Highlights from the Alliance’s 2016 Annual Conference – What An Inspirational Day!

In case you missed our 2016 Annual Conference, here’s a rundown of some of the highlights of the day…

Partner-in-Charge of the DC office for Jones Day, Kevyn Orr, set the inspirational tone for the day by sharing his moving story of how he was literally born into segregation after his mother was refused medical care at the hospital when he was born. Now as the Partner-in-Charge of a major law firm, he is “living the American Dream” but always remembers to reach out and help others in his quest for diversity and inclusion.

We proudly honored J. Stephen Poor, Chair of Seyfarth Shaw, as our 2016 Flex Leader Honoree for his leadership and dedication to ensuring that everyone in his firm understands and embraces the importance of flexibility and diversity. He emphasized that embracing flexibility is essential to meeting the needs of the next generation of lawyers. ‘We have to adapt to them,” he said.

Our panel of women law firm chairs shared their insights into their incredible pathsdfalliance-Erin-Schaff-webres-117 to success and encouraged women to be more confident, take more chances, and provide opportunities for other women when possible. They also encouraged clients to “put their money where their mouths are” in demanding diverse teams. Their bottom line: “we all need to be talking about diversity and inclusion all the time and everywhere.”

We set the example of bringing more men to the table with our all-male panel of financial, healthcare, and non-profit corporate counsel discussing how they are constantly surveying internal departments and outside counsel, then monitoring and measuring progress to advance diversity, inclusion, and flexibility. Their messages to attendees…”Lead from the top.” General Counsel must be on board with diversity and inclusion initiatives, and compensation must be tied to firm leaders’ performance in this area.dfalliance-Erin-Schaff-webres-54

Best-selling author of Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love & Play When No One Has the Time, Brigid Schulte, who has spent years researching how we can lead more balanced lives, warned it’s up to leaders of law firms to create the organizational culture of flexibility. Leaders also have to ensure everyone is trained in the implementation of policies that support the culture. She also encouraged everyone to make time for “play”.

We recognized two amazing partners from Davis Wright Tremaine with the 2016 Flex Success Award, Danielle Frappier and Jenna Mooney, and their clients Steven Fenker of Nexus Communications and Joe Mattoon of CLEAResult Consulting Inc., respectively. Both Danielle and Jenna are highly successful partners working flex schedules. They have mastered the art of balancing their families’ needs with the needs of the firm and clients and owe their success to “terrific mentors” and “flexible firm leaders and clients.”

dfalliance-Erin-Schaff-webres-79Industry leaders on our third panel provided tips on how to fight bias towards diversity and flexibility at a cultural level. Sometimes bias is unintentional and metrics, such as using billable hours to measure performance, are inherently biased against attorneys on flex schedules. The common theme echoed throughout the day was again expressed: “If diversity is not a priority for the client, then it won’t be a priority for the firm.”

We ended the day by gathering words of wisdom, sharing advice, and networking between attendees. Tables worked together to brainstorm challenges and opportunities with working a flexible schedule in the legal profession. Challenges included: being perceived as not a team player, being disloyal, or not seen as a serious worker; and only people on the “mommy track” use flex schedules. Opportunities of flex included: finding mentors in the firm who have successfully used a flex schedule; creating and implementing a true-up policy;dfalliance-Erin-Schaff-webres-96 maintaining consistency and training for success of a policy; tracking feedback, metrics, and reporting are useful tools in perfecting a policy; and challenging assumptions that flex will not work (don’t be afraid to ask and do a trial period of flex).

Verna Myers, Founder & President of the Verna Myers Consulting Group, closed the day with uplifting messages about flexibility and diversity in the legal profession. “Remember, the horizon is open, and it’s time to re-examine our cultural norms…Make it a personal priority; be the person that bridges the gap by being conscious and intentional about what you say and do…We have to slow down, learn to breathe, set new norms, and remember to dream.”

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