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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.

2020 Spotlights

For March 2020, we are pleased to share insights from Kate Saracene, Partner, Katten Muchin Rosenman (Chicago, IL & New York, NY). 

Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success with your schedule?

Kate Saracene: My career path has alternated between human resources (HR) and legal practice. I started out in HR at Xerox and continued to work there part time while I attended law school in Connecticut. Once I graduated, I started working for Nixon Peabody on a traditional legal career path. I had my first child, and when I came back from maternity leave, I tried to work a part-time schedule. However, during my first week back, I was working full time hours and asked to come in on the weekend. By pure luck, a few days later, Xerox called me out of the blue and offered me a managerial position. They said I could name my terms, and the timing could not have been more perfect. I went back to work for Xerox for more money and working four days a week at an 80% reduced hours schedule.

I remained at Xerox for a few years, but I returned to Nixon Peabody in a non-partner track counsel position (first on an 85% then to an 80% reduced hours schedule). By this point, my kids were older, and I came into the office five days a week. But I was able to use my 20% of non- billable hours to focus on what I needed to do outside of the office – business development opportunities, activities at my kids’ schools, doctor’s appointments, etc. Nixon subsequently changed its policy to allow reduced hours attorneys to make partner. I switched my track, was promoted to partner shortly thereafter, and I kept my reduced hours schedule the entire time!

I had built a reputation as a national expert in health and welfare benefits, especially the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obama Care”). Katten’s Chicago office was in the midst of succession planning, and they were looking for someone with my particular areas of expertise. They asked me to join the firm in November 2017 as a partner in the employee benefits group.

When I started at Katten, my youngest was already 11 years old; I didn’t need flexibility in terms of reduced hours anymore so I switched back to full time. My flexibility with the firm, however, stems from the fact that even though I have dual residency in the Chicago and New York City offices, I live full time in Rochester, NY! I go between the two offices – typically twice a month to Chicago and once a month to New York City. And in September 2019, I became the employee benefits Practice Group Leader (PGL). There are 10 people in the group spread throughout the firm’s offices (Chicago, New York City, and DC). Even though I’m working full time, I have my own client base and still control my schedule – I can pick up the kids from school, work on my laptop while waiting in the carpool line, or while waiting for their sports practice to be over. I’ve done work waiting in coffee shops, ice rinks… you name it!

DFA: How have the firm and/or clients contributed to your Flex Success®?

KC: You don’t need to be as client-facing in my practice area as you do in other areas. It’s more counseling by phone or email. I’m in an industry where several of my client contacts are women (HR tends to skew more female), and they’re very supportive. Corporations are coming around to flexible work options faster than law firms, so to them, my arrangement is normal. Becoming a partner was really a key factor to my flex success because I mostly work for my own clients, and I can schedule my meetings to work with my flexibility.

When I first started talking with Katten, I asked the recruiter to test the waters with a telecommuting arrangement because I wasn’t willing to relocate from Rochester, NY. We agreed I would come to a Katten office as much as possible – about half the week for three weeks of the month. Over time, the office schedule has become less rigid, but the amount of time I spend in a physical office has worked out because of client needs, meetings, and things I want to attend in the office.

DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable and contributed to business/professional development opportunities?

KC: It’s enabled me to return to the practice of law. I left the law after having my first child because I didn’t think this industry could successfully incorporate flexible work. I was originally in employment litigation, but I switched to employee benefits counseling when I came back to Nixon. I had to change my focus in order to find a way to continue practicing law with flexible work options. I probably wouldn’t have returned to law after being at Xerox if flexible work was not an option.

Even though my schedule changed over the years, I’ve been able to use flexible work to focus on writing articles, giving speeches, and traveling to conferences to enhance my personal and professional development.

DFA: Looking back, would you do anything differently, or what would you tell your younger self?

KC: I would tell my younger self to slow down and wait for the right opportunity to present itself. When I was first out of law school, my goal was to be the youngest income partner at a major law firm; I was in such a hurry to reach my next destination.

