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 Jamie Drewry, Partner in the Indianapolis office of Faegre Baker Daniels LLP.
Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success through your schedule?
Jamie Drewry: I summered at FaegreBD in 2006 and then started as a full time, first year associate in 2007. As a first year associate, my primary focus was to build relationships with the partners in my group; I had a very internal versus external focus. In 2013, I was a sixth year associate and had my first child. The firm has a very generous maternity leave policy, and I was out on leave for about four months. I came back full time, but when I found out I was pregnant with my second child about one year later, I started to explore flex as an option. I knew the firm had flexible schedule options, but I really hadn’t looked into them before.
FaegreBD made switching to a flex schedule an easy choice. It was clear the firm meant what they advertised on paper regarding their flex policy. I moved to a schedule with 80 percent of the standard billable hour requirement in 2015 and went on another four month maternity leave after the birth of my second child. I was put up for partner while on leave, returned to work at an 80 percent, reduced hours schedule, and was made partner at the end of that year. This is my first full year as a partner, and it’s clear the firm has been incredibly supportive of my career and schedule.
I’m still in the office five days a week from 9am – 5pm, but I try to work from home one day a week. I focus on my kids in the morning and evening. Once the kids are in bed, I return my focus to work with the goal of preserving my weekends.
I made flex a priority with the firm by asking, being up front, and being honest with what I was looking for. I made it a success for me personally by taking the time early in my career to invest in the group and the partners I worked with so I could build their trust before I needed to make “the ask.” Firms can have these policies, but there’s a lot of responsibility on the individual to make that schedule a success. When I was on my maternity leaves, I fully expected the quality of work I received when I came back to be the same. It was – and that’s because the partners I worked for, and the associates I worked side-by-side with, trusted me. That may not be the case if you don’t take the time to develop the internal relationships first.
DFA: How have clients and the firm contributed to your flex success?
JD: The firm completely respected the requests I made. They make it easy to work outside of the office too. I may not physically be in the office with my colleagues at times, but the technology in place allows me to work as if I were. We also have the Women’s Forum for Achievement (which is not just limited to women), and it’s been a fantastic group to build support and have an outlet to discuss flex and other topics with one another.
Some clients know I work reduced hours, and some don’t, but it doesn’t matter. The quality of my work and my responsiveness stay the same regardless of my schedule.
DFA: How has flexibility contributed to your business development and sustainability of working at a large firm?
JD: Flexibility as an option is the reason why I stayed. It provided the “release valve” I needed to sustain my career. I cut my billable hours down to 80 percent, but I haven’t cut back my business development hours. I think these business development hours will benefit me in the long run and will be a worthwhile investment.
I’ve had a gradual, organic transition from associate to partner. I definitely have a more client focused lens now. Before I focused internally with my business development; now I focus on the external relationships while maintaining strong connections with colleagues.
DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self?
JD: I didn’t go into law with the intention of working flex. When you have the time to invest in your work, it’s worth it. At some point in time, for whatever reason, you’ll need to make “the ask.” You’ll want to have that credit in the bank – so it’s important to think long term.
I probably waited too long to ask about flex options, and in hindsight, had I known how little it impacted my career trajectory, I would have made “the ask” much earlier. Don’t assume that people know what you want; you’re the only person that can make the decision for what’s best for you. Be vocal about what you need!
DFA: How do you pay it forward, and how do you recharge your batteries?
JD: It’s really about doing everything I can to preserve that time with my kids in the mornings, before their bed time, and the weekends. My husband (also a partner at a law firm) and I have a standing date every weekend and have a scheduled babysitter – we may not have definite plans, but we make sure we go out and take that time for ourselves.
As a patent lawyer with an engineering background, I’m a strong advocate for girls in science and math education. I’m involved with my alma mater and my local Society of Women Engineers chapter. I volunteer for events through both of these organizations to help encourage women to go into these fields. I also promote flex schedules to junior associates so they know they can do it!
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.