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.

2019 Spotlights

November 2019 Spotlight on Flex & 2019 Flex Leader Honoree

For November 2019, we are pleased to share insights from Jennifer M. Flynn, Managing Vice President, Head of Small Business Bank Division, Capital One.

Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: In what ways has creating a culture where flexibility is the norm provided a competitive advantage for Capital One’s Small Business Bank Division?

Jennifer Flynn: When I joined as the Head of Capital One’s Small Business Bank (SBB) division in June 2018, the team was on an incredible cultural journey with a huge focus on inclusivity and creating a sense of belonging across all of our sites. I knew immediately that I wanted to be a part of this transformation. Together, with my leadership team, we declared “reimagining our associate experience” as one of our top goals for 2019. This includes investing in our leaders, promoting flexibility, and embracing differences across our teams. We actively encourage each associate to bring their authentic selves to work each day, and I love watching this transform our division’s culture. Our SBB team is always raising the bar; our business is better because of how we work, and as a result, so are our customers.

DFA: How have you modeled flexible work at Capital One? Why do you think it’s important to lead from the top on this issue?

JMF: I took a leadership development course at GE’s Crotonville facility in 2007 and learned the importance of priority setting. When I had my daughter in 2010, I realized she needed me more than anyone else could; my priorities had to shift. This is when the term “flexibility” became real for me. I wanted to continue progressing in my career and loved being a mom … I just had to find the “and” and make it work my way. This meant making decisions around my priorities, being OK with the consequences of those decisions, and giving myself permission to try and fail. It meant using my voice, and in some ways, over-communicating with my managers, team members, and family when I introduced flexibility into my work week. It also meant soliciting sponsors to support me on my journey. As I grew in my career, I developed a sense of responsibility to model this behavior for other associates looking for balance in their work and home lives. I’m a big believer in the “I see you, I want to be you” phenomenon. If we surround ourselves with leaders who model the behaviors we value, it builds a culture where people feel engaged and empowered to find their “and.” This is what fuels me in promoting and modeling a flexible culture for my team at Capital One.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for leaders to role model the behaviors they want to promote. I find that asking your employees one simple question – “What is important to you?” – goes a long way when empowering associates and helping them achieve success in their personal and professional lives. I’ve also learned there is no script – everyone is different, and flexibility means different things to people at different times in their lives. The willingness to remain open and try new things to make it work for both your organization and employees separate good leaders from great leaders.

DFA: How has incorporating holistic flexibility (ie. telecommuting, reduced hours, job-sharing, flexible start/end times, etc.) changed your office?

JMF: Developing high-performing teams is a big priority of ours. I believe as leaders, it’s our job to create and foster an inclusive and flexible work environment that allows us to attract, retain and develop talent. This results in a happier workforce and better work product. Technology has made this easier for us as well – with a computer, a smart phone, and a strong work ethic, we can do our jobs from anywhere!

DFA: How has flexibility impacted your life?

JMF: Flexibility has allowed me to achieve both my personal and professional goals. Having the freedom to make choices and do things my way has allowed me to have an extremely rewarding career and still keep my daughter as my top priority.

DFA: What was the most meaningful piece of leadership advice you have received? Who has had the most influence on your career?

JMF: Set your priorities; make decisions around those priorities, and if you don’t like the consequences of those decisions, make another choice. This advice has served me well and has also helped me remove guilt from my vocabulary! When you’re confident in your priorities, everything else falls into place.

I also learned the power of using my voice and encouraging others to do the same. Sharing my priorities with others really helped me find the “and” – the flexibility I need to make things work for both my family and my organization. Don’t underestimate the power of letting someone in. I am where I am today largely because of the leaders who took a chance on me, pushed me, and supported me on both my personal and professional journey. My goal is to be that person for my team.

DFA: How do you pay it forward?

JMF: I make it a point to surround myself with leaders who model the behaviors I value, and I have become a champion for those just starting out on their journey. I’m committed to working with my teams to create a culture where everyone feels a sense of belonging, an obligation to share a dissenting opinion, and can bring their whole selves to work feeling inspired and respected. It’s important for everyone to work for leaders who bring out the best in you, who embrace varying perspectives, and see differences as an opportunity to grow. I made a promise to remain true to my authentic self, and I want others to feel the freedom to do the same.