One Nixon partner said I was ruining my career when I decided to leave the firm to go back to Xerox. But I made the right decisions that worked for me at the time. I remember once during a succession planning meeting at Xerox, a senior manager was talking about the life cycle of a career – there are points in your life when you focus on school, on your job, or on your family. We need to recognize that; when people are at a point where they need to switch their focus away from their career, you wait and support them because you want that employee back. If you just cut people off during those times, you’ll lose the best talent.

I’ve been trying to coach myself through my career with this philosophy. There are going to be years where your career isn’t your focus, and that’s OK. You have to do what’s best for you.

If I had embraced that early on, I would have had less angst along the way. I wish I had known how well everything would work out. I would have never imagined being a PGL while working remotely and commuting to a Chicago based firm. It just wasn’t even in my line of sight.

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

KC: The yoga studio is my happy place. I went through a rough patch after my second divorce – that really knocked the wind out of me. Just like I never thought I’d be a remote PGL at a major law firm, I never thought I’d be twice-divorced at 41. I found solace through meditation and by practicing yoga. Instead of sitting home alone on a Friday night, I went to the yoga studio. You always belong to a community there, and I developed an amazing circle of friends. I also met really great business contacts through the yoga community.

I loved it so much that I became a certified yoga instructor and was able to teach a few classes a week. Now my teaching is more on a voluntary basis for the local bar association; I lead meditation CLE programs, and I’ve ended up incorporating these practices at the firm too. At Katten, I worked with HR to establish a national wellness committee and start a firm-wide wellness initiative. I’ll be one of the quarterly speakers for the firm’s wellness webcast talking about how meditation can enhance the practice of law.

It’s interesting because my chain of command both at Nixon and Katten are both big proponents of yoga and meditation. Because of this, I’ve always felt very much at home at Katten. It also affirms that when management supports implementing these practices, it succeeds because they recognize the benefits for mental health (especially in our profession). I use this to pay it forward – figuring out the best way to bring these practices to the legal community. I led a meditation session at the firm’s practice group leader training a few months ago – so many people spoke to me afterwards to learn more and talk about it. I know we had an impact that day. Sometimes you just have to expose people to something new to get them interested. I also led a meditation session at the new partner orientation and for the mid-level associates’ academy.

You have to be open to sharing your experiences in order to really see change and help others. When I spoke at the new partner orientation, I candidly shared my career and life experiences, and other women partners have asked me to mentor them as a result. I’m a huge advocate for flex; people need to know they don’t have to follow a traditional path in order to “make it” anymore.

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.

2020 Spotlights

For February 2020, we are pleased to share insights from Meg Kedrowski Managing Director & Partner, Boston Consulting Group (Los Angeles, CA)

DFA: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success with your schedule?

MK: Boston Consulting Group (“BCG”) is a dream job for me. I love the impact and variety of our projects and the caliber of our talent. I started as an associate, then consultant to project leader, was promoted to principal, and then again to my current role as a managing director and partner in 2018. BCG has been so supportive every step of my career – between transferring offices twice because of my husband’s career and working at a reduced [hours] capacity. A year into my role as a project leader in 2012, I switched to a flex schedule – this was even before I had kids. I had been at BCG for five years, was traveling extensively, and working a lot of hours. I was at the point where I was jealous of my friends at other jobs who had time during the week (not just the weekends) to do the things they enjoyed. I wanted that option too. But I struggled with how to achieve that work/life control when my colleagues were working more than that. I didn’t think it was fair to change my schedule when the rest of the team was counting on me. I have a background in economics, and after looking at the amount of hours/week I was putting in, I realized the marginal cost to me personally, of each additional hour past 40 hours/week, was a lot higher than the marginal cost of the first 10 hours I worked. I wanted to optimize on the margins; I was willing to give up 20% of my pay in order to shed 20% of the hours that had the highest personal cost to me. In other words, I wanted to work at an 80% capacity by being in the office five days a week, leaving early to be home and have dinner with my husband, and not worry about opening my laptop in the late evening hours. Of course, there were times I had to stay late or meet with clients, but it was an absolute step change in my relationship with managing work and life. I’ll be honest; I didn’t think a reduced schedule was going to work at first. But I needed to make a change. My partners were extremely supportive, clients knew about my schedule change, and BCG put extra resources on my teams so coverage was always in place. I was able to turn down certain projects with confidence that it wouldn’t impede my advancement. In 2013, I had my first child, and I probably would not have come back to work at BCG if I didn’t have flex options in place. I’ve made flex work for me as needed during different stages in my career and life. I was a principal when I had my second child, and I started dividing my time between multiple client projects. But it wasn’t feasible to work five shorter days a week with this arrangement. Instead, I switched to taking one day a week off (either Wednesdays or Thursdays). After my third maternity leave, I went to a 60% reduced capacity schedule and ramped back up to 80% with one day a week off. However in 2018, I took a medical leave of absence; when I returned to work, I went back to 60% reduced capacity, with two days off per week. I’ve been on this schedule ever since. Nothing is set in stone – some weeks I need to switch which days I’m out of the office or some weeks I have to bank my time off for another week. The most important thing is that I work with my team to make sure there’s coverage for our clients. It’s flexible flexibility.

