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October 2021 Spotlight on Flex

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 our October 2021 Spotlight on Flex we are pleased to share insights from Elise Attridge, Associate, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.

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?

Elise Attridge: After my first child was born in 2016, I started working at an 80% reduced hour schedule. At that time, I had been a Litigation Associate at Morgan Lewis for five years.

When I first shared the news that I was pregnant to members of firm management, multiple people offered me the opportunity to work on a reduced schedule when I returned from maternity leave, which I was thrilled about because I’d heard of other working mothers taking this approach. And because the firm had raised it first, I felt extremely supported in the decision to work a reduced hours schedule.

I’ve been on that 80% arrangement ever since. It’s been about five years now and I’ve gone on to have two more children.

Right from the beginning, I received excellent advice from one of our litigation partners. Even though I planned to be in the office four days a week, she recommended that I have childcare available for all five days. I took that advice to heart and it really helped me ensure that I am able to be successful with my flexible schedule. My arrangement is that our nanny comes four days a week, and I target Monday as my day off to be with my children. But my nanny is available all five days if I need her to work, which sometimes I do.

While working four days a week is my goal, that is not always feasible, particularly as a litigation attorney because I have deadlines that are out of my control and unavoidable periods of heavy workloads.

So, I don’t measure the success of my reduced schedule on a weekly or even monthly basis. There are certainly some months where I work full-time hours.  Instead, I measure my reduced schedule on a yearly basis. I can then balance those periods of heavy workloads — for example, when I have depositions or a trial — with more time off at slower points in the year. It is a constant, and sometimes tricky, balancing act.

So far, however, because of my approach, I think I’ve been successful at having that work-life balance that works for me, my family, my firm and my clients.

The firm definitely has been giving me ongoing support during my flexible schedule. And in terms of my clients, I would guess that most, if not all, of my clients probably don’t even know that I work on a reduced schedule. It’s certainly not a secret. Even though I’m on a reduced schedule, once I’m on a case, I’m still 100% committed to delivering great legal work and exceptional client service. So that’s why calibrating my schedule on a yearly basis is so important, because there are times when I need to meet client needs, even if it’s on a Monday.

 

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.

May 2020 Spotlight on Flex

For May 2020, we are pleased to share insights from Heather Wenzel, Partner, Morgan Lewis (Hartford, CT)

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

Heather Wenzel: After graduating from law school in 2005, I started working at a large Connecticut based law firm. But a year in, I realized it was not a good fit. A recruiter called me to interview at what was at the time Bingham McCutchen. The interview process went well, and I started working there in 2007. Since then, Bingham McCutchen combined with Morgan Lewis, and that combined firm is where I have worked ever since – 13 years! I made partner in 2019, and looking back, without flexible work, I would not have had the same success and career trajectory, especially after having kids.

I had premature twins in 2014 (a boy and a girl), and they spent the first months of their lives in the NICU. My leave time was not traditional; I wasn’t at home with my newborns, and I knew I needed more time to spend with them. I was already planning to take six months of leave before they arrived early, and my partners were extremely supportive when I needed to extend that time to account for the unforeseen NICU stay. They knew with twins, I was going to be jumping head first into the fire. Flexible work was not only on my mind, it was essential for me in order to stay at the firm.

When I returned from leave, my babies were eight months old. Morgan Lewis never hesitated to show their support for me and for flexible work. I came back at an 80% reduced hours schedule with five days in the office. I left at 5 pm and signed back on at night as necessary. It was such a relief to be able to leave at 5 pm without feeling guilty. I’ve been on this schedule for the past six years, and it’s what’s allowed me to stay in big law. Morgan Lewis also instituted a remote work program which gave me more flexibility to work one-two days a week at home. As a working mother with twins, or any working professional for that matter, this extra layer of flexibility is huge. My standard schedule now allows me to work one day a week at home in addition to my reduced hours. It’s been perfect and also prepared me for our current complete remote-work situation due to COVID-19.

