hours in the office aren’t formally set, but I adapt according to my husband’s schedule and my clients’ needs. I try to be home in time for dinner and bedtime and preserve the weekends for my family. Flexibility keeps me grounded and keeps things in perspective. To work effectively, there has to be plenty of communication between me, my family, the firm, and my clients. This helps me stay organized and meet my deadlines.

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

MRG: I don’t think my clients know I’m working flex. At the end of the day, meeting their needs is the most important thing – not how or where I do it. As long as they have a good product, they’re happy. My goal has always been to give clients timely and top quality work – my schedule has never hindered that.

The firm has also been a major supporter of my success as well. I receive the same types of projects and challenges now as I did when I was working full time. Again, communication is key. I’m open with my team and let them know if I have a conflict so everyone is on the same page. I’m very comfortable with letting people know my availability. I also believe that open communication is a two-way street; as long as people are open about their availability, I try to schedule around their conflicts too.

DFA: How has flexibility contributed to your business development and sustainability of working at a large firm?

MRG: By working reduced hours, I have more time to focus on business development. I travel to meet with clients, originate new business, and to market myself and the firm. When I first made partner in 2012, I was working a full time schedule and in the middle of litigation. It didn’t make sense for me to be on flex. Once the litigation was over, I had time to reflect and check-in again. It was then that I made the choice to go on a reduced hours schedule so I could focus on business development and my family.

My flex schedule is intentional and integral for business development. My clients are literally all over the world, and I try to touch base with them in person at least once a year or every other year at the most. These personal touches require a lot of time, and my husband has been so supportive of this by being the single parent during these periods.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self?

MRG: I’m very happy where I am and with the choices I’ve made; I wouldn’t change anything about my career. Junior associates need to understand there are always paths available – you just have to find what will work for you. This is why constant personal check-ins are so important, especially when you reach a life or career milestone. What was great for you two years ago may not be the best option for you now. If you stay silent, you won’t be happy. Most other people won’t know what your specifics are – only you do. Sometimes taking that leap of faith is the best choice. Yes, it’s scary, but it may be the best thing ever for you!

DFA: How do you pay it forward, and how do you recharge your batteries?

MRG: Spending time with my family and running are my recharge activities. Sometimes I combine the two and take my daughter out for a run with me. Mentoring, not just the younger associates, but everyone in the firm, is one of the best ways I can pay it forward. I believe in fostering personal connections and establishing strong personal relationships with my firm family, too.

Jami Mills Vibbert - Norton Rose Fulbright

APRIL 2016

This month, we are pleased to share insights from Jami Mills Vibbert, Senior Associate in the New York office of Norton Rose Fulbright.

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

Jami Mills Vibbert: After clerking for a federal judge in New Orleans post law school, I started as an associate at the firm (which was then Fulbright & Jaworski LLP) in the New York City office. We lived in New York for two years, and then my husband, a doctor, received a job offer in Philadelphia. I wanted to stay with the firm, but there was no office in Philadelphia. I spoke with Linda Addison (now Managing Partner of Norton Rose Fulbright US), who was at the time the NY office Partner in Charge, and explained my situation. Without hesitation, she made it clear the firm didn’t want to lose me and would work with me to find a suitable arrangement.

That was six years ago. Ever since then, I commute daily from Philadelphia to New York. I’m still on a 100 percent, full time schedule, however, I’m physically in the office from 10 – 5, four days a week. Three hours of those four days are spent on the train, and I formally telecommute one day a week. While some of my colleagues may perceive that I work less hours, that’s not the reality. I just work differently and still bill the same hours as they do.

Having flexibility with my time is really key to my success. People know I’m working, and I’m still on the same trajectory as my colleagues. Without flex, I would not still be at the firm; I would have moved on and taken a job in Philadelphia. When I started this schedule, the firm’s policy was well-defined but not well-advertised. It was difficult at first for me draw boundaries and be vocal about my schedule. That’s not a problem anymore – I’m vocal, enforce my schedule, and make my time work for me. I am also flexible about flex – if I’m particularly busy (maybe preparing for trial), I work longer hours in the office. The people I work with know they can count on me to adjust my schedule when needed. People are more aware of my work arrangement now, and others like it. There are days when partners I work with communicate with me by email and forget that I’m not just down the hall.

The firm has formalized flex, we’ve started a flexibility committee, and I co-chair that committee. I use this as an opportunity to promote flexibility for other people no matter why they need/want it. I was the first associate to use formal telecommuting in this office and one of the first firm-wide. In my six years on this schedule, I’ve had two kids, continue to bill at 100 percent, and have become an advocate in the firm for others seeking work-life control. Flexibility is essential to being able to live life.

DFA: How have clients contributed to your flex success?

JMV: Not all of my clients know I work flexibly. But with the technology we have, as long as they can reach me and I respond, I don’t think they care. Flexibility has become more common, especially on the corporate side. It makes me feel closer to my clients because many of them are working some type of flex too. I was seconded last year to a pharmaceutical client and continued to work flexibly there as well, alongside others who worked flexibly.

DFA: How has flexibility contributed to your business development and sustainability of working at a large firm?

JMV: I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without flex. When I started this schedule, I didn’t have kids – I needed it because I was moving to a city without an office. At that point, I simply wanted the flexibility to not be in the office for the same amount of time while dealing with a 3.5 hour commute every day. Once I had kids, however, my reasons for wanting flex changed completely.

Any relationship has to be a partnership between taking care of house issues, taking care of the kids, taking care of your parents, etc. Without flex, personal and professional responsibilities will take a toll on your work and life. I don’t care if you only live 30 minutes away from the office – I think everyone should take advantage of formalizing their flex benefits. It will make a difference.

I’m very active in the diversity and flexibility committees, and this has contributed to my internal business development. Externally, working flexibly has allowed me to build relationships with clients because we have a common ground to build on since many of them are working flex as well. I think it also demonstrates my continued commitment to my career and my firm.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self?

JMV: Telecommuting doesn’t mean I’m not busy – I’m still busy all the time. I wish I would have expressed this sentiment earlier. It’s helped that clients are supportive too, and I have the metrics to support my case. I know I add value to the firm, and I wish I would have been more assertive about expressing this when I first started on this schedule. The bottom line is don’t be afraid to set boundaries early; my schedule doesn’t mean I’m not committed and not busy.

I believe you need flexibility the most when you’re the busiest at work. If I’m slammed at work, I don’t need a ton a time with my family, but I need some time with them to remind me why I’m working so hard. I want my young sons to see their mom working hard with a successful career – just like their dad.

DFA: How do you pay it forward, and how do you recharge your batteries?

JMV: I protect my weekends. I want to be there for my sons. If an event or activity is important to them, then it’s important to me. These dedicated moments are so vital, and I’m not willing to give those up (even if it simply means playing a five minute spider man game).

I mentor people in the firm’s flex program and encourage them to use flex as intended – let go of the guilt. We’re all working hard, and we should all be “loud” about being on a flex schedule. The mantra should be “I’m on flex, it’s working out great, and it’s the reason why I’m here. You want to retain me, and there are other people like me. If you can’t embrace flex, then you’ll lose good talent like me.”

Jennifer Morrissey - Dentons


This month, we are pleased to share insights from Jennifer Morrissey, Counsel in the Washington, DC office of Dentons.

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

Jennifer Morrissey: I lateraled to Dentons as a mid-level associate in 2009. I was already working reduced hours at my previous firm, and for me, being able to continue on a flex schedule at Dentons was an essential condition for me to accept their offer. Fortunately, Dentons made it clear they had no problem with flex time, and I have been on an 80 percent schedule ever since I joined them. Marci Rose Levine (the Alliance’s April 2015 Spotlight on Flex and 2013 Flex Success® Award Honoree) was instrumental in my decision to come to Dentons; she was already working a successful flex schedule at the firm, and it was evident she had the support to thrive personally and professionally here.

I’ve never focused on my annual hours target, but I also never have had a problem reaching it. In fact, I don’t necessarily view my schedule as reduced hours. Instead, I see it as an added degree of control over my schedule and the flexibility to work when and where it makes the most sense for me, for my family and for my clients. The opportunity to switch to a full time schedule has presented itself in years when I’ve billed above my agreed upon hours, but my answer has always been “no thanks – not at this time.”

The cornerstone to the success of my flex arrangement is communication. Colleagues and clients always know they can reach me. They have confidence the work will be done – and done well – and are indifferent to whether it’s done at my desk or from the bleachers in a school gym. I’ve taken numerous calls with half of my son’s soccer team in the back of my car and written briefs from a seat at a recital. While it may at times appear chaotic to an outside observer, this arrangement gives me peace of mind. In fact, my entire practice group is in constant movement – some are teaching classes, leading boards, and attending to a host of various obligations. At any given time, people are away from the office but still in communication with one another and with clients as needed. This is the nature of the practice of law at a large firm.

My arrangement with the firm also legitimizes my power to say no if I don’t have the bandwidth to take on a project. There’s always a certain degree of guilt that goes with saying no, but this is true whether the “no” is in connection with work or with an activity with my kids. The guilt doesn’t go away, but it definitely gets easier with time as you realize that, full time or flex, there will always be trade-offs.

Another reason why I think my flex schedule is a success for me is that I have always worked while balancing other obligations. I was an evening law student and worked full-time during the day. I had to learn to manage my priorities and the expectations of others from the very beginning. I am conscientiously transparent about my schedule, and this wouldn’t change if I were full time.

DFA: How have clients contributed to your flex success?

JM: Many of the clients I work with know I’m on a reduced schedule. Others have never noticed. The work is always done, their needs are met, and they’re happy. There are a few clients who have been in the same position as me at some point in their careers, and they fully embrace the fact that our group supports flex schedules.

DFA: How has flexibility contributed to your business development and sustainability of working at a large firm?

JM: I feel the views on flex have changed over the years. There are more companies that recognize the validity of flex, and I think resistance comes from people who have not had much exposure to it. There’s always a fear that someone will abuse the schedule, or that you’ll be unavailable if something important comes up during your “time off”. In a big firm, however, the resources are there, and someone will always be available.