DFA: How have the firm and/or clients contributed to your Flex Success®?

MK: I did think about leaving at one point, but after talking with other colleagues who were working reduced hours, I knew I had to try a flexible model. Once I decided on my schedule, BCG was on board. It takes some clients a little longer to understand flexible work, but once they see that their deliverables are unaffected and they’re receiving the trusted support they need, any concerns are gone. In our line of work, we bill by deliverables – not by the hour. I know there are partners who are skeptics about reduced hours. In their minds, they don’t see the need to take a pay cut in order to leave early once in a while to see their kids’ games or meet personal commitments. But the trade-offs are worth it to me. The difference between a flex schedule and occasionally leaving early to watch your kids’ games (which everyone should feel empowered to do), is the additional support and resources you have and the consistency to keep those personal commitments during the week. BCG has always focused on supporting me, making sure I’m meeting my personal goals, and that I’m fairly compensated along the way. Since my own switch to a flexible model, BCG has taken steps to formalize and simplify the process for team members. We now offer standard “Flex60” and “Flex80” programs with clear policies around how to ensure fair work schedules, pay, and promotion for individuals seeking a reduced-hours model. We also offer “Time for You,” an opportunity to take eight weeks of unpaid leave with full benefits. I hope this will make flexible models easier for others at BCG to adopt.

DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable and contributed to business/professional development opportunities?

MK: I wouldn’t be at BCG if we didn’t offer flexible work options. Working reduced hours allows me to be the kind of wife, mother, and friend that I want to be while still delivering outstanding value to clients. Many of my clients are trying to figure out their work/life balance situation too. I’ve found that when I open up to them about my schedule, it tends to be a relationship builder, not a relationship limiter. Ask yourself what you’re trying to achieve while working flexibly. If you’re shooting for something that’s unrealistic for you, your organization, or your clients, then it won’t work. Be clear on what your top priorities are, and set standards that will make you happy.

DFA: Looking back, would you do anything differently, or what would you tell your younger self?

MK: You don’t have to solve for what you need 10 years from now, because you don’t know what you’ll need 10 years from now. Things change. Solve for what you need for the next 6-12 months, and don’t close any doors that would keep you from solving for a different set of needs in a year’s time. There was a period earlier in my career (for about two to three months) where I was trying to build a new set of capabilities and working more than my agreed upon hours. In retrospect, I should have been clearer about I was trying to accomplish and engaged my mentors and partners more. I should have officially changed my hours during that time and been more deliberate and transparent with my goals. Instead, I viewed this as “a great opportunity and I can’t turn it down,” even if I wasn’t sleeping! Had I been more transparent, I would have delivered better value and been more successful at building the skill sets and relationships I wanted at the time.

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

MK: Lots of different ways! I’m an avid reader and just finished the book Light from Other Stars, a science fiction novel that’s a fascinating thought-starter on women’s career options and how the trade-offs women have had to make have changed dramatically over the last few decades. My family has annual passes to Disneyland, and we go at least once a month – it’s one of the best ways to use my day off. I’m also fortunate to live in a very walkable neighborhood; I like to walk my kids to and from school, stopping by the park and the local coffee shop. I do my best to mentor other women and men who are trying to solve their own work/life challenges. I’ve seen a significant uptick in men looking for advice too. A year ago BCG kicked off our ”Women in MedTech” initiative, and I’ve been helping lead that program. Internally, we focus on mentorship, affiliation, and ensuring diverse voices are reflected in our leadership. We team with our clients to advance women in MedTech and participate in external forums. It’s been fun to give back and be part of something that triggers thoughtprovoking discussions on diversity and gender, both inside BCG and beyond.