I’m actively engaged on the Executive Steering Committee for Capital One’s Women’s Business Resource Group and the Capital One Greater Washington Market President Network, both located in McLean, VA. I’m an advisor for 1863 Ventures and passionate about helping small businesses succeed.

 

 

 

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.

2019 Spotlights

For September 2019, we are pleased to share insights from Sarah Rodriguez, Partner at Shutts & Bowen (Orlando, FL).

September 2019 Spotlight on Flex

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

Sarah Rodriguez: In undergrad, I originally pursued a degree in engineering, but approximately half way through college, I switched to a double-major in business administration and political science. This naturally parlayed into law school, and after graduating in 2009, I had offers to work at several large law firms. But I chose to start working at a boutique construction law firm doing defense work. I spent three-and-a-half years there until a good friend approached me about joining Shutts & Bowen as a lateral associate. As much as I enjoyed working at the boutique law firm, I knew I wanted the exposure to other areas beyond construction law. I joined Shutts in 2013, and I haven’t looked back!

While on maternity leave after having my first daughter at the end of 2013, I started to think about flexible schedules. As a young associate, I was billing close to 2500 hours per year, and my husband was also an attorney. I knew our schedules weren’t sustainable with a newborn at home. I wanted to be present for her and attend all the doctor’s appointments, playdates, and see all her major milestones. I spoke with the Managing Partner and Practice Group Leader, and we agreed that I would come back at a 60% reduced hours schedule; I’ve been working reduced hours ever since I came back from my first leave in 2014. The firm has been incredibly supportive and respectful of my schedule. I’m typically in the office every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, although I occasionally work from home on Wednesdays and Fridays. I’ve never been pressured to ramp back up to full time, and in fact, I was promoted to partner in January 2019. I was also humbled to be recognized as a Super Lawyer, Rising Star this past year.

To be clear, I am a full time attorney with a reduced billable hours requirement – I’m committed full-time to my clients and cases. To me, there’s no such thing as a “part-time attorney.” But my flexibility allows me to dedicate the time I want to my family and to professional development opportunities such as lunch with clients, client pitches, and networking events – all things needed to advance any legal career.

DFA: How has the firm and/or clients contributed to this?

SR: The firm has been overwhelmingly supportive, and technology makes it easy to respond to clients (both internally and externally) no matter where I am. I still litigate cases, and I make sure I’m as flexible with the firm as it’s been with me. If a matter requires week-long travel, then I adjust my schedule accordingly; if a client needs to meet on a day I’m not in the office, then I adjust my schedule accordingly. The firm has stood behind me and its promise to promote flexible work. In fact, the firm asked me to be part of the Attorney Development Committee, which includes the firm’s mentoring initiative. I was honored to be asked because it’s another testament to how the firm and my colleagues value me and view me as an asset to help guide younger attorneys.

My clients don’t necessarily know I work reduced hours because there’s no need. I have the same work quality, commitment, and responsiveness as if I were billing at 100% and in the office every day. I’ve learned to be more efficient over the past five years of working flex; I have a better understanding of what constitutes a real emergency, what needs an immediate answer, and what can wait with a realistic response time. My work speaks for itself, and clients are happy if they see the results they hoped for.

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

SR: Flex plays a big part in making my career sustainable. Being able to leave the office at 5 pm to attend a networking event and meet clients – these types of things have always been important to me. Strong, soft skills are what help you develop professionally and thrive. I don’t have to worry about billing enough hours; my focus has always been on the quality of work and client satisfaction. I just think this is a healthier way to practice law.

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

SR: I would tell my younger self to focus on building your brand, your work product, your efficiency, and your work relationships. It’s a learning process, but by developing these skills and habits, you’ll have so much more control over your career.

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

SR: I have a five year old, a three year old, and twins on the way, so there’s not a lot of free time to “recharge!” But being with my family does recharge me, and I try to make the most of the time I spend with them. We try to take time to read together, play together, and take as many mini-vacations as possible.

I “pay it forward” by providing mentorship, something I’ve valued so much in my career to date. I’m part of the firm’s mentoring program and have served as a mentor through various local bar associations. I enjoy sharing my experiences on how important it is to know your goals and how to achieve them. It’s not always easy to do, but I’m always willing to help others navigate a complicated career 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.