It’s important to remember that my (or anyone’s) 80 percent, reduced hours schedule is still not a typical 9-5 job! I would like to see the conversation change to a focus on flexibility rather than hours. I would also like to see the focus change from primarily working mothers to a broader emphasis. My firm has a broad spectrum of lawyers and professionals on a variety of schedules, but this is not the case everywhere. I think I have a good balance; I work hard and finish what needs to get done all the while maintaining my mental well-being. If I had to be physically present in the office, bill 3000 plus hours, and take part of all the firm committees, I could not raise my kids the way I want to. There is tremendous value in their understanding that Mom has a career, but I need to be present for them too.

In terms of business development, I may not be out there “shaking the trees” as much as others in the firm are, but I do travel some, and I contribute by helping with pitches, local networking, and being active in professional groups that are relevant to my practice group. There are attorneys that really thrive on the travel and client pitches, and that’s great for them and for the firm. I try to do my part by raising my profile and the profile of the firm by publishing, speaking engagements, and other activities.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self?

JM: I don’t think I would do anything differently. When I was a first year associate, I had no idea what direction my career or my life was going to take. I worked long hours, but didn’t really think about it. 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.

DFA: How do you pay it forward, and how do you recharge your batteries?

JM: My time with my kids and seeing them participate in their extracurricular activities is my favorite outlet at this stage of my life. My daughter is an actress and singer, and I was a theater major, so it’s been a fun way for me to be involved with her and use those skills. I also try to do one sprint triathlon a year to stay active. My goal with these is just to finish! I can’t say that I enjoy it while I’m doing it, but it clears my head and keeps me in shape.

I mentor when I can, especially when other laterals are looking for flex schedules. I’m on the Screening Committee for the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, and I make sure to do things that are interesting to me. Sometimes you have to take time to look back and remember why you went to law school to do something that makes you feel good and important.

Megan Devaney - Winston & Strawn


This month, we are pleased to share insights from Megan Devaney, Partner in the Chicago office of Winston & Strawn LLP.

Megan DevaneyDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success with your career?

Megan Devaney: Before I went to law school, I was a consultant for Accenture. I loved it there, but I was traveling all the time. When I looked at my five and 10 year plan, I knew I didn’t want to be on a plane every Monday and come home on a Thursday. This was before I was married or had children, but even then, I knew having flexibility with my schedule was important to me. I switched paths and went to law school, summered at Winston & Strawn, and joined the firm as a first year associate.

In 2011, I was a fifth year associate on maternity leave when I started thinking about flex at the firm. I talked with other attorneys working reduced hours and approached the firm about flex for me. I made it clear I wanted to make partner and work on matters that would advance my career. The firm fully supported my choice to work a reduced annual hours schedule at 85 percent. I’ve been reduced hours ever since, and I made partner while on this schedule.

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.

My flex schedule means I’m in the office Monday through Thursday, and I try to block off Friday as much as possible to spend time with my family. I make sure people are aware of this, but I still accommodate client needs on Fridays when necessary. Being on a flex schedule has made me prioritize career and personal items; a full time schedule wouldn’t have made this as easy.

DFA: How have clients contributed to your flex success?

MD: Clients are the key to our business success. When I’m on a project, I plan ahead as much as possible; I realize there will be forks in the road that require change and adapt accordingly. I talk to my clients about their expectations and adjust my schedule. The key component is to plan. If everyone is on the same page from the beginning, then everything runs more smoothly. My clients have been fine with my limited availability on Fridays because I’m always responsive.

DFA: How has flexibility contributed to your business development?

MD: I’ve met so many other professionals working some type of flex schedule. It’s allowed me to connect with them as we talk about work-life control and foster personal relationships into potential professional ones.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self?

MD: Seek out a mentor and be your own advocate. Mentor relationships have been a major contribution to my flex success, and I think you should have multiple mentors for different parts of your life and career. It’s been extremely helpful to have someone to bounce ideas off of about my short and long terms plans. Mentor/mentee relationships are hard to develop – they don’t happen organically all the time – you have to just keep working on it.

I have mentor relationships with other flex and full-time professionals. People have mentors from different parts of their life but don’t always realize it. My parents are mentors – they raised four children and ran a family business, and I pull from their experiences (and wisdom) all the time. You have to make the effort to meet people and develop the relationship; I meet with my mentors and mentees on a regular basis.

You also have to be your own cheerleader. There are a lot of people out there. If you’re just sitting in the background, no one is going to hear/see you no matter how good of a job you’re doing. I knew I wanted to do corporate work because of my previous background, and during our first days of orientation, I jumped on the opportunity to work on a private equity project – I’ve been with the group ever since.

If you want something, ask for it! When I came back from maternity leave, I told my Practice Group Leaders my plan was to make partner. I sought out their advice on what I needed to do to get there and worked with them to develop a plan. I made it a point to meet with my Practice Group Leaders and other key people to ensure that I was heading in the right direction.

DFA: How do you pay it forward, and how do you recharge your batteries?

MD: I have an open door policy. I’m an open and approachable person, and I hope younger associates feel they can seek me out for career advice similar to the way I was able to seek advice from my Practice Group Leaders. Also, doing pro bono work on behalf of the firm has been extremely rewarding. It gives me the opportunity to discover new areas of law that I wouldn’t normally focus on all the while giving back. The firm’s commitment to pro bono work has helped make this possible.

My personal pay it forward moments come from being active in my kids’ classrooms. I recharge everyday by exercising early in the morning. This one hour of the day makes me feel better, wakes me up, and is my time. I firmly believe in spending quality time with my family and carving out one solid vacation a year. You’ll still hit your hours – just take that time to recharge and re-engage with yourself and your family.

2015 Spotlights

Diana Roman Shaw - O'Melveny & Myers


This month, we are pleased to share insights from Diana Roman Shaw, Counsel in the Washington, DC office of O’Melveny & Myers LLP.

Diana Roman ShawDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success with your career?

Diana Roman Shaw: Flex was something I started thinking about before I even started working in big law. Just before I began as an associate at O’Melveny, my husband and I agreed that even though I was about to become consumed by big law life, it was important that we try to sit down and have dinner together most nights. So when I started at the firm, I tried to plan each day with that goal in mind. If I knew I was going to be particularly busy one day, I’d come in very early to get ahead of the crush. I’d head home for dinner and start working again afterwards. By being organized and efficient, I was able to keep a promise to my husband that meant a lot to both of us. Now that I’m a parent, the goal is slightly different – I try to plan each day to ensure my work doesn’t interfere with the time I spend at home with my children. I switched to a reduced hours schedule when I returned from my first maternity leave in 2012 (O’Melveny offers 18 weeks paid leave; I was able to add an additional six weeks of vacation time). My reduced hours schedule means I’m in the office between 9:30 am and 4:30 pm Monday through Thursday, and I work from home on Fridays (subject to client needs). I’ve been on this schedule for over three years (including a second six month maternity leave in 2015), and it’s allowed me to spend more time with my children during the week than if I had a typical 9 to 5 job. Work still has a way of spilling over into family time if you let it. To protect my mornings and evenings with my children, I often work a few hours before they wake up (yes, that means I’m up well before the sun) and after they go to bed. This helps ensure when I’m with my kids, I’m mentally present, engaged, and not thinking about work (and vice versa). It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.

The component of a flex schedule that isn’t always in your control is the support of the people you work with. If partners and clients aren’t on board with your flex schedule, achieving success will always be a challenge. I’ve been very fortunate to have the backing of my firm all the way through – from management, to the partners I work with, to the staff who support me. In fact, I was promoted to Counsel as a reduced hours attorney shortly after returning from my first maternity leave. The firm respects my flex goals, and the people I work with help make sure I’m honoring my flex schedule when possible.

My schedule works for me because all parties – me, my family, the firm – want the arrangement to work and understand that flexibility is key. I don’t achieve my flex goals every day; sometimes I travel for work and may not see my kids for a few days. Sometimes I work on the weekends to finish an emergency project. But I approach each day with my goals in mind and work my system as best I can. There’s no such thing as working a true 9 to 5 schedule in big law, but when you can make flex work, it’s fantastic. It all comes down to whether you’re getting as much out of the arrangement as you’re putting in. If the answer is “yes” (as it’s been for me), then it makes staying in big law possible.

DFA: How have clients contributed to your flex success?

DRS: While I don’t have my own clients, I’ve established and nurtured relationships with my in-house counterparts at a number of client corporations. I’ve been honest with them about my family commitments, and they’ve fully supported my flex schedule. It helps that most of the client legal teams I’ve worked with over the last few years are made up mostly of women (many of whom are mothers of young children). They understand the challenges I face every day and can empathize. As a result, they’re happy to work with my flex schedule whenever possible.

Internally, I consider the partners I work with to be my clients. As mentioned above, my partners are incredibly supportive. For instance, I was scheduled to run an investigation and conduct in-person witness interviews in 18 regions across the US over a three week period. Shortly before the investigation started, I learned I was pregnant with my second child and started to suffer from terrible morning sickness. I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle the physical toll of cross country travel and assumed I would be replaced on the project. This would have deprived me of a really important professional opportunity. Instead, when I told my partner, he congratulated me and immediately began brainstorming how we could restructure the project so I could continue to run the investigation with less travel. His focus was not on my limitations but on finding the best way to make the most of my skills and abilities. He wasn’t doing it to be politically correct – he truly appreciated my “value add” and wanted to maximize it. This made me want to work that much harder.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first-year-associate self?

DRS:  You need clear objectives – both professional and personal – when you come to work. What really matters to you? Once you figure out what’s truly important to you, do whatever you can to protect it. If the job causes you to sacrifice too much of what’s important to you, you won’t last long. Be strategic about your sacrifices. I often volunteer for an “unattractive assignment” (e.g., weekend work) when it doesn’t interfere too much with what I have going on in my personal life. That way, I’m in a much better position to pass on a future “unattractive assignment” that does conflict with my personal life. By being strategic, you’ll be known as someone who is quick to help when needed while protecting your personal priorities at the same time.