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.

2020 Spotlights

For January 2020, we are pleased to share insights from Allison Binkley Partner, Squire Patton Boggs (Columbus, OH)

DFA: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success with your schedule?

AB: Before joining Squire Patton Boggs (“Squire”) in 2014, I worked at another large regional law firm and focused my practice on public finance. After my daughter was born, I changed my schedule to telecommute one day a week, but after a year, I wanted more flexibility in my schedule and more time to spend with her. That firm already had several attorneys working reduced hours, and it was clear our practice group’s partners were supportive of flexible work arrangements. I switched to an 80% reduced hours schedule and was in the office four days a week.

By the end of my tenure at my previous firm, the practice group consisted of just myself and a senior partner. The firm was great, but I knew I wanted to expand my practice expertise. Over the years, I developed great working relationships with several of the attorneys here at Squire, and they approached me to make a lateral move. I was worried, however, that I wouldn’t find the same type of flex support at Squire that I had at my current firm.

Those fears quickly went out the window. Squire’s managing partner didn’t hesitate to agree to my request to join the firm on a reduced hours schedule; he said we hire good people, and we give our people what they need. That was almost six years ago, and even though the structure of my flex schedule may have changed, the support from the firm has not.

I lateraled as a senior associate to Squire in 2014, was promoted to principal in 2016, and promoted again to partner in 2018 – all while working reduced hours and one day a week from home. Now that my daughter is school age, I work an 80% reduced hours schedule and telecommute one day a week (usually Fridays). I leave at an earlier time so I can be home to pick her up and participate in her activities.

DFA: How have the firm and/or clients contributed to your Flex Success®?

AB: I have a lot of latitude and independence because the firm has several other attorneys working some type of flex schedule. I came to the firm with a book of business, and since joining Squire, have continued to grow that book of business. Some of my clients know about my schedule, and others don’t. At the end of the day, it doesn’t and shouldn’t matter as long as I’m responsive and meeting their needs.

DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable and contributed to business/professional development opportunities?

AB: My time in the office translates to time spent on business and professional development too. I’m very active in the Ohio Government Finance Officers Association (“GFOA”) – a trade group of finance officers from local governments as well as public finance professionals. It’s a great group of professionals, and I’m currently serving a three year term on the Board of Trustees. We also host an annual conference with 500 – 600 attendees, and I’m part of the planning committee. Without flexibility at work, I wouldn’t be able to be as involved in Ohio GFOA. I’d be missing the opportunity to collaborate and network with so many of my peers outside of the law firm.

I’m also an adjunct professor at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. It’s my third year of teaching, and it’s such a rewarding experience. Again, without my flex schedule, I would never be able to partake in all these wonderful professional/business development opportunities and spend the amount of time that I’d like with my family.

DFA: Looking back, would you do anything differently, or what would you tell your younger self?

AB: I would tell myself not to sweat it. Flexible work arrangements were not on the top of my mind when I started practicing. But they became very important to me once I was a parent, and I knew my schedule was going to change drastically. I knew it would work out because the support structures at the firm were in place.

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

AB: I’ve been fortunate to have amazing and supportive partners over the years who’ve also been my mentors. I didn’t have to be a trailblazer for flexible work at the firm, but I do want to make sure I’m paying it forward. I try to use my experiences to help younger associates as they figure out what works best for them now – or five years from now.

I plan to continue to be active with my outside organizations, support my local community, and support my daughter’s school. These are ways that I’m able to recharge. But I’m also able to reset by spending time with my family, traveling, and taking advantage of the outdoors and outdoor activities during the warm weather months here in Ohio.

 

 

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.

2019 Spotlights

November 2019 Spotlight on Flex & 2019 Flex Leader Honoree

For November 2019, we are pleased to share insights from Jennifer M. Flynn, Managing Vice President, Head of Small Business Bank Division, Capital One.

Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: In what ways has creating a culture where flexibility is the norm provided a competitive advantage for Capital One’s Small Business Bank Division?

Jennifer Flynn: When I joined as the Head of Capital One’s Small Business Bank (SBB) division in June 2018, the team was on an incredible cultural journey with a huge focus on inclusivity and creating a sense of belonging across all of our sites. I knew immediately that I wanted to be a part of this transformation. Together, with my leadership team, we declared “reimagining our associate experience” as one of our top goals for 2019. This includes investing in our leaders, promoting flexibility, and embracing differences across our teams. We actively encourage each associate to bring their authentic selves to work each day, and I love watching this transform our division’s culture. Our SBB team is always raising the bar; our business is better because of how we work, and as a result, so are our customers.

DFA: How have you modeled flexible work at Capital One? Why do you think it’s important to lead from the top on this issue?

JMF: I took a leadership development course at GE’s Crotonville facility in 2007 and learned the importance of priority setting. When I had my daughter in 2010, I realized she needed me more than anyone else could; my priorities had to shift. This is when the term “flexibility” became real for me. I wanted to continue progressing in my career and loved being a mom … I just had to find the “and” and make it work my way. This meant making decisions around my priorities, being OK with the consequences of those decisions, and giving myself permission to try and fail. It meant using my voice, and in some ways, over-communicating with my managers, team members, and family when I introduced flexibility into my work week. It also meant soliciting sponsors to support me on my journey. As I grew in my career, I developed a sense of responsibility to model this behavior for other associates looking for balance in their work and home lives. I’m a big believer in the “I see you, I want to be you” phenomenon. If we surround ourselves with leaders who model the behaviors we value, it builds a culture where people feel engaged and empowered to find their “and.” This is what fuels me in promoting and modeling a flexible culture for my team at Capital One.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for leaders to role model the behaviors they want to promote. I find that asking your employees one simple question – “What is important to you?” – goes a long way when empowering associates and helping them achieve success in their personal and professional lives. I’ve also learned there is no script – everyone is different, and flexibility means different things to people at different times in their lives. The willingness to remain open and try new things to make it work for both your organization and employees separate good leaders from great leaders.

DFA: How has incorporating holistic flexibility (ie. telecommuting, reduced hours, job-sharing, flexible start/end times, etc.) changed your office?

JMF: Developing high-performing teams is a big priority of ours. I believe as leaders, it’s our job to create and foster an inclusive and flexible work environment that allows us to attract, retain and develop talent. This results in a happier workforce and better work product. Technology has made this easier for us as well – with a computer, a smart phone, and a strong work ethic, we can do our jobs from anywhere!

DFA: How has flexibility impacted your life?

JMF: Flexibility has allowed me to achieve both my personal and professional goals. Having the freedom to make choices and do things my way has allowed me to have an extremely rewarding career and still keep my daughter as my top priority.

DFA: What was the most meaningful piece of leadership advice you have received? Who has had the most influence on your career?

JMF: Set your priorities; make decisions around those priorities, and if you don’t like the consequences of those decisions, make another choice. This advice has served me well and has also helped me remove guilt from my vocabulary! When you’re confident in your priorities, everything else falls into place.

I also learned the power of using my voice and encouraging others to do the same. Sharing my priorities with others really helped me find the “and” – the flexibility I need to make things work for both my family and my organization. Don’t underestimate the power of letting someone in. I am where I am today largely because of the leaders who took a chance on me, pushed me, and supported me on both my personal and professional journey. My goal is to be that person for my team.

DFA: How do you pay it forward?

JMF: I make it a point to surround myself with leaders who model the behaviors I value, and I have become a champion for those just starting out on their journey. I’m committed to working with my teams to create a culture where everyone feels a sense of belonging, an obligation to share a dissenting opinion, and can bring their whole selves to work feeling inspired and respected. It’s important for everyone to work for leaders who bring out the best in you, who embrace varying perspectives, and see differences as an opportunity to grow. I made a promise to remain true to my authentic self, and I want others to feel the freedom to do the same.

