The 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.
This month, we are pleased to share insights from Andrea Hogan, Partner in the San Francisco office of Latham & Watkins LLP.
Diversity & 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.
If you are an attorney working a flexible schedule and would like to share your story in an upcoming Spotlight on Flex, contact Eliza Musallam.