Another way to set yourself up for success is to align with mentors/supervisors who value and respect your priorities. Someone once told me as a junior associate to look around, find the people who seem happy, and seem to have relatively normal lives. Once you find them, see what kind of work they’re doing and who they’re working with. Chances are, they’re happy and satisfied in part because of the work they do, or the partners they work with support their work-life control goals. That’s how I found my way to the White Collar group. The people I admired most at the firm and seemed to have the most fun doing the job mostly worked in this group. After doing this work for many years, I realize the nature of our work is more conducive to work-life control than typical litigation. In part, this is because many of our group’s partners came from the government. They learned to complete the job with limited resources and on a largely 9 to 5 schedule. They’re used to managing cases efficiently and shutting down work at 6 pm which makes work-life control a more achievable goal.

Finally, the best advice I can give someone starting out on a flex schedule is this – you can’t feel guilty about working reduced hours. A lot of people struggle on a flex schedule because it’s uncomfortable to be working fewer hours than everyone else around you. You may feel like a slacker or worry full-time attorneys are out-performing you. I still find it hard to leave at 4:30 pm when I know my team is going to be stuck in the office until 11pm finishing a project. If you carry the guilt home with you, or worse, you let the guilt steer you away from your flex schedule, you’re doomed. I’ve learned to work my reduced hours unapologetically. I work hard and efficiently, I try to add value wherever I can, and I don’t compare myself to others

or my previous full-time self. I’m a different worker now, and that’s just fine. I enjoy my time with my children without guilt and have faith that the firm values me at 80 percent just as much as it did when I was 100 percent.

DFA: How do you pay it forward?

DRS: Now that I’m in a position to support younger associates’ flex-time goals, I do whatever I can to set them up for flex success. It can be as simple as scheduling meetings that don’t run through the time they need leave to get home or reminding them, “Shouldn’t you be getting out of here?” Simple gestures like this communicate that: (1) I know what their flex-time needs are; (2) I respect those needs; and (3) I want to be an active participant in ensuring their needs are met. It doesn’t take a lot to support someone working a flex schedule, and I’ve discovered people work harder and better when they feel valued and primed for success.

DFA: How do you recharge your batteries?

DRS: I like to exercise my creative side to balance the heavy thinking I do at work. I like baking with my toddler, making my kids’ Halloween costumes, planning office parties/events – things like that. I would love to get a massage once a month or go to the movies, but that’s not likely to happen for a little while. Instead, my wonderful recharge moment is the long shower I take on the weekend. (New moms will understand why a long shower is such a luxury!) Reading is another quick and easy way for me to decompress and recharge.

Kristine Sendek-Smith - Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld


This month, we are pleased to share insights from Kristine Sendek-Smith, Partner in the Washington, DC office of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.

Kristine Sendek SmithDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success with your career? How have clients contributed to your flex success?

Kristine Sendek-Smith: As lawyers, we have varying degrees of “Type A” personalities, and work-life balance implies equilibrium. But that’s not reality, and it’s hard for a lot of us to come to terms with. I like the Alliance’s term “work-life control” instead; flexibility is a delicate thing, and what works for one individual may not work for another. But technology, along with a give-and-take attitude, will help keep the trains running wherever you are.

Even though I started my legal career as a summer associate at Akin and then as a first year litigation associate here in 1997, I left in 2000 to work for a small environmental defense firm. My career path then took me to the US Attorney’s Office in Baltimore, Civil Division, for five years. While there, I had my daughter and started working a part-time schedule. I was lucky to be in a division with wonderful, female mentors, some of whom were also on a reduced hours schedule. In 2010, I returned to Akin on an 80% schedule (meaning, for me, I’m out of the office on Fridays), and I became partner while working flexibly. The firm has been amazing with supporting and implementing its Reduced Work Schedule Policy under the leadership of our chair, Kim Koopersmith. Last year, we elected 14 new partners, of which three were on a flex schedule.

You can be a very skilled and successful lawyer while working a flex schedule. I don’t tell clients I’m on a reduced schedule. If they want a meeting on Friday, I make it happen. The clients that are aware of my schedule have always been very supportive. People recognize we can’t maintain the hectic pace we’re all confronted with. It’s damaging to our health, family structure, and society in general. I believe working flexibly has allowed me to be more focused, present, and in turn, more appreciated by the firm and my clients.

Flexibility is what you’re comfortable with and can tolerate at the moment. I love my job and have a challenging career – sometimes you might feel you’re giving your job 80 percent instead of 110 percent because you have to focus more on your family or other things. That’s OK, and it’s normal. At the end of the day, I try to remember my roots. I’m from Detroit. My dad was a teacher, and my mom worked for the auto industry. We grew up eating dinner together every night as a family, and my dad had the summers off to spend with us. I may not be able to replicate this exact schedule with my family, but I replicate what I can.

DFA: How has working flexibly enhanced your business development and/or professional development?

KSS: Being a partner in a law firm is a unique experience – you’ve risen to the pinnacle of the profession for private practice, but you have to switch your thinking to business mode. You’re not just a lawyer anymore. Now you’re also a marketer and a thought leader. By supporting my flex schedule, the firm and my clients show they value me and my well-being. This goes a long way in furthering a person’s development. You have the time and the energy to think creatively and efficiently.

I use my time away from the office to pursue activities that are still tied to my personal and professional development. I’m creating a website/online legal resource center devoted to reputational recovery (my area of legal expertise). This is my “baby”, and I’m quite excited to launch the site as a place where legal, public relations, and crisis management organizations can have the means to discover objective evidence to repair their clients’ personal or financial reputations.

DFA: Looking back, would you do anything different, or what would you tell your first year associate self?

KSS: Even if you don’t feel confident, you have to exude confidence – simple projection will help you feel it, and people will respond accordingly. Don’t falter publicly when faced with something new – go back to your office, reach out to those you trust, and you’ll figure it out.

Out of college, I started as a legal secretary in a small law firm; I know what it’s like to sit in a cubicle, answer phones, and deal with purely administrative tasks. At the US Attorney’s Office, I had to be my own secretary, paralegal, and law clerk. I learned to be self-sufficient and “grow” my confidence.

Younger attorneys sometimes feel they’re working on assignments that are beneath them, but you still have to knock those out of the park because it will increase people’s confidence in you. Over time, you’ll be given more substantial assignments with increasing responsibility, which in turn builds your confidence. It’s how you become a leader.

Finally, I can’t stress enough the importance of kindness; being nice goes such a long way in your professional and personal journey. You have to remember that everyone is dealing with their own reality, issues, and schedule.

DFA: How do you recharge your batteries and pay it forward?

KSS: I enjoy gardening and being outside. My husband and I are huge Rush fans; I’ve seen them 49 times in concert! And of course spending time with my husband, 10-year-old daughter, extended family, and friends is another key way for me to recharge.

I try to pay it forward by delegating. This allows someone else the opportunity to do something they may not have had the chance to do. At this stage, I shouldn’t be drafting – I should just be revising. Even though I may feel it’s easier to draft the memo myself, I have to think, how will a junior associate learn if I do it? At a certain point, you have to learn how to let go of some of the reins in your life to pay it forward. I remind myself that someone gave me the opportunity in the past, and it let me grow to where I am today. And I’m still enjoying that journey.

David Soofian - Kaye Scholer


This month, we are pleased to share insights from David Soofian, Associate in the New York office of Kaye Scholer LLP.

David SoofianDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success with your career? How have clients contributed to your flex success?

David Soofian: I telecommute one day a week and have a normalized flex schedule. I have (almost) three year old twins, and they are my priority on every level. Spending time with them is the best part of my day. I want to be a present and involved dad, so I take charge of their morning routine – waking them up, getting them ready, and taking them to school every morning – and make sure I’m home at night in time for bath and bed time.

I’m a seventh year Intellectual Property associate, and the nature of my work allows me to manage my own schedule. The deadlines in Federal District courts and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit are typically known well in advance, which makes it easier to tackle big projects on my own schedule. So in order to be home in time to bathe and put the kids to bed, I log in extra hours outside of the traditional workday to meet my professional obligations. This also means if there’s going to be a conflict, I’ll know about it well in advance.

Kids are actually a common ground with my clients. They understand I’m an involved parent, and I’m a person with professional, personal, and family aspirations just like them. I also think my clients understand I do my best work when I’m balanced; ignoring one facet of life will often affect another.

DFA: How has working flexibly enhanced your business and/or professional development?

DS: Family time is a benefit for career development on so many levels. Potential clients are often at the new parent stage too. Attending my kids’ curricular and extracurricular activities gives me an opportunity to meet other parents from industries I may not normally interact with. My children bring me out of my shell and force me into different social circles that I may not have been involved with earlier (which is great)!

I started our firm’s Parent’s Network affinity group about a year ago to focus on these specific issues, and business/professional development is actually the topic of our next meeting. While the firm previously had an affinity group for moms several years ago, I discovered there were a lot of involved dads looking for a sense of community too. With the firm’s support, I created an affinity group that focuses on family issues without regard to gender. Attorneys and staff from all levels come to our meetings, and we’ve had great attendance from parents who are partners, counsel, associates, paralegals, and IT support. Attendees are encouraged to share their unique views on flexibility and their specific circumstances so everyone can learn from each other.

DFA: Looking back, would you do anything different, or what would you tell your first year associate self?

DS: Flexibility works for me because I have the trust of the partners in my group. I gained that trust by learning to set realistic expectations and making sure I regularly meet and exceed them. If I were to tell my first-year-self one thing, it would be to work on the balance of setting reasonable expectations and exceeding them first thing! Many junior associates tend to promise the impossible to impress their more senior attorneys. But the most important thing is what you deliver. I would tell all junior associates (myself included!) to really take your time to assess a project when it’s assigned, have a realistic grasp on what needs to be done, and realistically determine how long it will take to complete. When your senior attorneys trust that can and will deliver on your promises, they’ll also trust you’re capable of managing your own daily schedule to meet your personal and family responsibilities.

DFA: How do you recharge your batteries and pay it forward?