I’m actively engaged on the Executive Steering Committee for Capital One’s Women’s Business Resource Group and the Capital One Greater Washington Market President Network, both located in McLean, VA. I’m an advisor for 1863 Ventures and passionate about helping small businesses succeed.

 

 

 

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 May 2019, we are pleased to share insights from Teresa Reuter, AssociateSidley Austin LLP (Chicago, IL)

Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success with your career? How has the firm supported this?

TR: After graduating from law school in 2009, I clerked for a year in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia and then joined a large law firm in Atlanta. In 2013 my husband’s job took us to the Midwest at which point I joined Sidley as a lateral in its Chicago office. I worked full time until I came back from maternity leave in April 2017. Since then, I’ve been working a 90% reduced hours schedule.

With the addition to our family, I knew I needed to make adjustments to my schedule. I wanted to be fully engaged with work and also have some “give” with my hours to adjust to life with our newborn and a husband who travels for work. My reduced hours gives me that balance. Sidley guaranteed me the option to work a reduced hours schedule upon returning from leave, but I still was nervous to ask for it. Without any hesitation, my practice group leader and Sidley fully supported my request, and I’ve been working reduced hours ever since. I come into the office every day, and I have the flexibility to take care of work and personal matters as they’re scheduled or occur. With my reduced hours, I adjust my schedule to the changing demands of life. For instance, ever since transitioning my son to a daycare, I leave at 5 pm a few days a week to pick him up.

The 10% reduction in billable hours may not seem like a lot, but it has been tremendously helpful in allowing me to meet work and life demands as they arise. I have less pressure to bill and more time to spend with my family and on business development matters. Flex will continue to be a priority for my career, especially starting this summer as we are relocated to Munich, Germany for one year. I’ll be working out of the firm’s Munich office and will further reduce my schedule to 60% – 70% of billable hours.

Sidley has been incredibly supportive of my career and personal development, and that support has manifested in different ways over the years. I transitioned from having more flexibility at home with an in-home caretaker to a more regulated schedule once my son started day care – it was a harder transition than I thought it would be. When discussing some of these issues with a senior partner in my group, she encouraged me to take the time I needed and to let people know I had to leave the office by a certain time to make the transition work. We all have different commitments outside of work, and I have come to learn that it’s important to communicate openly about these matters. The idea is: you’re a professional, we trust your judgment to stand by your clients, the firm, and your family, and you can make your own decisions. That’s not to say that when there’s an emergency you’re not available; you adjust accordingly, and the firm trusts that you are capable of managing this effectively.

DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable and contributed to your overall internal and external development? How have clients supported your flex journey?

TR: Becoming a parent changes your life in so many ways. I wouldn’t be a good parent and a good attorney without flex, especially with a partner who travels often for work. Flex is a necessity, and it’s helped to make my career sustainable. The 10% fewer billable hours not only gives me the breathing room I need to take care of my family life, it also gives me the room to attend work events and be more present in the legal community. It’s easy to tell people they have to “be out there and get to know people” for development purposes, but it’s a lot harder to do when you’re thinking about it on top of meeting your billable hours.

I see more clients and attorneys talking openly about flexibility and alternative schedules. I work with several women lawyers, and our use of flex is a bonding point. It’s a great feeling to know you can meet your work and personal demands by being open and effective communicators. Clients and opposing counsel will say, “I’m not in the office this day,” or “I have to leave by 3:00 p.m. to pick up my kids,” – the more we talk about flexibility, the more it will become part of the norm.

DFA: Looking back, what would you tell your first year associate self?

TR: Before I started working reduced hours, I was too hesitant in communicating openly about deadlines and expectations; instead, I assumed everything was urgent. I also would let everyone know I was still available and reachable when I was out of the office, even if that wasn’t feasible. If I could talk to my former self, I would say that it’s OK to be on vacation; my co-workers could cover for me, and it is OK to take time to recoup and recover. It’s better for me and for the firm. Now I try to take my own advice and untether on vacation and be respectful of others who are out of the office. I want more junior associates to know it’s OK to set boundaries and to stick to them!

I would do less assuming and more communicating – not everything needs a response right away. Be more forthright with asking, “When do you need this by?” I see more junior associates doing this (and doing it well), and I wish I had done that too.

