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In an effort to inform and inspire our members and friends, we often share diversity and flexibility Bright Spots – those small or large successes that impact an organization in a positive way. We believe that important diversity and flexibility initiatives can truly impact your organization’s bottom line, recruitment and retention capabilities and employee satisfaction. 

Ogletree Deakins’ Women’s Initiative

 

BRIGHT SPOT

The women’s initiative at Ogletree Deakins is a Bright Spot as it has enhanced the firm’s ability to retain and advance female attorneys at a remarkable rate. Stemming from the desire to increase the number of women in leadership, the process began with the creation of a Women’s Task Force. This force helped to identify the issues women were facing and made recommendations on potential solutions.

With this information, Ogletree implemented the following strategies and programs:

  • Ombudsman: A former board member was made available to assist firm lawyers in resolving work-related concerns and conflicts in an informal, confidential, and impartial manner.
  • Credit Guidelines: A review of origination credit guidelines paired with the realization that it is often difficult for women to have conversations with senior men regarding credit, gave way to change. Ogletree’s credit origination guidelines were refreshed to enhance clarity, promote collaboration, and help all attorneys address and handle difficult situations and advocate on their own behalf.
  • Compensation Process: Ogletree has an open compensation system. A new compensation appeals process was created to enhance transparency and reduce concerns about peers’ compensation, and an independent pay equity audit was conducted. Throughout the process, the firm made sure there was significant representation from women.
  • Sponsorship Program: Ogletree took a very deliberate and intentional look at the pipeline and decided to create a sponsorship program to increase opportunities for women to move from non-equity to equity positions within the firm. In 2018, the first year of sponsorships, 78% of women were promoted to equity status.
  • Business Accelerator Program: Ogletree’s new Business Accelerator Program (BAP) is designed to give high-performing female, non-equity shareholders, a boost as they progress toward the equity opportunity. This nine-month cohort experience focuses on business development to improve skills, gain exposure, and increase their books of business. In 2019, 100% of BAP participants agreed that the program helped them increase or acquire new skills, and would be of value for others.

IMPACT

The investment in these programs and initiatives has allowed the firm to reach impressive milestones. In the last two years, the firm’s New Partner Classes have had 50% or more women, 29% of the firm’s Managing Shareholders are women, and 33% of the firm’s board are women. Ogletree’s leadership continues to demonstrate commitment to the women’s initiative and looks forward to continued success in this arena.

Please share your Diversity & Flexibility Bright Spots with us by downloading and completing THIS SHORT FORM and emailing it to Jane Caldeira at jane@dfalliance.com

2019 Flex Success® Awards to Be Presented November 7

Washington, DC – October 1, 2019 – Today the Diversity and Flexibility Alliance announced that its 2019 Flex Success® Award honorees will be Danielle Katzir, Partner at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, and her client Darren Drake of Stockbridge Real Estate Funds; and Stacy Bunck, Kansas City Office Managing Shareholder at Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, and her client, Rafael Medina of McDonald’s Corporation. Sadly Mr. Medina, who was Managing Counsel for Labor and Employment at McDonald’s, passed away unexpectedly after being selected as an Award Honoree.

The Flex Success Award recognizes partners or shareholders at Diversity & Flexibility Alliance member law firms who have achieved success while working a reduced hours schedule as well as a client who has been integral to making workplace flexibility so successful. The Awards will be presented on November 7, 2019 at the Alliance’s annual conference, Inspire. Innovate. Ignite! in Washington, DC. Registration is available here.

“Both of these amazing women have advanced to leadership positions within their firms while working reduced hours schedules,” said Manar Morales, President and CEO of the Alliance. “By focusing on the quality of their work, rather than the hours worked, they have been able to maintain excellent client service without sacrificing their personal lives and families. Clearly their supportive clients have been critical to their personal success and career longevity. Hopefully these women will serve as inspiration to other professionals striving for personal fulfillment and professional success,” she added.

Danielle Katzir, a Partner in the Los Angeles office of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, has worked a 75-85% annualized schedule since 2010, allowing her to take shorter days and weeks in between busier periods. In recent years, Danielle has worked on corporate and tax transactions and is now recognized as a national expert on EB-5 Visa matters. Her Pro Bono work has included representing an Afghan family in the wake of the recent travel ban. Danielle is a member of her firm’s Professional Development Committee and Diversity Committee, and is deeply committed to mentoring young attorneys and maintaining an inclusive organizational culture.

