Spotlight on Flex


 

August 2021 Spotlight on Flex

Our Spotlight on Flex showcases professionals from member organizations who exemplify personal and professional success while working a flexible schedule. Their stories illustrate the long-term benefits that flexible schedules offer to both individuals and organizations.

For our August 2021 Spotlight on Flex we are pleased to share insights from Roberta Granadier, Of Counsel, at Dickinson Wright.

 

Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success with your schedule? How have the firm and/or your clients contributed to this?

Roberta Granadier: I have been working a reduced schedule for more than thirty years since my first child was born. I intentionally made my work schedule Monday through Thursday to enable me to participate in school activities for my kids when they were younger.  It was also easier for my clients and colleagues to know which days I would be in the office.  Clients have known throughout my career that I work a reduced hours schedule, but I’ve always ensured that they had access to my cell phone number and could reach me in case of emergency. The key for me has been being as responsive and prompt as possible with all of my clients. . In turn, my clients have respected my schedule and have been very apologetic on those times when they’ve needed to reach me on a Friday.

Generally, I have found that law firms are enlightened about reduced work schedules. Part of the reason I have been able to find success in working a flexible schedule is that I simultaneously always provide superior client services while also having a niche legal specialty in ERISA. The combination of having a unique specialty and being indispensable to clients and firms has really allowed me to thrive.

 

DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable and contributed to business development opportunities?

RG: Working flexibly has made my career more sustainable because I can successfully juggle my work responsibilities with other priorities that are important to me, such as my family, community involvement, and nonprofit activities. These non-work activities have also contributed to business development opportunities.  I continue to be energized by my practice specialty and teamwork with colleagues. 

 

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

RG: One thing I would tell myself, and that I would tell anyone considering a flexible work schedule, is to be very candid and specific about your goals and expectations. Personally, I’ve always been up-front with my firms and my clients about when and how many hours I expected to be working. Obviously, this can fluctuate over time based on a number of factors, but I think it is important to remain intentional about my schedule. This candidness has been useful to me in my career, and I have been able to maintain a flexible schedule with multiple firms as a result.

 

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

RG: Aside from my family and my community involvement outside of work, I genuinely get recharged by feeling like I am providing value to my firm, my colleagues, and my clients. I recognize that I am an expert in an area of the law that most people don’t know much about, so I enjoy and have benefited from being able to explain complex law in a way that others can understand. For my clients in particular, I am providing them an overview of risks and options that help them make the most informed decisions for their organizations.

As it relates to paying it forward, I’ve always found it important to describe my schedule to other attorneys, especially younger women, who might also be interested in working reduced hours. I’m very open about how my career has developed, and I enjoy sharing with other attorneys how you can have a very successful career with a flexible schedule. Over the years I have also enjoyed participating in recruiting events at our feeder law schools to talk about the arc of my career.

 

DFA: How has the pandemic impacted your flexible working schedule?

RG: I have enjoyed working from home and it is actually easier for me to be more productive with my time.  Especially earlier in the pandemic when a  Saturday seemed the same as a Tuesday, and because I was very busy, I ultimately ended up billing more than previously. This is a good problem to have! Although I do miss seeing my colleagues, it has been easy to connect through Zoom meetings and occasional walks with local colleagues. 

Dickinson Wright’s remote work policy has also allowed me to spend a bit more time doing other things that are important to me. That said, the firm has always allowed attorneys to work flexibly with minimal oversight. This is largely a feature of how the firm trusts its attorneys: we’ve always had a significant amount of professional autonomy. This amount of trust makes Dickinson Wright a very healthy place to practice law and a great place to do so on a flexible work schedule.

 

 

Our Spotlight on Flex showcases professionals from member organizations who exemplify personal and professional success while working a flexible schedule. Their stories illustrate the long-term benefits that flexible schedules offer to both individuals and organizations.

