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 Amy Ufberg, Partner in the Philadelphia office of Dechert LLP.
Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made work-life control a priority and a success with your schedule? How has a client contributed to this?
Amy Ufberg: My flexible work schedule has varied over the years between being at 60, 70 to 80 percent. I never focused on a set flex schedule or only working certain days. Instead, I alternated my time in the office as needed – if there was a family event, then I went and made up the time on another day. The firm let me grow professionally as my personal needs changed. I was promoted to partner and named practice group leader all while working flexibly. Earlier this year I returned to working 100 percent and also added another duty, that of Co-Hiring Partner for the Philadelphia office.
My practice group and my clients have all been extremely supportive as well. My practice focuses on estate planning, charitable planning, and estate and trust administration. Our group has “client teams” so if I’m unavailable, there’s always someone else that can answer any client needs. I develop very personal relationships with my clients so it’s easy to be honest with them about competitive demands. My clients know I’m available to get their work done.
DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable?
AU: The hardest part is finding the right balance between being 100 percent present while at home and at work. I know that doesn’t always happen, and at home my family will call me out. But if you work hard at it, it can work. If I wanted to chaperone my kids’ field trip on Tuesday afternoon, then I did. If that meant I worked a little later on Friday afternoon, then I did. I wanted to be able to speak for myself as to what times of day worked for me versus my schedule being set as “I’m always off on Fridays…” I’m very thankful that Dechert has been extremely supportive of this.
My husband also works full time in a demanding profession, so we work together to make sure each of us is available when the other has a conflict. My practice has high seasons, and he has a call schedule and academic obligations so we communicate constantly. Flexibility allows me to be “on” for personal obligations when he can’t be.
DFA: What would you do differently or tell your first year associate self?
AU: I would focus on the big picture and not “sweat the small stuff.” I wouldn’t apologize as much either for my decisions. If you decide to do something and that’s what works for you and the client needs are met, then there’s nothing to apologize for. It’s hard when you’re in the moment not to feel guilty. But in reality, there’s no need to feel that way if you do good work and are available for your clients and colleagues.
DFA: How do you recharge, and how do you pay it forward?
AU: Most of my recharging happens when I’m with my family – whether it be on the sidelines of my kids’ sporting events or spending quality time with my husband. We have Shabbat dinner every Friday with the extended family and friends, and I really look forward to this weekly event to make sure I get updates on the details of the week. My kids know that we are totally focused on them during the weekend, and they give us a little more leeway during the week so we can focus on work.
I serve on the boards for non-profit organizations that I’m passionate about and use my legal skills to do pro bono work. This is important to me and to Dechert, and I want to show my kids that they need to give back too. At the firm, I like meeting new associates and sharing my story – I’ve had three kids, I’ve scaled back on my hours when I needed to, and I’ve still advanced to be a partner, practice group leader, and co-hiring partner for our office. I’m proud that I’ve been good to Dechert, and Dechert has been good to me. My message to both men and women is that you can be flexible – a little give and take, and have a fulfilling and successful career.
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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.