A lot of firms say they support flexibility and that choosing this type of schedule won’t affect your career advancement. But I think there aren’t as many firms that actually support that mentality. Fortunately for me, Morgan Lewis isn’t that type of firm; I was working 80% reduced hours and one day a week at home when I made partner. The firm really stands behind what it says. If I had to be full time, I would not have been able to stay in big law. Nothing takes precedence over my family, and I will always choose them over my job. But at the same time, I love what I do, and flexible work lets me not have to choose between the two.

I’m doing what I want to do as a working mother, and I can still be present for my family when I’m home. It’s not about being in the office from 9-5; it’s about being there for your family when I want and need to be there. Deals are finished, clients are ecstatic, and they never know that I’m working outside of the traditional 9-5 work day.

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

HW: When I started at the firm in 2007, I was a member of the American College of Investment Counsel (ACIC). Twice a year, all the outside and in house counsel came together for their annual meetings. The demographic was quite different at the time; I was one of the few, younger female attorney members in a room full of partners and in house counsel who were mostly men. Now the demographics in finance have changed. I see more women in the room and more working moms. All this to say that the demographics of my clientele have changed over the years too. My clients are dealing with the same work-life control issues that I am. The depth of understanding and shared experiences have evolved and made my client relationships stronger.

With more clients experiencing the same issues I am, it alleviates some of the pressure I feel as a partner to be “on” 24/7. I can still provide excellent client service but in an environment and methodology that’s outside of the normal 9-5 work day.

When I first started at the firm, I worked for five male partners, and I established certain boundaries when it came to being present for my family. They realized my work was getting done, clients trusted me, and I was always responsive. I proved myself so it was easier for them to be flexible with me too. I won’t claim that it was always easy, but I give a huge amount of recognition to my team and partners for progressing with me over the years.

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

HW: I’ve always said I’m 80% in hours, but 100% in firm citizenship. The days are gone where you can sit in your office and bank on the phone ringing from your client of 30 years. Ever since I was a mid-level associate, I made marketing a huge part of my professional development. It’s extremely important, and you have to constantly remind your clients that you’re there for them. There are so many other law firms and attorneys out there – we’re easily replaced. Working 80% reduced hours has allowed me to be with my family but also do the client meet and greets, lunches, and presentations.

I personally feel that flexibility is a benefit for the firm on so many levels too; clients want to know that the firms they engage with are diverse, inclusive, and good to working parents. It’s a win for the firm, and it’s a win for me. Morgan Lewis can walk the walk and talk the talk. This in turn benefits the profession as a whole because people hear my success story, and it shows them they can do it too.

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

HW: I would tell myself not to stress so much about it. That’s the biggest thing. I try to tell others that you have to decide what your personal boundaries are going to be. Are you going to be on call 24/7 and that’s your working style? Fine. Or are you going to be someone where Fridays are sacred but you’ll work on Saturdays? Fine too. Set those boundaries. I should have thought about and set my boundaries earlier. Things work out, but I wish I had spent less time worrying about the future.

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

I try to recharge through vacation or working out. When I’m active, even if it’s for 30 minutes, I feel more energized for the rest of the day. It’s so hard to be a working parent with young kids; I look back and don’t even know how I did it. I’m trying to be more conscious on paying it forward and understanding that everyone has something going on in their lives. We’re in a high pressure profession, and I know how much flexible work has helped me. We get lost in the mindset that the world will stop moving if we’re not constantly working. But we all know that’s clearly not the case. I’ve never had a deal fall through because I took an hour for myself or put my family first.

 

 

 

Awards to be presented at Diversity & Flexibility Alliance Conference on November 7

Washington, DC – October 1, 2019 — The Diversity & Flexibility Alliance announced today that its 2019 Flex Impact Award Honorees are global consulting and financial services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and international law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. The Flex Impact Award, which recognizes initiatives that demonstrate a significant impact on the culture of workplace flexibility, will be presented at the Alliance’s annual conference Inspire. Innovate. Ignite! on Thursday, November 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. Registration information is available here.