July 2021 Spotlight on Flex

For our July Spotlight on Flex, we’re pleased to highlight Diane Crabtree, Counsel, in Bracewell’s Houston office.

 

Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success with your schedule? How has the firm and/or your clients contributed to this?

Diane Crabtree: I began working at Bracewell in the litigation group after graduating from law school in 2004.  My career path has been far from traditional at a big law firm.  After the birth of my first child in 2007, I initially took a leave of absence to stay home with my daughter.  Although I cherished this time at home, after a year I started to crave intellectual stimulation and decided to return to work.  I was thrilled when Bracewell welcomed me back and offered me several potential flexible arrangements.  I decided on a 75% reduced budget arrangement and maintained this schedule for several years.  After trying a couple of different schedules, I found that I prefer to work every day but to leave at 4 p.m. to be home for dinner and after-school events. 

Most clients don’t even realize that I work part-time on my schedule.  My son was born in 2010 and I was able to take an extended leave after his birth.  When my family moved farther outside of the city several years later, I decided to stay at home again while my kids were still young.  After three years away, I returned to Bracewell in 2017 on the same reduced-budget schedule.  Now that my kids are older, I have much more flexibility to work more hours when needed and then take extended time off.  I am thankful that my firm has been so supportive of my choices over the years and has allowed me to forge my own path.

Our Spotlight on Flex showcases professionals from member organizations who exemplify personal and professional success while working a flexible schedule. Their stories illustrate the long-term benefits that flexible schedules offer to both individuals and organizations.

June 2021 Spotlight on Flex

For our June Spotlight on Flex, we’re pleased to highlight Maryam Casbarro, Associate, Davis Wright Tremaine

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

Maryam Casbarro: I formally started working a flex schedule in January of this year. It was brought about by life circumstances. In October of 2019 I found out that my baby would be born with special needs. We anticipated that she would have significant medical needs going into 2020, but of course we didn’t anticipate there would also be a pandemic! So I had a conversation with the chair of my practice on what work would look like returning from maternity leave with my baby still in the hospital.

She said I could come back on whatever schedule worked for me, and the firm would be completely flexible with my hours. At that time, my schedule wasn’t formalized so I would just take on projects that my personal life allowed. Then in September of 2020 I decided to come back full time. There was a very stark difference between working a pseudo flex schedule without a formal agreement to working full time. It quickly became apparent that life had shifted and it was not realistic for me to maintain a full-time schedule.

I spoke to the partner who oversees flexible working schedules and she walked me through what life would look like on a formal reduced hour schedule and what other attorneys had done in the past. She talked me through the process and explained that people had become partner on a reduced-hours schedule. That was something that was important to me because I didn’t want my career to be derailed by trying to accommodate the realities of my new life. So in January I formerly started to work an 80% reduced-hours schedule.

Our Spotlight on Flex showcases professionals from member organizations who exemplify personal and professional success while working a flexible schedule. Their stories illustrate the long-term benefits that flexible schedules offer to both individuals and organizations.

May 2021 Spotlight on Flex

For our May Spotlight on Flex, we’re pleased to highlight Abigail B. Molitor, Associate in the Chicago Office of Sidley Austin, LLP.

 

Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success with your schedule? How have the firm and/or clients contributed to this?

Abigail Molitor: I’ve worked a flexible schedule for nearly the entire time I’ve been at Sidley.  I had my first child a few months after starting at the firm, and I returned from parental leave to an 80% reduced hours schedule. I’ve maintained that same schedule in the years since and through the birth of my second child. Over that time, I’ve found that the key to success is to periodically review and adjust how I organize my schedule within that general 80% framework.  There have been times, particularly when my kids were very small, when it has been very important for me to manage the number of hours I worked in a day to accommodate other responsibilities.  There have been other times, as my kids have gotten a bit older, where I have greater capacity to dig into more intense periods of work, then balance out my hours with longer periods of time off. In either case, I try to be intentional and thoughtful about the demands of my cases and the needs of my family to figure out how best to fit those puzzle pieces together.  And, if I’ve learned anything in the past few years, the shape of the puzzle is constantly changing.