2019 Spotlights

For August 2019, we are pleased to share insights from Stephanie Smithey, Shareholder, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart (Indianapolis, IN)

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

Stephanie Smithey: While I was in law school, I worked as a legal assistant for Amoco Corp (which is now BP) doing legal research; I’d work whatever hours I could schedule around my classes. The large corporate legal department exposed me to many different areas of the law, including ERISA work (my practice specialty for the past 28 years). After I graduated, I moved back home to Indianapolis and started working at a law firm as a full-time associate. There weren’t many part-time or flex lawyers at the time, but a few years later when my daughter turned two, I knew I needed to make a change. I went to dinner with my supervising partners, and we designed a plan that would provide me the balance I was looking for. The technology for remote work was not in place yet in 1996, but we agreed I would come into the office four days a week from 9 am – 4:30 pm. All this to say that I started working flex early on in my career, and I stayed on this schedule until I lateraled to Ogletree Deakins as Of Counsel in 2007.

Coming to Ogletree as a lateral, reduced hours attorney could not have been easier. The firm’s CEO at the time, Kim Ebert, knew I was already working reduced hours, and he put the option on the table. He made it clear that reduced hours would not hinder my path to partnership and that flex was part of the firm’s culture. There were several flex Shareholders at the firm already, and I was very comfortable with my choice to start at Ogletree.

As my children grew older, I gradually ramped up my hours, and I was elected Shareholder in 2011 while working reduced hours. I later resumed full-time work, and in 2016, I was elected to be an equity Shareholder. I recently became Chair of Ogletree’s Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Practice Group.

Like most attorneys, I use holistic flex options like telecommuting as needed. Sometimes I’m in the office five days. Other times I’m in the office for two or three days, depending on my travel schedule and personal and work commitments outside the office. Even though I work full-time, several of my colleagues work flexibly to better manage their work-life demands. I understand that experience and support them 100 percent.

I joke that I had the longest path to partnership in history because of the choices I made, but I’m grateful I had those options and don’t regret making them. In the late 90s, we didn’t have email or smart phones, so the hardest thing to give up was accessibility while working reduced hours. I always worried I would miss an opportunity if a partner walked by my office with a new project, and I wasn’t there. Or would I miss the next meeting with the client? Now technology alleviates those concerns. Someone may be out of the office, but they’re always accessible. Today’s technology allows for more successful flex arrangements.

Ogletree made sure I was positioned to succeed. My colleagues introduced me to their clients and included me on important client development opportunities. I was always part of the team. When you offer people flexibility, it’s important to look at the person’s experience and expertise, and hold them in the same regard/position no matter what their billable hour requirements are. It is important to evaluate and value the quality of their time worked, not just the quantity of time worked. There’s always going to be a project where you have to say “no” because of other commitments – it’s a judgement call. It’s important to be in a place where you can say “no” because you shouldn’t have to fear losing the opportunity the second time around. You build trust between you, the firm, your colleagues, and your clients when you learn to be honest rather than saying “yes” and then not being able to meet expectations. I try to remember this philosophy and apply it in my role today by always asking my team whether they have time to take something on. We want to set people up to succeed – not to fail.

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?

SS: On a community level, when my daughter was in elementary school, I left the office at 2 pm twice a month to be a co-leader of her Girl Scout troop. That started when she was in first grade and continued for several years. My flex schedule allowed me to take part in this activity and develop a real love for the organization. Currently, I’m on the Board of Directors for the Girls Scouts of Central Indiana and serve as the Vice Chair. A few years ago, I traveled with a troop of high school girls to Europe, went hiking in the Swiss Alps, and I’ve had some of the most amazing experiences through the organization. Without flex, I would not have been able to be nearly as involved in my daughter’s Girl Scout troop or the organization as a whole. In this way, my flexible work schedule gave me the opportunity to be more connected to my community.

On a personal level, flex helped me when my mother was in kidney failure. She had to go to dialysis three times a week, and my siblings and I split caregiver responsibilities. My schedule allowed me to leave early to take her to her medical appointments and pick her up from dialysis. We all have temporary family obligations that go beyond childcare, and it was a blessing to have that time with my mom. You always want to be able to spend time with your family while you still can.