DS: Re-charging sounds like a great idea that I’ll have to look into this year! But I try to pay it forward by respecting the boundaries between the personal and professional lives of my colleagues and junior associates. I’m honest and transparent with my junior associates about my expectations and give them my trust to meet those expectations. I explain what I expect on a project and let them know when something isreally due so they aren’t needlessly working nights or weekends. If they’re on vacation, I respect their time unless it’s a true emergency.

To me, the Parent’s Network is not only an opportunity to pay it forward, but it’s also a chance to build a community around a shared pursuit. In our meetings, we share how we’re all trying to achieve flex success on our own terms. It’s great to know you’re not the only person looking for work-life control and there are parents in all departments (and of various seniority) trying to achieve the same goal. I believe this community feeling creates a sense of shared-support in our shared-goal.

Beth Dickstein - Sidley Austin


This month, we are pleased to share insights from Beth Dickstein, Partner in the Chicago office of Sidley Austin LLP.

Beth DicksteinDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success with your career? How has flexibility made your career more sustainable?

Beth Dickstein: After 24 years of working flexibly, I think I offer a unique perspective. I’ve been with Sidley Austin for 27 years, and I started on a flex schedule as a third year associate when my son was born – that was 24 years ago! I was at a 70 percent schedule, then moved to 80 percent, and now am at a 90 percent reduced hours schedule. I still come in every day, and there are times when I work from home. Looking back, it’s amazing how much flexibility has changed over two decades.

When I first contemplated working flexibly, there weren’t many women partners, and there were even less working “part-time.” There was one partner in the Tax group who worked one day from home, and it seemed to be working. I took that as a positive sign both personally and from the firm’s perspective. I wanted my Fridays completely off so I could use it to volunteer in my kids’ classrooms. (I also have a daughter who is now 22). In 1993/1994, the technology we have today that facilitates flexibility and telecommuting wasn’t there (or was just starting) – there was no internet, email, cell phones, etc. So when I was off on Fridays, I was off.

Sidley has always advocated for the success of women and flexibility. This type of support made my Fridays at home work. Because the technology wasn’t in place yet, I gave clients my home number and told them to call it if they ever needed to reach me. This simple gesture showed my commitment, and I appreciated their support of the work arrangement. I rarely received a call at home, but I know clients still appreciated the gesture nonetheless. I always felt I was fully backed by the clients, the firm, and the partners I worked with – as long as my work was getting done (and done well) they had no issues. I was able to work, be a mom, and participate in my kids’ activities without the guilt from either side.

I chose to stay on a flex schedule even after my kids were grown because I could be at home when I needed to, go to their after school activities, visit them at college, and still play an active role in their lives. I’ll admit I think it’s harder to work flexibly now than it was when I first started 20 plus years ago in the sense that there are no excuses for not being responsive with the available technology. What this means, however, is you have to draw hard lines and set boundaries early to make your flex schedule work for you.

DFA: How has working flexibly enhanced your business development and/or professional development?

BD: Working reduced hours didn’t delay my track to making partner; I proved myself and my schedule was never an issue. I remember hearing from others that “if you work part-time you’ll never make partner.” Sidley really was a leader in debunking that myth. I’ve held several leadership positions in the firm including being part of the Associate Compensation Committee, and now I’m the Co-Leader for the global Employee Benefits practice group.

The firm leveraged my success and schedule to showcase their support of flexibility with new and potential clients that shared the same philosophy on it. My schedule has allowed me to bond with clients and has assisted with relationship building.

DFA: Would you do anything different or what would you tell your first year associate self?

BD: I would tell my younger self that I made a good choice with the group I picked when I first started at the firm (the Employee Benefits group used to be combined with the Tax group, and I chose to work exclusively on employee benefits matters). I would have waited a little longer to have kids, but you can’t always plan these things around your career – you never know what’s going to happen and when.

DFA: How do you recharge your batteries and pay it forward?

BD: I strongly believe in being active outside of the law firm community. I am heavily involved in the ABA and chair the Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Committee for the Business Law Section, and I co-wrote BNA’s Tax Management Portfolio. I recharge by watching reality TV and reading for my book club. I encourage people and advise them on managing their careers; I’ve been through it and can give them the benefit of my learning experiences. The biggest lesson is to ask for things – if you never ask you’ll never get it.

Laura Walther - Crowell & Moring


This month, we are pleased to share insights from Laura Walther, Counsel in the Washington, DC office of Crowell & Moring.

Laura WaltherDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success with your career? How has flexibility made your career more sustainable?

Laura Walther: I lateraled to the Product Liability & Tort Group at Crowell & Moring in the Spring of 2007 and went on a flex schedule at 80 percent in the Fall/early Winter of 2010 after I came back from maternity leave. I was made Counsel while I was on leave. Currently, I am a Counsel in what is now the Advertising & Product Risk Management Group and continue to work closely with the product liability litigation team members. My flex time is a reduced hours yearly target – I’m in the office almost every day but have no hard start and end time. I’m practical with the realities of child-care; I’m usually in the office early so I can leave early but still maintain as much of the “full time experience” as possible. If I need to make time in my schedule for personal reasons, then I do it. I have the flexibility (and the firm has been fully supportive) to make my own schedule to meet my yearly hours.

When I proposed my schedule to the firm, there were already several other attorneys on a flex schedule. I did my homework and talked with them to see how their schedules were working – what they liked and what they didn’t. Having people that were willing to share their experience and knowing what would work made the decision easy. I also made it a point to have my practice group and partners’ buy-in first before I spoke with human resources. This was extremely helpful to create and approve a schedule that worked.

I’m a planner and have set goals. I wanted to be heavily engaged with the firm and stay on track – this schedule made the most sense to merge my personal and professional goals. Communication is also a huge factor to making my schedule work. I made it a point to remind people I was fully available and ready to attend client meetings and business development opportunities. My mantra has been “I’m fully engaged – let me worry about my schedule.”

DFA: How has working flexibly enhanced your business development?

LW: Because I do a significant amount of regulatory work (along with litigation work), I’m fortunate to have a lot of direct client contact. Clients like DuPont have made women and flexibility a priority, and as one of the firm’s major clients, they’ve helped create an environment that supports my arrangement. Crowell has been wonderful with fostering acceptance and overcoming misperceptions about flexibility.

Flexibility allows me to enjoy my professional experience and makes me want to keep doing what I do. The firm has a very generous maternity leave and sponsors a local day care; knowing these options were available made my return to work so much easier. I can literally walk next door from my office if there are any day care emergencies and handle them in an hour versus having to take a day off. Another unexpected benefit from firm-sponsored day care is the opportunity to meet so many people in the firm I wouldn’t have had the chance to meet or work with, men and women alike. We connect as parents, and our shared experience with kids provides a networking aspect that supports flexibility, parenting, and business development.

DFA: Would you do anything different or what would you tell your first year associate self?

LW: I would remember to lean in for as long as I can and not pull back too early. In other words, don’t hold yourself back from experiences that fit your life as it is now because they may not fit into the life you anticipate or may have in the future. Worrying about the what ifs without being “there” won’t help. Even though I’m a planner, I know I can’t plan for everything; you have to adjust as necessary. My flex schedule was not something I thought about when I first started in legal practice, but it’s been so rewarding. I was able to maintain my strong, professional reputation when I came back from leave and not be viewed just as “Laura the new mom/parent.”

DFA: How do you recharge your batteries and pay it forward?

LW: I co-chair the firm’s Regulatory Department Marketing Committee and am part of the Public Service Committee. I also serve on the Board of Directors for the local non-profit Round House Theater.

Exercise, regular date nights, and getting together with friends are all ways I recharge. I make sure there’s time in my schedule for just me. It’s important to have friends who understand your situation and with whom you can speak openly about shared experiences. Sometimes just being able to have open conversations about flexibility and variable paths with more junior associates is a great way to pay it forward too.

Charise Naifeh - White & Case

JULY 2015

This month, we are pleased to share insights from Charise Naifeh, Associate in the Washington, DC office of White & Case LLP.

Charise NaifehDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success with your career? How has flexibility made your career more sustainable?

Charise Naifeh: I’m a seventh year associate in the Competition Group in the DC Office of White & Case, and I started with the firm as summer associate. As an associate, there are three key factors to making my schedule work: flexibility, communication, and a supportive team.

I started on a flex schedule after my maternity leave and on-ramped back. I was at 60 percent, three days a week for the first two months, and then I went to 70 percent, four days a week and telecommuted on Fridays (this my current schedule). The firm gives us wide latitude to draft our own proposals for its review and approval; I proposed this schedule, and it made my return to work less overwhelming and much easier.

Flexibility is required both from me and my team; they know and respect my schedule. But even on my days off there are some instances when work needs to be done, and I’m happy to put in my time and make up for it later. For example, this past January I returned to a full time schedule since one of my matters was going to trial. I was able to meaningfully contribute and meet with the trial team throughout the entire preparations. Once the trial was postponed, I returned to my 70 percent schedule, and the firm supported my decision without any issues.

Communication is about being my own advocate. That means I make sure everyone I work with (or potentially work with) knows my schedule before I take on a case and am not shy about reminding them when needed.

Having a supportive team, especially the partners and counsel I work with, has been extremely helpful for me to reach my goals. They give me longer-term projects with predictable deadlines that don’t usually require a lot of fire drills. It also helps to work on large teams where the work can be divided among several associates. I’ve also worked on much smaller cases under this arrangement, and my schedule still works – it just requires planning and being organized.

I wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t have time to spend with my family. Everyone has to make choices on how to prioritize their time. For me, working 30 percent less hours has boosted my happiness 100 percent. I’m able to really enjoy my time with my family, but I’m also able to enjoy my time at work in a meaningful way.

DFA: How has working flexibly enhanced your business development?

CN: Flexibility has given me time to pursue additional training that enhances my business development such as networking events and CLEs. I don’t feel as “crunched” as I would if I were working full time – I would be in “survival mode.”

DFA: Would you do anything different or what would you tell your first year associate self?

CN: It pays to work hard the first few years as an associate and earn the respect of your colleagues. Once you earn the reputation as a hard worker who produces high quality work, people will want you on their team no matter what your schedule is. I don’t think there’s any way around this.