Sidley’s flexible work policies provided the foundation for me to create a schedule that works for me, and the partners in my group have truly committed to helping make that schedule successful in practice. Because I adopted a flexible schedule early in my career, I’ve worked closely with group leadership and key mentors to be thoughtful about the cases and work opportunities I take on to ensure that I develop necessary skills, management experience, and leadership opportunities to grow in my career over the long-term.

Our Spotlight on Flex showcases professionals from member organizations who exemplify personal and professional success while working a flexible schedule. Their stories illustrate the long-term benefits that flexible schedules offer to both individuals and organizations.

April 2021 Spotlight on Flex

For our April Spotlight on Flex, we’re pleased to highlight Margaux Trammell, Director of Professional Development, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.

Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: Please tell us a little about your background. When did you begin working a reduced hours schedule? 

Margaux Trammell: I began my legal career in Switzerland before earning my LLM in American and comparative law and J.D. from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law in the U.S. I joined Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck over 15 years ago as a second-year corporate associate, where my practice focused on outside general counsel representation, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, corporate reorganizations and finance matters. I became a shareholder at the firm in due course shortly after welcoming my first child.

Prior to my maternity leave with my second son, I approached our co-managing partners and CEO at the time about potentially enrolling in our reduced-work schedule that nobody was taking advantage of at the time. During those discussions, I wanted to make sure they knew that even though I was going to be working reduced hours, I still wanted to be fully committed to the deals I was working on and to be involved in the success of the firm. I still wanted to take an active role, and wanted to make sure that my part-time status wouldn’t sideline my involvement in firm initiatives and client work.

Our Spotlight on Flex showcases professionals from member organizations who exemplify personal and professional success while working a flexible schedule. Their stories illustrate the long-term benefits that flexible schedules offer to both individuals and organizations.

March 2021 Spotlight on Flex

For our March Spotlight on Flex, we’re pleased to highlight Rachel Janger, Senior Counsel, O’Melveny.

Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success with your schedule? How has the firm and/or clients contributed to this?

Rachel Janger: I began working at O’Melveny in 1999 after my post-law school clerkship. I was full-time until 2007 when I had my second child and then transitioned to a 75% reduced hour schedule. A few years later in 2010, I requested a leave of absence to stay home with my kids. The firm agreed to my request. Once my older child was in elementary school, I asked if I could return to O’Melveny at an even further reduced-hours schedule. At that time, I believe this type of request was very rare in the industry, but it was helpful that I have a particular expertise in my area of law. O’Melveny was very accommodating and has always supported my reduced-hour schedule.

My reduced-hour arrangement works because I don’t take on more work than I am capable of fitting into my schedule but I also make sure that I’m available for our clients and colleagues when they need me. So, I work every day but I have more flexibility during my day.   My guess is that some of my clients may not know that I’m on a reduced-hour schedule because I make my schedule work for them.

Our Spotlight on Flex showcases professionals from member organizations who exemplify personal and professional success while working a flexible schedule. Their stories illustrate the long-term benefits that flexible schedules offer to both individuals and organizations.

February 2021 Spotlight on Flex

For our February Spotlight on Flex, we’re pleased to highlight Chelsea Witte-Garcia, PhD, Associate, Wolf Greenfield. 

Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success with your schedule? How has the firm and/or clients contributed to this?

Chelsea Witte-Garcia: I joined Wolf Greenfield seven and a half years ago in the firm’s Technology Specialist Training Program. As part of this program, I went to evening law school and was working an 80% schedule. I had done a full PhD program prior to joining the firm and had my first child during law school, so I had been extremely busy and was dealing with being a new parent. Once I took the bar exam and became an Associate, I knew I needed some flexibility. Instead of transitioning to a full-time Associate schedule, I moved to a 90% reduced hour schedule. While a 10% reduction in billable hours may not seem like a lot, to me it alleviated a lot of billing pressure and allowed time for other non-billable activities. Having that slight reduction in my annual billable hours frees up time for a personal break as well as other work-related activities such as business development, writing, or presenting at firm training sessions.