“Both of these firms have taken the time to develop unique, comprehensive and innovative holistic flexibility initiatives that meet the needs of a diverse group of employees, thereby creating a truly inclusive culture,” said Manar Morales, President & CEO of the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance. “By recognizing the changing needs and desires of today’s diverse workers, these organizations are leading their industries in their commitment to supporting the health, wellbeing and satisfaction of their employees,” she added. “As a result both firms are reaping the many benefits of their well-designed and authentic flexible working programs such as an increase in retention, improved engagement and superior recruitment.”

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is being recognized for its comprehensive flexible working program Flexibility2 TM that allows employees to control when and where they work while ensuring excellent client service and maintaining the quality of their lives. This program offers a myriad of informal flexible working options within its Everyday Flexibility initiative, including Year Round Flex Days, Teaming Culture which advocates shared responsibilities, and Unprescribed Paid Leave for self and family care. Additionally, employees can take advantage of Formal Flexibility options such as reduced hours, flexible start and end times, formal telecommuting three or more days a week (PwC@Home), telecommuting one or two days a week (PwC Offsite), job sharing, compressed workweek, and sabbaticals. Furthermore, PwC has been able to weave flexibility into the culture of the firm, and not only are employees encouraged to work flexibly, but they are also praised when they do. Since it was launched in 2011, the program has led to better morale, increased productivity, improved overall satisfaction and higher retention rates.

“Having flexibility at work is a center piece of our culture at PwC and is available to everyone starting on their first day at the firm. Flexibility at PwC is not about working less, but it is about encouraging people to work differently, in a way that fits their personal lives,” said Anne Donovan, the U.S. People Experience Leader at PwC. “A culture of flexibility creates a happier and more productive workforce and is essential to recruiting and retaining the best talent. We’ve worked hard to instill this culture across the firm and are honored to be recognized with the Flex Impact Award.”

Morgan Lewis will be recognized for its Remote Working Program that allows Associates to spend up to two days each week working remotely. Since 2017, more than 350 Associates in the US and the UK have participated in this program that leverages technology and offers the opportunity to work where they are most comfortable while still ensuring high quality results for their clients. While this program is offered to all attorneys, it has been particularly beneficial to women lawyers, many of whom have become partners and advanced in their careers while having children. Additionally, the firm’s Ramp Up Program provides support, mentorship and networking opportunities for Associates returning to work after family leave and reduces the hours expectation by 25% for the first six months with no reduction in base pay or bonus. Morgan Lewis has also developed ML Well, a comprehensive program and online portal of resources for all lawyers and professional staff designed to support work life balance, increase engagement and help employees manage the demands of their personal and professional lives.

“Now more than ever, we recognize that embracing a flexible workplace culture enhances the well-being of everyone at Morgan Lewis,” said Firm Chair Jami McKeon. “We were proud to be among the first law firms to launch forward-looking flex initiatives such as our Ramp Up and Remote Working programs. We have now dedicated full-time resources to advancing these and other innovative programs—like ML Well—to ensure that the thread of well-being and work/life balance is purposefully and earnestly woven into the fabric of who we are. We are truly honored to be recognized by the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance for our dedication.”

The Diversity and Flexibility Alliance is a think tank that collaborates with organizations to develop non-stigmatized flexible work policies that promote inclusive work cultures and help to advance more women into leadership positions. The Alliance provides practical research-based solutions, training workshops, and strategic advisory services that increase organizational effectiveness through diversity and flexibility.

Contact Manar Morales at 202-957-9650 or manar@dfalliance.com for more information.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Featuring — Grace Speights, Morgan Lewis

Reports of workplace sexual harassment and sexual assault by high-profile individuals and high-level executives have captured the public’s attention. The #MeToo movement has led to more and more women sharing their experiences and has encouraged employees to speak out. As sexual harassment claims continue to come to light—with sometimes very public consequences—many employers are seeking a more proactive approach to reviewing harassment policies, response plans and practices, and workplace culture, and are taking new approaches to training employees, executives, and boards of directors on their obligations to ensure safe, respectful, and inclusive workplaces. In the current climate, it is prudent for all organizations to assess risk factors and implement measures and policies to minimize risks related to workplace harassment and misconduct. In this session, Grace Speights will share best practices and insight gained from her experience handling some of the most significant workplace harassment issues companies are facing today.