On a professional level, I recall how a flexible work schedule helped me manage work for my first large, Fortune 100 client. I worked closely with their in-house ERISA counsel, and we had weekly, if not daily, phone calls. My client was going through a period of rapid divestitures and corporate restructuring, and our calls would happen during all hours of the day, weekends, and sometimes well into the evening.   I was still working reduced hours at the time.   I balanced my day to be available for the calls regardless of when they occurred. When this hectic period was over, I asked the client for a reference that included their experiences with me working as a reduced hours attorney. The client confessed that she had no idea I worked reduced hours. That speaks volumes to not only how technology has made flex easier, but also to how flexibility is seamless – done right, an attorney can work reduced hours without diminishing client service or the quality of their work.

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

SS: It was very much a “figure things out as I went along” type of thing. Now that I’ve reached this stage of my career, I’m grateful that I didn’t walk away from my law practice to find balance. Now, even as an empty nester, some days it’s hard to find the right balance, but I really enjoy my practice. I enjoy working with my clients and colleagues to solve problems, and I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes with a job well done.

I would tell my first-year self to be patient and give myself time to learn the practice of law; stop expecting perfection from day one. You really have to learn how to practice law, and that takes time for everyone. In my area, the law is constantly developing, and I’m always learning. To me, that’s the best part of this job!

Starting in January 2020, I’ll be teaching an employee benefits class at Indiana University McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis. I anticipate incorporating flex back into my schedule to leave early in the afternoons once a week on the days I teach. I want to expose the next generation of law students to this area of law and let them know there are great career opportunities out there for them.

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

SS: In the summer time I love to be outdoors – hiking, swimming, spending time at the lake, and being in the water. But I also have my Netflix addiction! I also love to cook, collect cookbooks, travel, and spend time with my kids.

I believe in paying it forward, no matter how informal it may seem. I try to maintain a team approach – we all have different jobs to do, but we also work better together. Whether you’re an attorney, paralegal, or administrative assistant, we all have things that are important to us, and we should all be able to use flex in the ways we need it. I strive to create and foster a culture that encourages people to ask for help if they need it. If I see someone struggling to meet their obligations, I try to work with them to come up with solutions to help them find the balance they need. I’ve worked with attorneys who are on part-time, full-time, hourly, reduced hours, and even project-based schedules. I may be working with someone in the next office or someone across the country – there’s no need to be physically in the office at all times to get the job done and done well! When you realize and accept that, people can structure their practice as needed and be extremely successful. I encourage attorneys not give up, but to take control over their careers in the ways they want to move forward.

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.

2019 Spotlights

For July 2019, we are pleased to share insights from Sharon Newlon, Member and Environmental, Energy & Sustainability Practice Group Co-Chair, Dickinson Wright (Detroit, MI)

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

Sharon Newlon: I had always looked for a career that could meld my interest in math, science, and the law. By the time I was in law school, I knew I wanted to focus on environmental law since this mixed all my interests into one area. I was introduced to Dickinson Wright when I was hired after my first year of law school as a research associate for a bankruptcy attorney here who was writing a book for Matthew Bender. Dickinson didn’t hire first year interns for its summer program at the time, but I was introduced to the head of their environmental practice and invited back for my second year summer in 1987. I expressed my interest in environmental law and was assigned great projects in that area – and I’ve been with the firm ever since!

I’ve had different career opportunities over the years, but I was, and am, really happy at the firm and with the environmental group. When my son was born in 1998, flex/reduced hours were already in place for associates, but not members. Dickinson saw how well flex was working at the associate level, and they expanded the reduced hours policy to income members while I was on maternity leave. I came back from leave, at full time for a month, but found it was hard to manage expectations both as a new parent at home and at work. With the new reduced hours policy for members in place, I switched to a 75% reduced hours schedule.