Wolf Greenfield, and in particular the Biotechnology Practice Group, has been at the forefront of appreciating flexibility. We had the opportunity to set up a home office long before COVID 19. The leadership really understood that not everyone wants the traditional career path. I’ve really appreciated that they’ve put a lot of time and investment in training individuals and they see your value, even if the day-to-day looks a bit different.

In a client-driven industry, there are always times when our jobs are unpredictable. I’m committed to being accessible and adaptable, particularly when there’s an urgent client need. I think clients appreciate that. We also leverage a very talented team of people that can pull together to meet clients’ needs. This can also be a valuable training opportunity for junior group members.

Our Spotlight on Flex showcases professionals from member organizations who exemplify personal and professional success while working a flexible schedule. Their stories illustrate the long-term benefits that flexible schedules offer to both individuals and organizations.

January 2021 Spotlight on Flex

For our January Spotlight on Flex, we’re pleased to highlight Gracie Mills, Associate at Finnegan.

Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success with your schedule? How has the firm and/or clients contributed to this?

Gracie Mills: I officially began working an 80% reduced hours schedule after the birth of my second son in December of 2019. When he was born I tried to maintain 100% billable hours but I found that I kept coming up short. Something was always cropping up and I felt like I was slipping further behind from my billable goal and getting stressed about it. It’s been wonderful since I officially went to 80% because now I am able to bill slightly fewer hours each day and it gives me a little more breathing room.

Finnegan has an excellent free-market system that allows me to select projects where I feel I can be successful on an 80% schedule. Each time a new project comes before me I can realistically look at it through a new lens and decide if it’s a good match for me. The firm has a very supportive culture and provides two types of reduced hour opportunities – 60% and 80% – to meet everyone’s needs. By not requiring fixed hours, Finnegan allows me to be more flexible and work when it fits my schedule. Flexibility is encouraged at Finnegan and there is no stigma associated with working a reduced hours schedule. There are also a great variety of projects to choose from which allows me to develop a diverse practice even within the confines of part time.

DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable and contributed to business development opportunities?

GM: When I was full-time, I felt like I was a B- attorney and a B- mom. I didn’t have enough time to do everything I wanted to do at the office or at home. Now that I am at 80% I can meet my billable hours and be an A+ Attorney, while also being the mom I want to be. When I was 100% I didn’t have an extra minute in my day beyond meeting my billable hours. Now I have the breathing room in my day and can devote much more time to new business development.

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

GM: I would tell first year associates to focus on making a good first impression with everyone you meet while you have the bandwidth to do so. Build relationships during your first year and you will be known as someone who is responsive and reliable. Your reputation will continue to pay dividends throughout your career. Use your earlier years, when you may not yet have a family, to get all the opportunities and experiences you can under your belt, especially those that might require travel and longer hours.

I intend to spend my whole career at Finnegan and this is just a small chunk of my life, and I know I will go back to 100% at some point.

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

GM: I recharge by relaxing with my kids. I am now on maternity leave after recently having my third baby boy! I love to spend time with my family and enjoy just hanging out with my kids. A perfect Saturday for me is walking to the park and getting a sandwich as a family.

I feel very blessed to be working at a firm that allows me so much flexibility. I am also grateful to have the world’s most wonderful nanny. Our nanny makes it possible for me to have the career I love without feeling like I’m short-changing my children. My nanny also recently went on maternity leave and now she brings her daughter to work with her. Sometimes I am able to watch her daughter now that I’m home on maternity leave. We have a wonderful symbiotic relationship where we’re all working together to make it work. We call it “tandem families” – but we get a lot more back from her!

