Spotlight on Flex – Kirstin Poirier-Whitley

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 Kirstin Poirier-Whitley, Partner in the Los Angeles office of Jones Day.

Kirstin Poirier WhitleyDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made work-life control a priority and a success with your schedule? How have clients contributed to this?

Kirstin Poirier-Whitley: I’ve been working a flex schedule (75% over five days a week) since 2001 after I had my first child.  I may work shorter days, but I am always available to meet client demands.  If an issue or matter requires more hours in the office, then I make changes to my schedule to meet those demands.  Working flexibly allows me to have a greater presence with my family.  The firm has always supported my decision, and my schedule has not hindered my career advancement – I made partner while on a flex schedule.  The firm also has fantastic technology in place that supports telecommuting.  This has been another successful method of supporting work-life control for our attorneys.  I have full access to my desktop in my home office.

My clients are aware of my schedule, and they know I am available for them.  They have been extremely supportive and respectful of my time; our relationships work because we have a mutual respect of time management and our respective time constraints.

DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable?

KPW: There’s no doubt that working flexibly has made my career more sustainable – I’m not sure I would be a practicing lawyer without a flexible schedule in place.  I want to be present in my kids’ lives, and I don’t want a nanny to be the primary caregiver for them.  Working flexibly allows me to be a happier, more efficient lawyer and to be the kind of parent I want to be.

DFA: Looking back, what would you do differently?

KPW: I worried that working a flex schedule would affect my long-term career, but looking back, I wouldn’t worry so much about making this decision.  I knew the firm was supportive, and they continue to be supportive – it’s why I’m a “lifer” – I was a summer associate here and have stayed with Jones Day ever since!  My flex schedule has not been an impediment to developing client relationships or my practice.  Similarly, my schedule has not negatively affected my relationship with my firm and peers.  I’m proud to be a trailblazer as one of the first attorneys firm-wide to make partner while on a flex schedule.

DFA: How do you recharge, and how do you pay it forward?

KPW: Spending time with my family is the best way for me to recharge.  But my other passion and outlet for “me time” is ballet.  I started dancing when I was four years old and stopped during my first year of law school. Once I was more established in my career, I started dancing again and have performed in a number of productions.

I serve as the Coordinator for the New Lawyers Group in the LA Office.  I advise new associates and oversee their work-flow and training programs.  Our new attorneys do not join a practice group immediately; we give them flexibility during the first year to find the right fit based upon the needs of the firm and their interests.  In my own practice group, I am mindful and respectful of my associates’ personal lives and time.  I encourage young lawyers to find their own path and avenues of work-life balance in order to have more successful and fulfilling careers.

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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.