DFA: How do you recharge your batteries and pay it forward?

CN:  Since becoming a parent, some of my personal hobbies have taken a back seat for now, and my focus is on being with my family. We have a great community of friends who also have small children, so spending time with them is another way that I recharge.

I’m a mentor with the firm’s formal mentoring program, and I also informally mentor junior associates – I want them to see that this schedule works! My own partner mentors have told me it’s OK to step back a little when you have young kids. This type of encouragement has made a huge difference for me, so I try to pass it on to others. If more leaders embrace this mentality, we can change the workplace to better support families and working parents.

Laura O'Boyle - Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher

JUNE 2015

This month, we are pleased to share insights from Laura O’Boyle, Associate in the New York office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

Laura OBoyleDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable?

Laura O’Boyle: I think it’s fair to say that working on a flexible schedule is the reason I’ve been able to sustain a career in “big law.” I transitioned to a 75% schedule as a sixth year associate just after my first son turned one. I had returned to work full-time after my maternity leave, but I quickly found myself struggling to find the right balance between a demanding career and my growing family. I was also coping with the recent death of my mother and was spending a lot of time thinking about the type of parent I wanted to be. Shifting to a flexible schedule seemed like a solution that would allow me to be a more present and engaged parent while continuing to sustain a career that I loved – and it very much has been. Although I had concerns about shifting to a flex-time schedule at that point in my career, the partners with whom I work and firm management have all been incredibly supportive of my decision. With their support, I have never once second-guessed the transition.

For others considering a flex-time schedule, I always remind them that this job is still incredibly demanding, even on a flexible schedule. Having a supportive husband and a wonderful caretaker for our two boys have both been critical to the success of my career.

DFA: How has working flexibly enhanced your professional development and client relationships?

LO: People who aren’t on a flex time schedule may wonder what I do with my “extra” time. While I certainly spend time with my two boys, I also use the flexibility that my arrangement provides to focus on business development opportunities, firm committees, and other non-billable activities. If I was working full-time, then I think all my free time would be focused on my family and not enough on developing relationships within the firm and with clients.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that since transitioning to a flexible schedule, I’ve been able to enhance my internal firm profile. The firm engages me on parental and flex issues. For example, I recently spoke at our women’s retreat and was able to openly discuss and be a positive, associate example of a flex schedule in action. I want to show that this schedule works, and works successfully! I’ve never felt working flex-time has negatively affected my career trajectory – I’m still working with the same partners and doing the same level of work as my class year counterparts.

DFA: Would you do anything differently or what would you tell your first year associate self?

LO: My pitch line to the junior associates I mentor is that your career is a marathon and not a sprint. If you like your job, and want it to be sustainable long term, it’s critical to avoid burnout. This advice isn’t easy to remember, let alone practice, as a junior associate, and I definitely didn’t always heed it. But being on a flex-time schedule has taught me the importance of protecting my personal time, and I feel that making this a habit early in a career can make for happier associates. I also think that staking out reasonable boundaries on your time in the office can actually make you more efficient. Since having kids, I find I’m extra-efficient in the office and am much better able to prioritize and manage multiple tasks.

DFA: How do you recharge and how do you pay it forward?

LO: Whenever possible, I endeavor to use the weekends to focus on my family. To achieve that flexibility, I often will spend more time in the office during the week than a flex time schedule would suggest. However, I find being able to be very present with my kids for an extended period of time is more than worth it. Of course, my schedule is not rigid; I firmly believe I must remain flexible in order to meet the fluidity of client demands and my practice as a litigator.

I also “recharge” by spending time with my friends. I’ve always been a social person, and particularly since becoming a mom, I’ve found that actively maintaining relationships away from my home and office provides an important outlet. As my friends have become increasingly successful in their careers as well, I’ve discovered the unexpected fringe benefit of maintaining these relationships is business development.

Mentoring and firm involvement are two things I feel very strongly about. I’ve been at Gibson Dunn for nearly nine years; the firm is one of the most important communities in my daily life, and I feel it’s important to do my part to enhance it. I had incredible mentors as a junior associate, and I want to pay it forward to the new generation of attorneys coming through the firm, too.

Marci Rose Levine - Dentons

APRIL 2015

This month, we are pleased to share insights from Marci Rose Levine, Partner in the Washington, DC office of Dentons. Ms. Levine is a 2013 Flex Success® Award Honoree.

Marci Rose LevineDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made work-life control a priority and a success with your schedule? How have clients contributed to this?

Marci Rose Levine: As a parent of three small children, flexibility both in my professional and personal life is essential. I’ve been with Dentons for almost 17 years, and for the past 12 years, I’ve been on a flexible/reduced hours schedule. I’m currently at 80 percent, but over the years, I’ve alternated between 80-90 percent. I’ve spent a lot of time on my education and career development, so when I was pregnant with my first child, I chose to go on a reduced hours schedule because I knew the flexibility would allow me to be a better mother and better attorney.

Not all my clients know that I’m on a reduced hours schedule; however, I have several, such as Walmart, that do – Walmart has really put a spotlight on flexibility in the legal profession. I was upfront with them about my schedule, and in return, they have always made it a point to be realistic about which projects require immediate attention and which can wait. Being open about my schedule with clients like Walmart has been empowering – there’s a feeling of mutual respect around balancing my work with my other responsibilities.

There really is no such thing as a “part-time lawyer;” clients’ needs don’t always fit “neatly” into my schedule. But technology has made working flexibly so much easier – how and when I work doesn’t typically matter as long as my clients’ needs are met. And when my professional demands run high, outside support for my personal demands helps me meet all of my obligations. If we can be open and transparent about flexibility in the legal profession, it can push the issue forward and provide younger attorneys with examples of a sustainable career path.

DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable?

MRL:  I couldn’t do what I do without a flexible/reduced hours schedule. But I’m realistic about my career goals and what leadership positions I can take within the firm. There are only so many hours in the day, and I ask myself what’s going to give me the biggest return even though it may be to the exclusion of other activities I’m interested in. I’ve had several leadership roles in the past, but now I focus on bolstering the firm’s health care practice. At the end of the day, I have to direct my energy towards activities that are best for me, my family, and my clients.

One focus of every law firm evaluating flexible/reduced hours arrangements is always the economics – how can the firm retain the best legal talent while ensuring financial sustainability. As long as you can make the economics work for the firm, there are a host of permutations of flexible schedules that can work. People need flexibility at work for any number of reasons – trials, vacations, and meetings – being out of the office in order to balance family obligations is just as legitimate a reason.

DFA: What would you do differently or tell your first year associate self?

MRL: While it may be easier to work a flexible/reduced hours schedule as a senior associate/ partner, it can be done as a junior associate too (not easily, but it can be done)! You have to think strategically from the beginning of your career; what type of practice do you want and what will allow you to balance your career with your competing priorities the most effectively? I encourage junior associates to come up with a business plan — how will you convince your clients (the firm’s partners) that a flexible schedule will meet their needs? Also, you must always remember that a flexible schedule requires not only the firm’s flexibility, but yours as well. Be creative and realistic, and develop a plan to achieve a certain level of autonomy that will work towards your desired schedule.

DFA: How do you recharge, and how do you pay it forward?

MRL:  I don’t have a lot of quiet time in my life, so I’m grateful for the few moments that I get, typically at the end of the day! I’m also very involved in the community. I have served for five years on the Board of Directors of Wonders Child Care, a nonprofit child care provider where my children were previously enrolled. This type of work recharges me because it’s so different from my work at the law firm. I’m able to choose organizations with missions that resonate with me, and I can contribute in a way that makes a tangible difference to my community.

The bottom line, though, is that you have to do what makes you happy. With so many demands from clients and family, if I didn’t want to be actively engaged as a private practice attorney, then all the flexibility in the world wouldn’t make my career sustainable. I’m grateful for the many wonderful opportunities I’ve had with Dentons to serve the needs of our clients while also being able to raise my family.

Eve Howard - Hogan Lovells


This month, we are pleased to share insights from Eve Howard, Partner in the Washington, DC office of Hogan Lovells US LLP. Ms. Howard is a 2013 Flex Success® Award Honoree and a member of the Alliance’s Advisory Council.

Eve HowardDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made work-life control a priority and a success with your schedule?

Eve Howard: With a flexible schedule I’m able to devote more time to non-work-related things that are important to me, including my family and outside interests. However, my goal is that my schedule never interferes with the service I provide to my clients, my relationship with colleagues at the firm, or with the firm as a whole. If a client calls with an emergency on a day I’m not in the office, it doesn’t mean that it’s not my problem to deal with. Part of the success of my schedule is learning to recognize what’s a true crisis and what’s not – this comes with experience.

I’ve been at a 75% schedule for most of the past 14 years; I’m generally in the office four days and off on Wednesdays. However, months can go by where I don’t take a Wednesday off, but I’ll use another day that works better for current client or firm demands to stick to my arrangement. Having Wednesdays off creates a nice break in the middle of the week, and if I’m unavailable for a part of that day, it’s usually not too difficult to deal with things a day later (as opposed to three days later if my day out of the office were a Friday). Hogan Lovells has been fully supportive of my schedule, and I’ve been duly compensated for times I’ve worked more than my agreed upon hours. In other words, I never felt penalized by my schedule in terms of compensation or opportunities. Flexibility is the key component of a successful arrangement, both on my part and the part of the firm.

DFA: How has the firm supported flexibility?

EH: Hogan Lovells has been at the forefront of promoting flex success, and I’m lucky to work at this type of firm. I Co-Chair the Alternative Work Arrangements Committee (which has been in place for over 10 years). This Committee formalizes best practices, policies around flexible work arrangements, and has made great strides in debunking flex stigma. You can work a reduced hours schedule and be just as committed to the firm, continue to build and grow a practice, and do other things that enrich your life at the same time.