I started by working 3-1/2 days per week at the office, while our son was in part-time daycare. Flexibility was a key consideration, and after receiving recommendations for day care programs, we selected one that could keep our son for a full day, if needed. Fortunately, we were able to limit that to a handful of times. Once my son entered elementary school, I would come into the office every day during the academic year, but I would leave by noon two days a week. Once my son was in high school, I kept the same reduced hours but was able to take on more work and be out of the office for one day. I feel like my flex schedule and the firm’s flex initiatives have adapted together as my son has gotten older (now he’s in college).

Dickinson doesn’t currently have a program for reduced hours for equity members. However, they do have a consulting member tier with a negotiable billable hour requirement and some profit sharing abilities. As it was originally established to help transition equity members moving into retirement, only equity members could progress to this tier. When I was coming up the ranks, a female associate told me, “People are watching you and want to see how you’re going to address this issue.” I was an income member at the time, and hearing this made me realize I could do something that would pay it forward for younger members and associates at the firm. I asked our CEO if I could change my status to a consulting member; I highlighted how allowing income members to also progress to the consulting tier was a win/win for the firm. If I did better, then so did Dickinson. I, and others, would be incentivized to stay and excel. After some further campaigning, the governing board changed the partnership agreement, and now income and equity members have an opportunity to move to consulting member status.

As a consulting member, I still keep a reduced hours schedule but with profit sharing when I exceed my base numbers.   The biggest win, from my perspective, is it sends a signal to people working their way up that there are options. You are not lock-stepped into only income or equity status. This whole process showed me I’m more control of my career than I thought. And it’s showing others how to take ownership of their careers while providing value to clients and the firm.

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?

SN: Some clients know about my schedule, and those that do are very supportive of it. They appreciate knowing when I’m off so they can respect my hours; I’m responsive to their needs, and they respect that.

If you think you’re going to be able split your time as 50% mom and 50% attorney, it’s not going to work. There are going to be days when you feel like you’re the worst attorney and mom, and there are going to be days when feel like you’re the best attorney and mom in the world! My flex success has been my ability to focus on work priorities and still eat dinner with my family every night. If I get behind in hours, I have room in my schedule to make up for them later.

I was overwhelmed as a new parent when I returned to work, and I don’t know if I would have been able to sustain a full time practice as well as happy, healthy family life without flex. Flex and reduced hours made it possible to stay and flourish. Dickinson has been extremely supportive of the policies in place and of my needs over the years. Two years ago my husband had an extended illness that required constant care during his recovery. I worked remotely for six weeks to be with him, and the firm immediately set up the technology I needed in my home office to make work operations seamless.

My reduced hours schedule also allows me to focus on internal development and firm citizenship. I was on the associate’s committee for three years, and I am co-chair of Dickinson’s environmental practice group. I’ve been able to fully commit to those responsibilities on top of my external business development. When you have flexibility, you have time to focus on many things – I can take a day to network with other women in environmental science, to actively participate in professional organizations, and still perform at work. It’s so important to build time for these development opportunities into your schedule – flex allows for that to happen.

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

SN: In addition to developing a good understanding of the business of our work, I would make sure I understood there are options, and taking ownership of my career means exploring and expanding those options. I don’t know how hard I would’ve pushed for consulting member status had I not been reminded that others were watching how I would navigate my career trajectory. I was empowered and nervous at the same time, but I did it to create a sustainable career for me and others at the firm. I had shoulders to stand on as I was making my way, and I believe you should do things that can make it better for others behind you too.

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

SN: I’ve been singing longer than I’ve been practicing law, and when I’m singing, I’m in my happy place – in fact, I met my husband because of it! I sing at our church where my husband is the Minister of Music. We take family vacations, and with my reduced hours, I can plan accordingly. Just like you need to build in time for business development, you need to build in time to relax.

I informally mentor younger associates about how I “make it work” with flex, and I openly participate in firm initiatives and panels to highlight our flex policies. I present every year at a program for high school girls showcasing careers in math and science sponsored by the Cranbrook Institute of Science and the American Association of University Women. I serve on the alumni board of the College of Engineering and Science at my undergraduate alma mater, University of Detroit Mercy, and I support students from my law school, Notre Dame, by participating in mock interviews. I look forward to seeing how these future leaders will adapt to and with the workplace.

 

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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 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.

 

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 April 2019, we are pleased to share insights from Ann Rives Associate, Crowell & 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!

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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 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.

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 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.

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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 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.

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