Highlights from the Alliance’s 2015 Annual Conference

The Alliance’s 2015 Annual Conference, Diversity + Flexibility = Innovative Leadership, was held on March 19 at the Washington, DC office of Jones Day. Below are thoughts and advice from a few of the day’s speakers:

Josh Frank, General Counsel, DHL Americas & 2015 Flex Leader Honoree: Flexibility needs to be part of the culture and it makes business sense. It’s quality over quantity – would rather have someone work 1000 quality hours over someone toiling away with 2000 sub-par hours.

Deborah Kelly, Partner and Deputy General Counsel, Dickstein Shapiro LLP: Flexibility shouldn’t be an issue anymore – where are all the men? Recognize that hours worked doesn’t equal an attorney’s commitment to the firm.

Jennifer May-Brust, Vice President & General Counsel, Walmart Stores Realty: Flexibility is good for the business and good for the associates. Respect your lawyers and your team.

Stephen Poor, Chairman, Seyfarth Shaw LLP: There’s no end date for success; you always want to be better. Flex policies have to become part of the firm culture in order to have effective change.

Tom Sager, Partner, Ballard Spahr LLP (former General Counsel of DuPont): Flexibility creates an atmosphere where everyone wants to be present. Personal engagement from senior leaders is critical, and progressive law firms and companies that “get it” will really find their business.

Steven B. Pfeiffer, Partner & Former Chair, Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP: If you don’t involve the local culture, you can’t achieve real, transformative change. Men need to be involved.

Greg Shumaker, Partner-in-Charge, Jones Day (Washington): Critical that the message is women and men need to lead the firm together.

Stefanie Fogel, Partner and Co-Chair of DLA Piper’s National Leadership Alliance for Women (LAW) Program, DLA Piper LLP: Know your audience and incorporate “enlightened men” and outside counsel — these issues are important to them too.

Nicole Erb, Partner & Chair of White & Case’s Global Women’s Initiative, White & Case LLP: We’re seeing a shift in the profession where advancing women is a business imperative.  Focus on concrete action so there’s absolute buy in at all levels of the firm.

Maria E. Pasquale, Senior Vice President, Legal & Deputy General Counsel, Celgene Corporation & 2015 Flex Success Honoree: It’s critical to be practical; flexibility is required by both the client and the firm.

Debbie Walters-Francique, Vice President & Assistant General Counsel, Pfizer Inc. & 2015 Flex Success Honoree: It’s not about accommodation, it’s about recognizing when you have work-life balance, you have happier employees that are committed to you, their families, and themselves – everyone is happy.

Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, CEO, 20-first & 2015 Keynote Speaker: Gender neutrality needs to be a strategic priority; it creates stronger teams with better insights.  Redefine balance — instead of focusing on the minority, focus on the majority to make real change happen.

Tamika Tremaglio, Greater Washington Office Managing Partner & Principal, Deloitte Financial Advisory Services LLP: Every organization needs a succession plan; by 2050 we know that over 50% of the population will be minorities, so by 2020 we need to have more attorneys of color in the ranks!  Can’t effectively serve our clients if we’re not diverse.

Leslie T. Thornton, Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, WGL Holdings, Inc. and Washington Gas Light Company: It’s more important to have happy and productive attorneys over how and where the work gets done.

Machelle Williams, General Manager, Diversity and Corporate Social Responsibility, Volkswagen: Flexibility isn’t just a women’s issue, nor is it a benefit or a perk; it’s a way for managers to manage productivity. It allows employees to manage their own time, and it will not dilute the work force or the system.

Manal S. Corwin, National Leader, International Tax and Principal-in-Charge of International Tax Policy, Washington National Tax, KPMG LLP: True leaders help people recognize what they’re capable of doing even if they’re not aware of what they can do!

Grace E. Speights, Co-Chair, Washington, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP: There’s no substitute for over-preparation and investment in yourself.  Sponsor associates but also respect them and their time.

Simone Wu, Senior Vice President, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary, Choice Hotels International, Inc.: Take a moment to learn from everyone around you.  During reviews, the key is to talk about performance and potential.

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Learn more about the Annual Conference.