In addition to the Committee’s work, Hogan has started a major global initiative, Project Redefine, which is a broad look at what we can do better as a firm for the benefit of our clients and people. I Co-Chair one of these initiatives called Agile Working, which seeks to implement a firm-wide philosophy for flexible working – any person, in any office, doing any job, can, if needed, have some sort of flexible work arrangement within the job’s parameters. The firm and I believe this is an increasingly important component to attracting and retaining the best talent. The Agile Working initiative within Project Redefine will be rolled out throughout 2015.

DFA: What would you do differently or tell your first year associate self?

EH: One cautionary note to this answer – everyone has their own personal circumstances: how much family support they have regarding childcare; financial issues; the stage of their career; type of practice, etc. In my particular circumstance, I would not have resisted moving to a flexible schedule for as long as I did. I believe it was important for me to put in the long hours when I was a very junior associate to build my skill sets and expertise – there’s no shortcut to this, and it takes a lot of time and energy. However, as a young partner and when my kids were really young, I wasn’t able to sustain a full-time practice at the level I wanted and do all that I needed to do at home. During those years, I was able to do good work and continue to build up an expertise, but it needed to be on a modified schedule. If I could go back, I would give myself a break during those years and stop trying to keep up with colleagues who were rising in the professional development and leadership ranks.

If you’re doing good work and providing value, as your life situation changes, you will likely have the time and energy again to devote to growing and developing your career (as opposed to merely sustaining it). In this new era of advanced technology, I believe it’s a lot easier to build a career on a flex schedule than it was 20 years ago.

I would also tell myself to multi-task less; stay single focused! When I’m working, I try to be as efficient as possible and not be distracted by all the other things going on around me. Likewise, when I’m not working, I’m able to enjoy what I’m doing and leave work out of my mind. I know this is hard to do. But constantly worrying about what you’re not or could be doing takes a toll on you physically and mentally. With experience, I’ve learned to be more present in the moment – this is what keeps me grounded.

DFA: How do you recharge, and how do you pay it forward?

EH:  I switched to a reduced hours schedule when I was about to have my third son, and I had 4 and 6 year old boys already at home. I was exhausted and felt there was no way I could continue to do my job. I packed up my desk before I left for maternity leave and didn’t think I would come back. During my leave, I had time to think, and I knew I wasn’t ready to completely give up my career. I was fortunate to have great child care, and I knew my kids were in good hands. I wanted to try a reduced hours schedule, tackle the stereotypes, and see what would happen.

Because of my personal experience, I’m very committed to promoting flex schedules and agile working. For example, with Project Redefine, the hope is to attract and retain a deeper talent pool of candidates who might otherwise leave a law firm (like I was about to do). I also really enjoy mentoring – this is a very rewarding part of my day because I get to know and interact with the younger associates, share my story, and hopefully be a role model for them as they deal with their own personal circumstances.

My flex schedule has been professionally and personally rewarding. I’m able to do things outside of the firm that have enriched my career such as raising my kids and becoming very involved in independent school boards and governance issues. I believe my external pursuits make me a better lawyer and a more interesting person. I’ve learned so much from these experiences that I would not have been able to have without a flexible schedule.

Deborah Kelly - Dickstein Shapiro


This month, we are pleased to share insights from Deborah Kelly, Partner & Deputy General Counsel in the Washington, DC office of Dickstein Shapiro LLP. Update: Deborah Kelly is now Partner in the Washington, DC office of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP.

Deborah KellyDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made work-life control a priority and a success with your schedule?

Deborah Kelly: I was in academia teaching law-related political science classes at the University of Maryland and then American University before I even started in the law.  I went to law school because I believed it would enhance the courses I was teaching and was accepted at the Washington College of Law (WCL). While there, I kept teaching full-time, and I decided I wanted to be a law professor. I learned my chances of getting hired at a law school would increase if I practiced for a few years first. I did well at WCL, received an offer from Dickstein Shapiro, and intended to stay for just a few years.  Twenty six years later, I’m still here (so I stayed for more than “just a few years”)!Flexibility and work-life control has always been important to me, and I chose to make it a priority before I even started practicing law. I was a non-cookie cutter candidate, and Dickstein was very welcoming.  I started at the firm pregnant, with triplets, and flexibility was essential.  The firm took a chance on me, and I was the first partner-track, part-time litigator.  I was on an 80% schedule as a new associate and remained on that schedule until my kids went to college.  The firm and I didn’t know if this arrangement would work, but luckily it did!  I didn’t want to stay at Dickstein if it meant I was going to be a glorified research assistant.  It’s a testament to the firm as well that 26 years later, I’m still here and have the career that I have now.  I wouldn’t be a partner if I hadn’t been able to work a flex schedule.

I never declared I was on an 80% schedule externally (to my clients).  No client expected me to be available 24/7 because they knew I had other clients too – my schedule was never an issue.   I chose to be in the office four days a week and took Wednesdays off.  Internally, I made sure the firm knew my schedule so nothing would be arbitrarily set on Wednesdays. I wanted to progress, so if an issue happened on a Wednesday, I would take another day off that week.  I made it a point to take on greater responsibility on fewer cases rather than taking on more cases with less responsibility on each one. This gave me more control over managing a trial schedule, depositions, etc.

My clients are mothers too, and we’ve become very close over the years.  My female friends always have my back.  You can’t really “have it all.” But, it’s interesting because my kids are 25 years old, and they look back and ask, “How did you do this?”  They really do appreciate that I was there as much as possible.  Every dollar I left on the table or every experience I might have missed was well worth the upside of me having the time to spend with my children,  friends, and to stay balanced and healthy.  I’m someone who needs time for me outside of the office (to exercise, be with friends, go out, etc.) to be happy; this was true even before I had my triplets.

DFA: Would you do anything different or what would you tell your first year associate self?

DK: I’ve met so many people through my speaking engagements – and thanks to my years as a college professor – I garnered great reviews, so I’m very comfortable speaking in front of large audiences.  Looking back, I could have done a better job with follow up and used our marketing department to help me manage continuous outreach to people.

DFA: How do you recharge your batteries?

DK: I need to exercise, especially when things seem like they are out of control.  It’s my way of giving myself the personality I wish I had; it helps me keep an even keel both mentally and physically.  I’m definitely energized by being with my friends; I’m an extrovert – I derive comfort and joy from being with them!

I’ve been open water swimming through Swim Across America’s Long Island Sound Swim to raise money for cancer treatment, prevention, and counseling for the past 15 years.  It’s a cause very personal to me since both of my parents passed away from the disease, and it’s my way to give back, celebrate, and honor their memory.  Last year the organization raised $1.2 million in one day!

DFA: How do you pay it forward?

DK: There are two male counsel on my team on a 75% schedule that opted to move off partnership track in order to have the time to spend with their families.  I’m a fierce advocate for them and any other attorney working a flex schedule. Getting older makes you more fearless.  If I ever hear someone make a disparaging comment about reduced schedules, I’m quick to respond. I remember one time an attorney commented about me leaving at 5:30 pm one day.  I turned around and said he could take his wallet out, leave 20% of his salary on the table, and then he could leave now too.

Professional women should pay it forward! It’s amazing that flexibility is still an issue, and my daughters have to worry about this as they’re starting their careers. Women helping women – that’s what it’s about!

2014 Spotlights

Danielle Frappier - Davis Wright Tremaine


This month, we are pleased to share insights from Danielle Frappier, Partner in the Washington, DC office of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.

Danielle FrappierDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made work-life control a priority and a success with your schedule?

Danielle Frappier: The key to making it work for me has been to remain responsive to clients, have a great team behind me, and keep things very organized.  Although I try to keep certain core office hours, if there is an urgent matter, I make sure that I am available or someone on my team can cover it.  Most of my clients don’t know (or forgot) that I have a part-time schedule because I work very hard to make sure that their needs are taken care of.  That wouldn’t be possible without my fantastic team.

I actually think my part time schedule has helped me to achieve my business development goals, although I didn’t realize it when I first made the change.  I was struggling to create my own business development path, particularly after having children, because all of my waking hours were consumed with attending either to client work or children.  After I had my second child, my mentor suggested that I switch to an 80% part time schedule.  That’s when a light went off for me: I could use that 20% “cushion” in multiple ways.  Of course, it helped when I needed to take a sick child to the pediatrician or attend a school function.  But I could also use it for business and career development activities.

I soon began to develop my own business, and have been very successful at generating work for my team and the firm.  Last year I had the second highest book of business firm-wide and kept a lot of people busy.  It was not an easy feat, especially in this tough, competitive market.

DFA: Would you do anything different or what would you tell your first year associate self?

DF: I thought I had to know every little detail about everything when I first started so I didn’t put myself out there.  What I came to realize is that many times, my colleagues didn’t know any more than I did, and I shouldn’t have been afraid to speak up.  I also should have asked for a part time schedule earlier.  I would also tell myself that a culture shift was coming.  Men are more frequently taking on more familial responsibilities.  Male associates in particular are advancing with completely new perspectives on inclusiveness and dual family roles. There’s a male associate on my team who is planning to take close to four months for paternity leave, and we fully support him!

DFA: How do you recharge your batteries?

DF: My husband is phenomenal and does much more than his fair share for our family.  That gives me the time I need to succeed at my job and have a little time left over for my children and sometimes, even myself.  Of course, it always feels like I should be attending to some “to do” list.  But my kids often force me to step away from the computer and be more “present.” When I do get time for myself, I find that Pilates and yoga help me to stay physically and mentally fit.  Yoga presents so many parallel lessons that I’ve been able to apply to everyday life.  For example, in yoga, I need to make constant micro adjustments to stay in the pose, and at any one moment in time, I am never in perfect balance in all ways.  It reminds me that life is not perfect, and I need to constantly make adjustments to keep all things in balance.

DFA: How do you pay it forward?

DF: I am a champion for two associates, one of whom was just promoted to Of Counsel, and I’m always looking for new business development opportunities they can participate in.  This month I was named the new Co-Chair of our Communications Group.  Just one of my many goals for that role is to foster support structures and bridge the gap between generational views on work-life balance.

Jennifer Stanley - Fenwick & West


This month, we are pleased to share insights from Jennifer Stanley, Partner in the San Francisco office of Fenwick & West LLP.

