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.
July 2021 Spotlight on Flex
For our July Spotlight on Flex, we’re pleased to highlight Diane Crabtree, Counsel, in Bracewell’s Houston office.
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?
Diane Crabtree: I began working at Bracewell in the litigation group after graduating from law school in 2004. My career path has been far from traditional at a big law firm. After the birth of my first child in 2007, I initially took a leave of absence to stay home with my daughter. Although I cherished this time at home, after a year I started to crave intellectual stimulation and decided to return to work. I was thrilled when Bracewell welcomed me back and offered me several potential flexible arrangements. I decided on a 75% reduced budget arrangement and maintained this schedule for several years. After trying a couple of different schedules, I found that I prefer to work every day but to leave at 4 p.m. to be home for dinner and after-school events.
Most clients don’t even realize that I work part-time on my schedule. My son was born in 2010 and I was able to take an extended leave after his birth. When my family moved farther outside of the city several years later, I decided to stay at home again while my kids were still young. After three years away, I returned to Bracewell in 2017 on the same reduced-budget schedule. Now that my kids are older, I have much more flexibility to work more hours when needed and then take extended time off. I am thankful that my firm has been so supportive of my choices over the years and has allowed me to forge my own path.
DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable and contributed to business development opportunities?
DC: A flexible schedule has made it possible for me to continue doing interesting work at a large law firm while also balancing my other priorities. Bracewell made my flexible arrangement sustainable by ensuring that I receive meaningful work that fits my schedule. This usually translates to work on large, complex matters that are staffed with other attorneys that can share the work load when the case gets busy. Through years of experience on these large matters, I was able to develop a niche within the firm of handling lengthy, complex briefing and dealing with difficult legal issues. I believe these skills not only provide value to the firm beyond my billable hours, but they also ensure that I receive the challenging work that I enjoy. Although a part-time arrangement can result in reduced firm profitability for an individual timekeeper, Bracewell also values an attorney’s unique contributions that lead to positive outcomes for the firm’s clients and ultimately drive business development.
DFA: Looking back, would you do anything differently, or what would you tell your first year associate self?
DC: I can’t say that I regret any of the choices I’ve made in my career. My ideal flexible arrangement has changed over the years as my kids have grown older; the elusive “work-life balance” is really a moving target. Each choice I made was right for me at the time, and I appreciate my career even more now after having the opportunity to stay at home. My advice to my younger self and others interested in a flexible work schedule is to not be apprehensive about asking for a schedule that works for you. If you have already proven yourself to be a valuable asset, your firm will likely be willing to work with you to come up with a suitable arrangement. If the agreed schedule stops working because circumstances have changed, it is important to be open to trying something different.
DFA: How do you recharge, and how do you pay it forward?
DC: I recharge by spending time with my family and friends. I enjoy cooking for my family and outdoor activities with my kids. I am close friends with several other professional women who are also working flexible schedules in different industries and making it work for them. I truly believe that having time to recharge makes me a better employee. I am able to give 100% focus at work because I know I can be fully present with my family when I return home. I try to pay it forward by mentoring others interested in a flexible arrangement and providing an example of a sustainable part-time career.
DFA: How has the pandemic impacted your flexible working schedule?
DC: The pandemic changed my flexible working schedule quite a bit. Before the pandemic, I made an hour commute into the office each day but rarely brought work home with me. Like many other professionals, I suddenly shifted to working entirely from home with no childcare and with additional online school responsibilities. I am thankful that my kids were a bit older and more independent at the time. I continued working mostly from home after my kids were able to return to in-person school, and even now I often choose to skip the long commute if I’m not needed at the office or if I have appointments during the day. The firm has been very flexible in allowing all attorneys to continue working remotely several days a week and it has been a nice change. I also find that I take work home with me in the evenings much more than before the pandemic. After everyone worked from home for over a year it appears that the line between work and home has been somewhat blurred. Overall, I am happy to see that flexible work arrangements have become more mainstream after the pandemic.
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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 Jane Caldeira.