DFA: Has the pandemic impacted your flexible working schedule? 

GM: The pandemic has actually been really good for my flexible working schedule and family life. With everyone working remotely, there is now no stigma associated with being at home. Not having to commute has also been incredible for me as now I’m able to have breakfast with my kids and drop them off at pre-school. The pandemic has also made many more opportunities more feasible for me. Whereas a deposition would have required three days away from my family, now there is no travel and I can take a deposition from home.

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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 Jane Caldeira.

 

 

Our Spotlight on Flex showcases professionals from member organizations who exemplify personal and professional success while working a flexible schedule. Their stories illustrate the long-term benefits that flexible schedules offer to both individuals and organizations.

 

October 2020 Spotlight on Flex

For our October Spotlight on Flex, we’re pleased to highlight Tessa Mielke Partner, Dorsey & Whitney (Minneapolis, MN)

 

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

Tessa Mielke: I graduated from law school in 2010 when the legal world seemed to be upside down (though it was certainly less crazy than now!). Because of the Great Recession, I had the opportunity to spend a year working at Harvard Law School’s transactional law clinic before transitioning to a full time associate role in the tax group in the Boston office of Ropes & Gray. In 2013, my husband started his medical residency in Minneapolis; I left Ropes and started at Dorsey & Whitney in their tax, trusts and estates group. I was working a typical full time associate schedule, but reevaluated my work schedule in 2015 after my first child was born. She had a few health concerns, including needing major surgery on her skull (she’s fine now!). I decided to reduce my hours so I could take my daughter to her numerous medical appointments without worrying about the hours I was missing at work.

I switched to an 80% reduced hours schedule with the intention of ramping back up to full time once we were done with my daughter’s medical appointments. But once that time came and things settled a bit more, I realized that I really appreciated the flexibility of a reduced hours schedule. I still came into the office every day, but I worked shorter hours and could take more vacation days (or sick days to care for my daughter or myself when we inevitably got sick the first few years) while still meeting my work obligations. The result was that both work and my family life were more sustainable.

After about a year and half of working a reduced hours schedule, I decided to increase my hours to 85% to match the hours I’d been putting in while maintain a schedule that worked for me and my family. I’ve been on this schedule ever since. It’s been wonderful, and working a flex schedule has not impeded my career trajectory at all. While working reduced hours, I was promoted to income partner in January 2018 and then to equity partner a year later (even though the typical progression is three to five years from income to equity).

Now with everyone working from home almost exclusively, “coming into the office” is quite different. I’ve still been working shorter hours to meet my family obligations, but I’ve also started using my flex schedule to take one day a month off for self-care and personal projects. This new way of incorporating flexible work has really helped continue to keep my work schedule sustainable.

DFA: How have the firm and/or clients contributed to your Flex Success®?

TM: The firm has clearly been on board with my flex success journey – the biggest example has been with my partnership progression. My practice is really conducive to flex; I work with several clients and on several projects at any given time, which makes it easier to work on fewer matters and still give clients the highest level of service.

My practice group has also been very supportive. We’ve coordinated to make sure my flex schedule works for everyone. For example, my husband is a frontline worker in the hospital, and when the pandemic started, I worried about potentially exposing my colleagues and clients. I stopped coming into the office before the firm mandated teleworking, but I still had matters that required in person signings. Without hesitation, my partners stepped in to oversee those meetings. The point is, pandemic or not, we all work together and support each other.

DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable and contributed to business/professional development opportunities?

TM: I’m able to provide the same high caliber work and service to the firm and clients because of flexibility. I can work at a pace that doesn’t overshadow my personal goals and family commitments. My flexible schedule has also allowed me to participate in business development opportunities that I wouldn’t have had time for if I was billing at 100%. I’ve been able to expand my professional development with internal clients, too. For example, Dorsey’s Women Attorneys with Children affinity group has been a great source of connecting with other attorneys in the firm with shared experiences. We understand the need for flex and can mentor one another.