Jennifer StanleyDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made work-life control a priority and a success with your schedule? How have clients contributed to this?

Jennifer Stanley: I’m lucky that I can work on a “flexible reduced schedule” at Fenwick, and this allows me to maintain some work life balance – which I otherwise wouldn’t be able to achieve, and for which I am very grateful.  I’ve had a 60% commitment to the firm for past decade, and I view my schedule as an overall annual commitment to the firm, rather than as a way to set specific working hours.  Given the nature of my practice (technology transactional attorney), I don’t try to take specific days off each week.  Instead, I’m available seven days a week if the client needs are there.  Some days I work long hours and other days I don’t; sometimes I work on the weekends, and sometimes I take a day off during the week – it depends on what’s on my desk at a particular point in time – but I keep track of things on an on-going basis so it all balances out.  There is no “perfect” balance or control, and I’m fine with that.When I started my flexible schedule, I was a sixth year associate and a new mother.  I knew flexibility was something I wanted for my long term career because I wanted to be present for my family in a way that was meaningful for me.  My schedule allows me to have time for my husband and children, which is the most important thing to me, in addition to having a rewarding career.

Technology plays an important role in the success of my arrangement.  I’m able to check in at the office, no matter where I am – either via my smart phone or laptop, and if a client needs something or there’s a deadline, I make the appropriate accommodations. I don’t advertise my reduced flexible schedule to my clients, nor do I hide it.  I could be checking in while en route to another client meeting, attending a conference, or chaperoning a 4th grade field trip.  Consistent communication, acknowledgment of messages, and responsiveness are important for all clients.  In my experience, most clients initially just want to know that I got the message, the matter is being taken care of, and that we’re on it.  As far as I know, my schedule has never had a negative impact on a client relationship.

DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable?

JS: My husband and I try to make sure that we live our lives deliberately – we’re doing things because we consciously choose to do them and not because we’re too busy to even ask ourselves the right questions or make different choices.   My children are young – ages 7 and 10 and I want to be present with them now.  They’ll probably move out of the house a decade from now, and I won’t get this time back!  I volunteer at their school, go to their music recitals and soccer games, drive carpool, help them with their homework, and we eat dinner together as a family each night.  I constantly remind myself that I have more time to devote to things outside of the office than I had when I was working on full time schedule, so I try to make every hour count both at work and at home.

I also make a point of being deliberate in my professional choices.  I love practicing law; it’s an important part of who I am as a person.   I’m proud of my success.   Being a partner at a law firm is a difficult and pressurized job, but it’s also a privilege and very rewarding.   I intend to practice law for a long time.  I believe that being able to pace myself at this point in my life will be instrumental in allowing me to continue doing what I love for the long haul.

When I assign projects to my team, the most important thing to me is that the work is done well and on time – not necessarily where it’s done, and I apply the same standard to myself.   I can leave the office to have dinner with my family and then complete a project from home to meet a deadline.

I also think people shouldn’t feel they have to “do it all” by themselves; having external support is key to most successes.  In my world, my husband is my primary source of support – both practically and emotionally.  His support is a major contributing factor to my overall success with work-life control.  And of course, dependable, committed colleagues are also essential. I’m fortunate to have a strong team around me.

DFA: Looking back, what would you do differently?  Any advice for young attorneys?

JS: I recently found the business plan I wrote in 2004 for my firm review.  I didn’t have kids at the time, but it’s interesting that even then one of my priorities was to have time to spend with friends and family.  A Fenwick partner once told me I was going to be in this career for a very long time, and I needed to find what made me happy professionally. I would tell my junior associate self to find what I love and not to worry so much.  I’ve learned over the years that it’s primarily up to me to assert how I want to work, set my own boundaries, and it’s OK to admit that there’s no perfect balance.

DFA: How do you recharge, and how do you pay it forward?

JS: There’s only so much time in the day, week, and year.  My family is spread all over the world, and I want to make sure that I’m doing things that make me the best wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, and attorney that I can be.  My family is proud of me, and that means a lot.   I like to spend time with my family and friends, go hiking, cook, and watch movies – mainly I try to relax and be in the moment.  Also, the world is a much nicer place for me and those around me when I’ve had enough sleep – 7-8 hours a night is my goal! I try hard to let go of the small stuff and focus on the big picture.   Doing these things makes me a better person and a better lawyer – both of which make me happy.

Amy Ufberg - Dechert


This month, we are pleased to share insights from Amy Ufberg, Partner in the Philadelphia office of Dechert LLP.

Amy UfbergDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made work-life control a priority and a success with your schedule? How has a client contributed to this?

Amy Ufberg: My flexible work schedule has varied over the years between being at 60, 70 to 80 percent. I never focused on a set flex schedule or only working certain days. Instead, I alternated my time in the office as needed – if there was a family event, then I went and made up the time on another day. The firm let me grow professionally as my personal needs changed. I was promoted to partner and named practice group leader all while working flexibly. Earlier this year I returned to working 100 percent and also added another duty, that of Co-Hiring Partner for the Philadelphia office.

My practice group and my clients have all been extremely supportive as well. My practice focuses on estate planning, charitable planning, and estate and trust administration. Our group has “client teams” so if I’m unavailable, there’s always someone else that can answer any client needs. I develop very personal relationships with my clients so it’s easy to be honest with them about competitive demands. My clients know I’m available to get their work done.

DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable?

AU:  The hardest part is finding the right balance between being 100 percent present while at home and at work. I know that doesn’t always happen, and at home my family will call me out. But if you work hard at it, it can work. If I wanted to chaperone my kids’ field trip on Tuesday afternoon, then I did. If that meant I worked a little later on Friday afternoon, then I did. I wanted to be able to speak for myself as to what times of day worked for me versus my schedule being set as “I’m always off on Fridays…” I’m very thankful that Dechert has been extremely supportive of this.

My husband also works full time in a demanding profession, so we work together to make sure each of us is available when the other has a conflict. My practice has high seasons, and he has a call schedule and academic obligations so we communicate constantly. Flexibility allows me to be “on” for personal obligations when he can’t be.

DFA: What would you do differently or tell your first year associate self?

AU: I would focus on the big picture and not “sweat the small stuff.” I wouldn’t apologize as much either for my decisions. If you decide to do something and that’s what works for you and the client needs are met, then there’s nothing to apologize for. It’s hard when you’re in the moment not to feel guilty. But in reality, there’s no need to feel that way if you do good work and are available for your clients and colleagues.

DFA: How do you recharge, and how do you pay it forward?

AU: Most of my recharging happens when I’m with my family – whether it be on the sidelines of my kids’ sporting events or spending quality time with my husband. We have Shabbat dinner every Friday with the extended family and friends, and I really look forward to this weekly event to make sure I get updates on the details of the week. My kids know that we are totally focused on them during the weekend, and they give us a little more leeway during the week so we can focus on work.

I serve on the boards for non-profit organizations that I’m passionate about and use my legal skills to do pro bono work. This is important to me and to Dechert, and I want to show my kids that they need to give back too. At the firm, I like meeting new associates and sharing my story – I’ve had three kids, I’ve scaled back on my hours when I needed to, and I’ve still advanced to be a partner, practice group leader, and co-hiring partner for our office. I’m proud that I’ve been good to Dechert, and Dechert has been good to me. My message to both men and women is that you can be flexible – a little give and take, and have a fulfilling and successful career.

Abby Hemani - Goodwin Procter


This month, we are pleased to share insights from Abby Hemani, Partner in the Boston office of Goodwin Procter LLP.

Abby HemaniDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made work-life control a priority and a success with your schedule? How have clients contributed to this?

Abby Hemani: I’m fortunate that the nature of my practice facilitates a flexible schedule and allows me to maintain relatively reasonable work-life control. I focus primarily on appellate work and dispositive motion practice in large cases; deadlines are typically far off, and I can see what’s coming down the road. My schedule is not always perfect, but it’s definitely more feasible because I can often work at different times and from different places.

My client, Jody Forchheimer, Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at Fidelity, is very supportive.  As a working mother herself, she has personal experience juggling a career and parenting. Jody has hired me to draft and argue several dispositive motions in large cases while one of my partners handles other aspects of the litigation.  With support from Jody, this somewhat unusual division of responsibilities has fostered an incredibly collaborative relationship between Fidelity, the firm, and me.  Jody took a risk on me, and I am so fortunate to have earned her trust and support, on both a personal and professional level.

DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable?

AH: Although I’m officially on an 80% schedule, over the course of the year I typically end up working somewhere between 85% and 100% of the expected billable hours for a full time partner.  Goodwin Procter has a “true-up” policy so that at the end of the year, I am fully compensated for every hour I bill.  The true-up policy is a win-win for everyone. If I bill 80% of my expected hours, then I’m happy because I had more time to spend with my family.  I’m happy if I bill more than 80% too because I’m compensated for it, and the firm is happy because it’s generated more money as a result of my additional hours.  I really don’t understand why more firms don’t have a similar policy.

I think this type of flex arrangement is imperative for the next generation of lawyers.  We’re seeing more families like mine where both spouses are pursuing professional careers.  My experience has been that once children come along, dual career families are impossible to maintain unless at least one spouse has some flexibility in his/her schedule. We’re lucky to have a phenomenal nanny, but there are certain parenting duties I just can’t pass along to someone outside of the family.  Working flexibly allows me to go to doctor’s appointments and parent/teacher conferences without obsessing over missing work or coming up short on billable hours.

DFA: Looking back, what would you do differently?  Any advice for young attorneys?

AH: I would spend more time and effort developing my network within the legal community and with potential clients.  When I first started at Goodwin, I was very focused on learning how to be a great lawyer and advancing within the firm.  I thought the business development part of the job didn’t really need to start until I made partner.  But, as in my case, attorneys often make partner at the same time they start having kids and are trying to figure out how to make time for both career and family.  So right when I was supposed to begin focusing on business development, I found myself with significantly less time to do so.  If I had done a better job all along of building and maintaining my network, then business development could have been substantially less daunting.  I urge all young associates to keep in touch with college and law school classmates and be active in the bar/legal associations.  There’s really no downside to making that effort.