DFA: What do you do to recharge? How do you pay it forward?

TR: To recharge I try to meditate every day for at least 10 minutes; it helps me reset and keep focus. My husband and I also are avid travelers; in the past year we’ve gone scuba diving in the Galapagos Islands, on safari to see lowland gorillas, and forest elephants in Gabon. These trips require us to unplug and enjoy the world’s natural wonders.

Paying it forward, I try to be more cognizant that not everyone is working when I work. When I log in at night and send emails, I try to put them on auto-delay so people don’t feel the pressure to respond if it’s not a true emergency. It’s small things like this that encourage and train us to be better communicators and relieve some of the pressure we feel from our jobs.

 

This is the fifth in a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success®. We’ve covered Defining Your SuccessOwning Your Value, Activating your Mindset and Grit, Creating Your Brand and now it’s time to build your network. To learn more about successfully navigating your flexible schedule and maximizing your career potential, register for our virtual Flex Success® Institute.

Most successful corporations are led by a CEO who is advised and counseled by an experienced Board of Directors. As a professional working a flexible schedule, you should view yourself as the CEO of your own corporation, and you undoubtedly need a “Board of Directors” to support you. No matter how effective you are on your own, it’s critical that you surround yourself with a group of experienced people who can advise you, guide you, mentor you, and open doors for you.

Our fifth strategy for Flex Success® is “Build Your Networks and Personal Board of Advisors.” This personal board of advisors should consist of individuals from inside and outside of your organization. It should include both mentors who can give you advice, and sponsors who invest in and advocate for you. The internal perspectives can assist you in your career advancement and help you to address blind spots in your career path, especially those related to your flex schedule. Your external advisors can provide you with outside perspectives from an industry point of view and can help open doors to new opportunities, if necessary.
As you build your network and personal board of advisors, it’s important to keep in mind that you want to find people who you trust, who you respect, and who will be candid with you. These individuals should be open to constructive conversations about your career as well as the challenges and opportunities your flexible schedule might bring. It’s important to value and maintain your relationships with these mentors and advisors and make sure to meet with them on a regular basis.

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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.

 

For July 2018, we are pleased to share insights from Kelsey Morris, Associate, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld (Irvine, CA)

Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success through your schedule?

Kelsey Morris: Right after law school, I started at Akin Gump’s LA office, and I was there from 2011-2015. I left to complete a one year, federal clerkship with the US District Court for the Central District of California. My daughter was born right at the end of my clerkship in 2016. At this point, I was at a crossroads in my career – I knew I wanted to continue practicing and spend the most time I could with my daughter while she was young. I just didn’t see a path forward at big law that would meet those needs at the time. I decided to start teaching legal writing at USC law school and took on projects as an independent contractor to keep up my legal practice. I was doing this for about five months when a former colleague from Akin Gump called and asked if I would join the litigation practice in the firm’s Irvine, CA office. My daughter was almost a year old, and I had a clearer vision of how I wanted to practice law and how much time I wanted to be available for my family versus work. I knew I wanted to come back and how I wanted to come back.

Akin Gump, and particularly the partners in Irvine, graciously worked with me to find the right arrangement. This year, I am working at a 60% reduced hours schedule and come into the office at least three days a week. It may not be a traditional schedule, but I make sure I’m fully present when I’m here, and I’m logged in and available remotely the rest of the week.

My flex success doesn’t just originate with me – without the practical support and understanding of my colleagues in Irvine, this wouldn’t work. For my part, though, I think success comes from mentally committing to my schedule. I was fortunate to have worked for senior women who were on flex schedules when I first started at the firm, and they were open with me about what flex looked like for them. I learned that for the sake of yourself and your work, you have to commit to your flex schedule – whatever that may look like. Someone on a 60% reduced hours schedule can’t take on the same case load as someone working at 100% and then still only work 60%. It doesn’t work that way. You have to communicate your schedule from the beginning and mentally note that you took a pay cut for the reduced hours. When you take on too much, you’re doing a disservice to yourself, the firm, and your clients. You also confuse your colleagues because they won’t know how much work they can and should be giving you. When you make a commitment to flex, you make it fairer for everybody.

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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.

