December 2021 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.
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?
Katelyn Miller: Upon returning from maternity leave after the birth of my first child in 2015, I transitioned to an alternative schedule. I had wonderful role models at my prior firm who guided me through the process of requesting and moving to a flexible schedule. When my daughter was one, I moved to Seyfarth. After receiving an offer, I very nervously called the head of our Litigation Department and asked whether I could join the firm on an 80% schedule. Within hours, I received a response that Seyfarth would be happy to accommodate my schedule. It was clear from the beginning that in addition to providing exceptional client service, Seyfarth truly valued its team members and provided different opportunities and avenues for its professionals to succeed.
I have maintained my 80% schedule since joining Seyfarth, with the support of my department and firm leadership. I prioritize my flexible schedule by clearly communicating with my colleagues and setting and managing expectations at the outset of a project or new piece of litigation. I also carefully consider my workload when taking on new matters to ensure that I can devote the requisite amount of time and attention given my alternative schedule. However, once I take on a new matter, I am 100% committed, regardless of my schedule. I am fortunate to work with attorneys and clients who respect my time and arrangement, and who trust me to provide excellent client service and work product.
Litigation can be very tough and I obviously cannot control everything, like court-ordered deadlines and schedules, client emergencies or weeks-long out of town trials. But, I have worked very hard to maintain my flexible schedule since becoming a mom and am thrilled that Seyfarth has always and continues to support me.
DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable and contributed to business development opportunities?
KM: For me and for my family, my 80% schedule is invaluable. It has allowed me to do my job, be a mom to my three young children and maintain some semblance of balance. It has reduced the pressure and stress, in a profession that can be incredibly stressful regardless of other circumstances. I have incredible colleagues who are providing excellent client service, building books of business and are wonderful parents to their children, all while on a regular, full-time schedule. But, for me and my own personal wellbeing, an alternative schedule has made working in this profession sustainable and possible. Taking a bit of the pressure off (whether it be billable hours or other metrics) has allowed me to handle daycare drop-offs, attend school activities, carpool around town and have dinner with my family. It has also allowed me to take on leadership roles within Seyfarth, including serving on our Firm’s Pro Bono Committee and Lawyer Development Committee, and spend more time mentoring younger attorneys. I also leverage my schedule to create business development opportunities, including by investing and networking with the other amazing, professional moms at my children’s daycare.
DFA: Looking back, would you do anything differently, or what would you tell your first year associate self?
KM: Looking back, I would tell my first year self that there’s not just one way to succeed in this profession. There are so many different avenues, and different opportunities you will be presented with along the way. Make sure to consider them all and consider what works best for you and your career. I would also emphasize the importance of building relationships and networking, both internally and externally. The relationships I have developed with my Seyfarth colleagues and clients have been essential to my professional development and job satisfaction. I really, truly enjoy the people I work with and the people I work for.
DFA: How do you recharge, and how do you pay it forward?
KM: I recharge by spending time with my family and traveling (pre-pandemic, at least!) For me, family vacations have always been a very important time to reconnect and recharge without the regular demands of work. Even though vacationing with three kids under six is not necessarily relaxing, taking that mental break is so important for me. I feel rejuvenated, more productive and ready to dig back into my cases upon returning to work.
I was mentored by fantastic senior lawyers who took time out of their busy schedules to teach me how to practice law and navigate firm life. I now take that role very seriously with respect to junior lawyers in my department and at my firm. I am working to pay it forward by supporting junior attorneys as they forge their own paths and serve as a sounding board, both professionally and personally.
DFA: How has the pandemic impacted your flexible working schedule?
KM: Before the pandemic, I was in the office Monday – Thursday, and home with my kids on Friday. I was eight months pregnant with my third baby when the pandemic hit. I was fortunate to take an extended maternity leave and wasn’t sure how my schedule would change upon returning to work. When I came back, our firm was still remote, which really helped ease the transition of returning to work and having three kids. Now, I generally work five days a week, but shorter and more flexible days. I also save a substantial amount of time not commuting on the days I work from home, which has been wonderful. When I am in the office, I really enjoy being there and interacting face to face with friends and colleagues. But, as I think many (if not most) of us have experienced, I have become very productive and efficient working from home and really enjoy the added flexibly.
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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.