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

TM: I would tell myself to not be as nervous about expressing what I need. I worried that people would think I wasn’t as committed by working reduced hours at first. The mentality is quite the opposite though; it’s because I am so committed and want to excel, I knew I had to reduce my hours. I knew I wouldn’t be able to give 100% to the firm, my clients, and my family by working full time. I think it’s important to make it very clear with your colleagues from the beginning that you’re still just as committed to your work. People are understanding and receptive when you take the time to have a real discussion.

I would also be better about periodically reevaluating what my needs are. I used to look for the “answer” on how to balance work and life. But I’ve realized there is no answer that works for everyone or even an answer that works for one person for their entire career. That’s why you need to check-in with yourself on what’s working and what’s not on a regular basis. If it’s not working, then try something else. That’s been especially true for me during this pandemic.

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

TM: I’ve learned I need to spend time outside – walk, run, take bike rides – anything that gets me moving in the fresh air. It’s a mental break, and I can shift gears from focusing on work and parenting to focusing on being present. I like to knit too, and have been knitting since law school! I want to keep learning new things, and working on new, complicated knitting patterns helps me relax and refocus.

I pay it forward by informally and formally mentoring summer associates and other young attorneys. The sense of community I’ve found at Dorsey has been a great resource to me; I know that my generation of attorneys will play a major role in paving the way for flexible work and supporting those coming up after us.

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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 Jane Caldeira.

 

 

Our Spotlight on Flex showcases professionals from member organizations who exemplify personal and professional success while working a flexible schedule. Their stories illustrate the long-term benefits that flexible schedules offer to both individuals and organizations.

For our September Spotlight on Flex, we’re pleased to highlight Colleen Haas, Partner, Frost Brown Todd (Cincinnati, OH)

September 2020 Spotlight on Flex

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

Colleen Haas: It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been at the firm for over 20 years. I started here during my 2L summer internship and then as a first year associate right after graduation from Notre Dame Law School in 1997. After I had my first child, I reduced my hours to 90% of my original billable hour requirement but still came into the office five days a week. When I had my second child three years later, I reduced my billable goal a little more and changed my schedule slightly by coming into the office four days a week and working one day remotely.

My flexibility manifests in the form of a reduced hours schedule that is annualized to compliment my husband’s work schedule. He is a scout for a major league baseball team and his consistent “crunch time” each year, with extensive work and travel, is during the spring and summer. However, during the fall and winter months, he has much more flexibility. Knowing this, when I first approached the firm about reducing my hours, I asked for a schedule where I could work four days in the office and one day from home, but only for six months of the year. I would then go back to five days per week in the office for the other six months to ramp up my hours during my busy year end. As a transactional attorney, I knew I needed to maximize both mine and my husband’s schedules in a way that would work for our family and the changing seasons.

As you progress through your career, your goals and needs change. There was a short period of time when I took myself off the partner track and went to counsel because I thought that would fit my family needs better. I had three young kids at home and between juggling their activities, my work commitments, and my husband’s travel schedule, I didn’t want the extra pressure. My “aha” moment was, however, when other partners were telling me that I should be on the partner track because I was already doing everything they were. They believed in me and didn’t see reduced hours as a roadblock to partnership. With that encouragement from my peers, I switched back to the partner track and was promoted to the partner class very soon thereafter.

I would set my yearly billable hours and stick with that number no matter what reduced hours percentage I was working at the time. This is how I approached flexible work as an associate, and it’s how I approach it at the partner level now too. Once my third child entered kindergarten, I ramped back up to being in the office five days a week but leaving early when I needed to for any commitments. You get to a point where you’ve earned the respect and trust of your colleagues; they know your work ethic, your work quality, and that you’ll provide top notch client service.

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