Young associates should do whatever they can to make themselves uniquely valuable to their firm and clients – be a better lawyer than your peers or develop an area of expertise that’s in demand.  Differentiating yourself is critical if you’re hoping to take advantage of a flexible schedule.  If you prove to be invaluable, then your schedule won’t matter to anyone – partners and clients will want you on their team, and they will accommodate your need for flexibility.

DFA: How do you recharge, and how do you pay it forward?

AH: I find that moving back and forth between the two core components of my life – work and family – prevents me from getting too worn down.  Playing with my kids on the weekends provides a needed mental break from work; sitting down in a chair at the office and talking to adults come Monday morning provides a necessary change of pace from my time at home with the kids.

I know there are other jobs that would give me more personal time, but I don’t feel like I need it.  I love my job, and I love what I do!   When I was in law school, I never would have expected to feel this way about working at a large law firm, but I like the people I work with, my cases are challenging, and I have enough flexibility that I don’t feel like I’m missing out on any of the important aspects of my family life.

I believe in paying it forward, both inside and outside of the firm. I do pro bono appellate work on civil rights issues that are important to me, and I spend a lot of time mentoring younger attorneys at the firm – both informally and through our formal advising programs. Outside of the firm, I serve as Vice President of the Dravet Syndrome Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that seeks to advance research and improve treatments for those (like my daughter) who suffer from this rare and debilitating epilepsy.

Kirstin Poirier-Whitley - Jones Day

JUNE 2014

This month, we are pleased to share insights from Kirstin Poirier-Whitley, Partner in the Los Angeles office of Jones Day.

Kirstin Poirier WhitleyDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made work-life control a priority and a success with your schedule? How have clients contributed to this?

Kirstin Poirier-Whitley: I’ve been working a flex schedule (75% over five days a week) since 2001 after I had my first child.  I may work shorter days, but I am always available to meet client demands.  If an issue or matter requires more hours in the office, then I make changes to my schedule to meet those demands.  Working flexibly allows me to have a greater presence with my family.  The firm has always supported my decision, and my schedule has not hindered my career advancement – I made partner while on a flex schedule.  The firm also has fantastic technology in place that supports telecommuting.  This has been another successful method of supporting work-life control for our attorneys.  I have full access to my desktop in my home office.

My clients are aware of my schedule, and they know I am available for them.  They have been extremely supportive and respectful of my time; our relationships work because we have a mutual respect of time management and our respective time constraints.

DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable?

KPW: There’s no doubt that working flexibly has made my career more sustainable – I’m not sure I would be a practicing lawyer without a flexible schedule in place.  I want to be present in my kids’ lives, and I don’t want a nanny to be the primary caregiver for them.  Working flexibly allows me to be a happier, more efficient lawyer and to be the kind of parent I want to be.

DFA: Looking back, what would you do differently?

KPW: I worried that working a flex schedule would affect my long-term career, but looking back, I wouldn’t worry so much about making this decision.  I knew the firm was supportive, and they continue to be supportive – it’s why I’m a “lifer” – I was a summer associate here and have stayed with Jones Day ever since!  My flex schedule has not been an impediment to developing client relationships or my practice.  Similarly, my schedule has not negatively affected my relationship with my firm and peers.  I’m proud to be a trailblazer as one of the first attorneys firm-wide to make partner while on a flex schedule.

DFA: How do you recharge, and how do you pay it forward?

KPW: Spending time with my family is the best way for me to recharge.  But my other passion and outlet for “me time” is ballet.  I started dancing when I was four years old and stopped during my first year of law school. Once I was more established in my career, I started dancing again and have performed in a number of productions.

I serve as the Coordinator for the New Lawyers Group in the LA Office.  I advise new associates and oversee their work-flow and training programs.  Our new attorneys do not join a practice group immediately; we give them flexibility during the first year to find the right fit based upon the needs of the firm and their interests.  In my own practice group, I am mindful and respectful of my associates’ personal lives and time.  I encourage young lawyers to find their own path and avenues of work-life balance in order to have more successful and fulfilling careers.

Victoria Lee - DLA Piper

MAY 2014

This month, we are pleased to share insights from Victoria Lee, Partner in the Silicon Valley office of DLA Piper. Ms. Lee is a 2014 Flex Success® Award Honoree.

Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made work-life control a priority and a success with your schedule? How has your client contributed to this?

Victoria Lee: I’ve been on a reduced schedule for the last eight years; after the birth of my son, I came back from maternity leave at an 80% schedule.  At the time, the firm was going through the three-way merger, and there was no formal alternative work schedule (AWS) policy in place.  In some ways I was lucky – I just talked with my practice group leader, said this was what I wanted to do, and it was done.  The firm was “flexible.”  Since then we’ve developed an infrastructure, with the support of partners and senior level management, to implement a formal AWS. The firm has been extremely supportive of flexibility. In the last three years, there have been at least two associates elevated to partner while working a flexible/reduced hours schedule.  The more associates see that it’s possible to make partner while on an AWS, the less daunting it is to ask.

My client, Karen McGee (General Counsel & Privacy Officer of ID Analytics, Inc.), and I have known each other for a very long time.  She also has two young children, and our relationship is a two-way street.  We respect each other’s time and know when each other’s availability is more limited during the day.  Karen knows I’m responsive, and I’ll get the work done – it doesn’t matter where or what time that happens.  Not many of my clients realize I’m on an AWS because at the end of the day, it only matters that the work gets done, and I meet their expectations.

DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable?

VL: Being on a reduced hours schedule gives me a sense of balance.  There are times when I’m working over 100% capacity, and I think I’m going to burn out.  But then it evens out where I have the flexibility to do quality work at the office and still have a quality life outside of it.  I’ve learned to be more efficient with my time so I can see my kids and be involved at home.  I realize there may still be some people that perceive a stigma associated with working AWS, but I’ve made it a point to look for other projects because billable hours are not the only way to contribute to the firm.  I’ve been able to take on more leadership and business development roles, which in turn, has enabled me to market myself internally.  A successful and sustainable career comes from both internal and external self-promotion!

DFA: Why and how did you decide to work a flexible or reduced hours schedule? What would you do differently or tell your first year associate self?

VL: I’m not sure if I would do anything differently because I’m a very different person now than I was as a first year associate. What I would do, however, is tell first year associates now to not think the law firm is as inflexible as they may think.  Many young associates, especially women, think it’s impossible to have children and be successful in a large law firm. I encourage them not to give up before giving it a chance.  Lean in!  I know my situation was different since I was already a partner when I got married and had kids.  But, in many ways, once you make partner there’s more pressure because you are now an owner of the business with a responsibility to generate clients, revenue, and develop the firm. I want young associates to see me and know it’s possible to have a successful career while working on an AWS.

DFA: How do you recharge, and how do you pay it forward?

VL: We love to get away to Lake Tahoe whether it’s summer or winter.  We especially like to ski as a family now that our kids are old enough (and we’re having to keep up with them!).  It’s the perfect time and way to just focus on the family.  It’s great to be up in the mountains and almost completely unplug!

I pay it forward by promoting strategic initiatives in the firm and by sharing my insights on a regular basis with both associates and young partners.  I’m the co-chair of our office’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee, the office delegate for DLA’s Women’s Initiative (the Leadership Alliance for Women), a member of the national steering committee for the Leadership Alliance for Women, and on the planning committee for the firm’s Global Women’s Leadership Summit.  I want to make sure other women feel that DLA is a place where they can have a long-term, sustainable, and fulfilling career.

Julia Markley - Perkins Coie

APRIL 2014

This month, we are pleased to share insights from Julia Markley, Partner in the Portland office of Perkins Coie. Ms. Markley is a 2014 Flex Success® Award Honoree.

Julia MarkleyDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made work-life control a priority and a success with your schedule? How has your client contributed to this?

Julia Markley: I’ve adapted my schedule to fit the needs and responsibilities of the different stages of my career. I was a mid level/senior associate and had my first child when I started a reduced hours schedule with four days in the office and one day out. I was of counsel and a junior partner when I had my second child, and I recognized that this schedule was not working for me anymore. I switched back to five days in the office with a remote touch on emails and availability due to higher work demands.

My client, Laura Proctor, Associate General Counsel of Louisiana-Pacific Corporation, has played a significant role in the success of my professional development and making my flexible schedule work.  She is always very respectful and supportive by scheduling meetings during regular business hours even though we are on different coasts, and she always makes it clear that unless it’s a true emergency her matters can be handled within a reasonable time frame.  I am very proud and grateful for my long-term relationship with Laura and the company.

DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable?

JM: Having obligations and interests outside of work has made me a more balanced person, and more importantly it has forced me to be strategic about what I choose to take on.  I’ve learned to practice by design and not by default – I’ve learned to say “no” to requests that are not part of my main interests or goals.

DFA: Why and how did you decide to work a flexible or reduced hours schedule? What would you do differently or tell your first year associate self?

JM: My decision to work a reduced hours schedule came after I had my first child.  I was very lucky to have other women in the firm pioneer this “ask” before me and prove that this schedule was possible.  I knew there was a stigma associated with working a reduced hours schedule, so I over-compensated by taking on too much to prove that my status as a go-to associate didn’t change. Looking back, I would have better communication with my colleagues and not been so hard on myself.  I know my skills and work ethic didn’t change even if my schedule did.

I would tell my first year associate self to look up more – lift your head, get out of your office, and start growing personal relationships sooner.  Relationship building is just as important as doing good work!

DFA: How do you recharge, and how do you pay it forward?

JM: Running keeps me energized and clears my mind – I do some of my best thinking while I’m running! My family is what keeps me grounded.  One hug from my kids instantly relieves any headache after a long, hard day at work.

I firmly believe in paying it forward by mentoring junior lawyers, especially junior female attorneys of color. I am very grateful to be a Filipina woman attorney, and I believe in helping others through OAPABA (Oregon Asian Pacific Bar Association).


If you are a professional working a flexible schedule and would like to share your story in an upcoming Spotlight on Flex, contact Eliza Musallam.