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 November 2018, we are pleased to share insights from Adie Olson, Partner, Quarles & Brady (Chicago, IL).
Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success within your career? How has the firm supported this?
Adie Olson: Law is actually my second career, but my legal career has come full circle with Quarles & Brady. I was a special education teacher and worked with kids with severe emotional and behavioral issues for five years. I loved teaching, but law was always in the back of my mind. I attended Marquette University Law School as an evening student and started as an associate at Quarles & Brady right after graduation in 2003.
I didn’t think I was interested in working at a large law firm, but an adjunct law professor who worked at Quarles, encouraged me to apply for their summer associate program. The firm broke down any stereotypes I had of “big law” at the time; people were really nice, and they had families and lives outside of the office. I knew it was the right place for me, especially as I started my full-time, legal career with them with a six-week old baby at home!
It was pure luck that when I started at Quarles, they were defending a special education class action law suit. I had the substantive background – maybe not the litigation skills (yet) – for a case full of educational acronyms and was able to hit the ground running. I never set out to be a litigator, but things happen for a reason. There is a serendipity aspect to it, but you also have to be open to opportunities that come your way.
I also believe every lawyer should start off as a litigator. You learn about all aspects of a transaction – what went right/wrong, you develop amazing people skills, and you learn how to be a fantastic lawyer. I can be a very intense person, so litigation brought out the best and worst in me at times. By the time I was a fourth year associate, three of my cases went to trial in one year, I was working long days, and I was pregnant with my second child. This was a turning point for me. My career, as exciting as it was, was not sustainable as-is. I knew I wanted to have more time to spend with my growing family.