For June 2018, we are pleased to share insights from Michelle Humes, Partner, Shutts & Bowen (Orlando, FL). 

Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success through your schedule?

Michelle Humes: Since I can remember (I think I was about seven years old), I always wanted to be a lawyer – my grandfather and uncle are both lawyers. But while in college, I started to have some doubts and wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue school for another three years. I was also worried about being able to balance working as an attorney and eventually having a family. So after college, I took a year off, and through a series of events, ended up working as an assistant at a law firm. I had wanted to be a lawyer, and here I was working at a law firm. I felt like it was fate’s way of telling me to go to law school. Since I was already working in the legal field, I decided to keep working while going to school. I started at Shutts & Bowen as the assistant to the Practice Group Leader (PGL) of the Construction Litigation Group in July 2006. In August 2006, I started in the evening law student program at Barry University; I continued to work full time and went to school at night for three years. In 2009, the firm created a summer associate position for me in the Orlando office. That fall I switched to the full-time program, graduated, and took the bar in July 2010. I started working at the firm in August that same year

At the time the economy was terrible, and the Orlando office didn’t have any summer associates or new hires. But right away, because of my history with the firm, and with the support of the Construction Litigation Group’s PGL, Shutts demonstrated its commitment to me and my career by hiring me as a contract associate. After a full year, they were able to switch me to a traditional associate position. I worked in the Construction Litigation Group for three years and then transitioned to the Real Estate Group at the end of 2013.

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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 Nerissa Coyle McGinn, Chief Diversity Partner, in the Chicago, IL Office of Loeb & Loeb.

Nerissa Coyle McGinnDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success through your career?

Nerissa Coyle McGinn:  When I was a sixth year associate, four partners left my law firm and started Loeb & Loeb’s Chicago office. They brought me with them as the only associate. At the time, I was in my early 30’s, married, and I knew I wanted to start a family very soon. The partners also knew this, and I asked for immediate vesting with my benefits to be eligible for Loeb’s maternity leave (now our parental leave policy).

Looking back, it’s amazing how supportive the firm has always been. Even from my first request regarding the vesting of my child care benefits, the partners who brought me to Loeb negotiated on my behalf, and the firm agreed to my vesting request. They worked with me to create a reduced hours schedule even before the firm had a reduced hours policy. I had my first child just after my one year anniversary with Loeb & Loeb in 2005. I returned from that leave at a 60 percent, reduced hours schedule, and I’ve been on this schedule ever since. Over the years, how my 60 percent looks has changed as my family’s needs and the firm’s expectations of me have changed. At first, I was in the office Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. I wanted to have two back-to-back days in the office for more consistency rather than work every other day and feel like I was always playing “catch up.” As my kids got older, I started coming into the office every day but working shorter hours. I made partner five years ago, and because I work shorter days, I’m also able to telecommute part of the workday. This arrangement has worked for as long as it has because the firm is flexible with me, and I’m flexible with the firm.

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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 Jessica Brown, Partner, in the Denver, CO Office of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher.

Jessica BrownDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success through your career?

Jessica Brown: It’s almost surprising to me, but I’ve been at the firm for more than 22 years. I was a summer associate here, clerked for a judge after graduating from law school, and then started as an associate in January 1995.

I made partner effective 2002, had my first child in 2006, and started working a reduced hours schedule in 2007. There have been times when I’ve been working full time hours or traveling extensively, and I have to be able to roll with that. I never expect to work reduced hours on a daily or weekly basis but rather over the course of the year. Fortunately, I have an incredible support system through my husband, our nanny, and the firm.

I’m in the office every day, and I’m required to bill 1300 hours per year. I don’t adhere to a set schedule because I don’t know how that could work in a client services industry. You could have an “aspirational schedule,” where you choose to be off or work from home a certain day of the week, but it’s important to be flexible about your flexibility. Work priorities won’t always align with your schedule, and you have to adjust seamlessly.

For me, working every day makes sense because I’m always busy, though not always with billable work. I recently reviewed my hours for the past five years and was amazed to find that I worked almost the exact same number of total hours each year. The only thing that fluctuated was the ratio of my billable hours to my non-billable (e.g., community service and pro bono) hours.

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