January 2022 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.
For our January 2022 Spotlight on Flex we are pleased to share insights from Jessamine Lee, Shareholder, Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks, P.C.
Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success with your schedule? How has the firm and/or your clients contributed to this?
Jessamine Lee: Flexibility has been a key to my success at Wolf Greenfield. After coming back to work from having my first child 11 years ago, I went on an 80% schedule. I was a junior associate at the time. I stayed on an 80-90% schedule through having my second child three years later and then becoming Counsel and a Shareholder at the firm. During that same time, I also had a flexible arrangement in which I worked remotely twice a week. The firm was supportive of my requests and made it possible for me to have this alternative work arrangement during a time when it was not common to do so. I had a lot of help from my colleagues. For example, at times when my workload was too high, I was able to transfer work to other colleagues who had more bandwidth at the time. This is a testament to Wolf Greenfield’s collegiality and culture – we work as a team. I also set boundaries, made expectations clear to both my colleagues and clients as to when I was available, and inquired about firm and client expectations as well. Of course, there were times when urgent projects needed to get done, but for the most part everyone was respectful of these boundaries and I was able to meet the expectations of those I worked with.
DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable and contributed to business development opportunities?
JL: I don’t think I would be where I am now without having had my flexible work arrangement. I am responsible for many of my children’s activities and household responsibilities and I have many of my own hobbies as well. Being able to work on an 80% schedule and working remotely for a portion of the week gave me the bandwidth to pursue these other responsibilities and interests without feeling overwhelmed. It also gave me bandwidth to take part in networking opportunities and engage socially with clients, activities I enjoy doing.
DFA: Looking back, would you do anything differently, or what would you tell your first year associate self?
JL: I think it’s important to ask yourself what your priorities are, to be firm with sticking to those priorities, and to re-evaluate your situation periodically as circumstances change. For me, the non-negotiables were time for my family, friends and myself. I was asking myself each step of the way whether I was happy with the amount of time I was able to devote to each of these while pursuing my career. If something started to get out of balance, I would re-evaluate before things got too off balance. Looking back, I would have done the same thing but perhaps would have spoken to more people about how they make everything work. I had felt pretty comfortable charting my own path, and did speak to several colleagues about their work-life balance, but there are more people I could have reached out to to find other perspectives.
DFA: How do you recharge, and how do you pay it forward?
JL: I have many hobbies and interests outside of work and there never seems to be enough time to do them all. I need to be physically active on a daily basis so I usually find time to bike, run and/or swim at least once a day. My family likes to hike, ski and travel so that is another way I recharge. We also try to have dinner together as much as possible – it is a time when we come together, reconnect, and share about our day. I am also active with my church and I love to go out with my friends to eat (pre-Covid). All of these activities give me a mental break so that I can be refreshed when I’m back at my desk.
I enjoy being a mentor to several colleagues and sharing my insights and experiences with them and others at the firm. There are many challenges I had to overcome to get to where I am today, and I want others to know that they can navigate and overcome their challenges too. Diversity and inclusion is also very important to me and I serve as the Chair of the Diversity Committee at the firm.
DFA: How has the pandemic impacted your flexible working schedule?
JL: The pandemic has made my work schedule more flexible now that I’m working remotely every day. It is now easier to fit in appointments and other personal activities and responsibilities, and has given me more touch points with my family throughout the day. One of the biggest changes due to the pandemic has been not being able to attend in-person networking events, but online networking has provided me with many opportunities to attend events that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to attend. The ability to now do videoconferencing seamlessly has also improved the quality and frequency of client interactions.
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If you are a professional working a flexible schedule and would like to share your story in an upcoming Spotlight on Flex, contact Emma Simpkins.