“I’ve been able to work on the same types of transactions and matters for the same base of sophisticated clients that I did before going part time, maintaining and honing my diverse skill set, but simply at a more manageable volume,” said Katzir. “Darren completely understands the balance I am trying to strike between my family, personal life and career,” she added referring to her client, Darren Drake. “He knows that the work will get done, and that it will be high quality, no matter what,” she added.

“The firm, and I, could not be more proud of Danielle for being honored with the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance’s Flex Success Award,” said Jesse Sharf, Partner in Charge of Gibson Dunn’s Real Estate Practice and a member of the firm’s Executive Committee. “I was beyond thrilled when Danielle – with whom I have worked since she was a summer associate – was elevated to partner on a flexible schedule.”

“Danielle is a true Partner, one who works side by side with her colleagues and her clients to provide the best possible legal advice and client service, growing our practice while also growing a family and leading a rich personal life,” Mr. Sharf added. “I cannot help but smile when I see Danielle go about her professional and personal life, and I look forward to working with her—and continuing to hear about, and observe, the exploits of her children, spouse, mother, siblings and cousins—over the years to come.”

Stacy Bunck, Kansas City Office Managing Shareholder at Ogletree Deakins, began a reduced hours schedule in 2010 after returning from a six-month parental leave. After working a 60% schedule for seven years while her children were young, she increased her hours target to 75%. In January 2014, Ms. Bunck was elevated to Shareholder and in 2018, she became the Office Managing Shareholder for Ogletree’s Kansas City office. She is the first person in the history of Ogletree to ascend to Office Managing Shareholder while on a reduced hours arrangement, an arrangement she has continued to maintain in her Office Managing Shareholder role. In addition to performing her leadership role, Ms. Bunck has co-chaired four jury trials while working a reduced hours schedule. She has also participated in the 2019 Ogletree Deakins Leadership Challenge Program and serves as a role model and mentor for other attorneys pursuing reduced hours schedules.

“Ogletree Deakins has supported my quest for work-life balance for the last decade. By permitting me to take a combined 12 months of maternity leave, allowing me to work a reduced hours schedule for the last decade, and elevating me to Office Managing Shareholder while on a reduced hours schedule, the firm has enabled me to raise my children while maintaining an active trial litigation practice,” said Stacy Bunck. “The late Rafael Medina, former Managing Counsel for McDonald’s, championed my reduced hours schedule, by insisting on scheduling around my days home with my children, and encouraging me to always put family first,” she added.

“Rafael would have been honored that Stacy nominated him for this award but would certainly add that he didn’t need any award for simply doing what was right,” said Danny Sikka, Senior Counsel, Global Labor & Employment Law at McDonald’s Corporation, referring to his colleague Rafael Medina. “Rafael raved to us about Stacy’s incredible work and how she exemplified that great client service did not have to come at the expense of family or other personal interests. He would also be grateful to the Alliance for this award, but also pass it back to thank the Alliance for its work in promoting diversity and flexibility.  He always preached “family first” and often quipped, “In ten years, you won’t remember the name of many matters you worked on, but you will remember going to or missing that recital, game or event,” he added.

“As this award demonstrates, flexible schedules allow the firm and our clients to fully benefit from the talents of all of our attorneys,” said Matt Keen, Ogletree’s Managing Shareholder. “Stacy has provided exceptional client service and leadership while meeting her other obligations through flexible scheduling. We are proud to partner with McDonald’s to support Stacy’s achievements,” he added.

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 for all 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.

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

For August 2019, we are pleased to share insights from Stephanie Smithey, Shareholder, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart (Indianapolis, IN)

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

Stephanie Smithey: While I was in law school, I worked as a legal assistant for Amoco Corp (which is now BP) doing legal research; I’d work whatever hours I could schedule around my classes. The large corporate legal department exposed me to many different areas of the law, including ERISA work (my practice specialty for the past 28 years). After I graduated, I moved back home to Indianapolis and started working at a law firm as a full-time associate. There weren’t many part-time or flex lawyers at the time, but a few years later when my daughter turned two, I knew I needed to make a change. I went to dinner with my supervising partners, and we designed a plan that would provide me the balance I was looking for. The technology for remote work was not in place yet in 1996, but we agreed I would come into the office four days a week from 9 am – 4:30 pm. All this to say that I started working flex early on in my career, and I stayed on this schedule until I lateraled to Ogletree Deakins as Of Counsel in 2007.

Coming to Ogletree as a lateral, reduced hours attorney could not have been easier. The firm’s CEO at the time, Kim Ebert, knew I was already working reduced hours, and he put the option on the table. He made it clear that reduced hours would not hinder my path to partnership and that flex was part of the firm’s culture. There were several flex Shareholders at the firm already, and I was very comfortable with my choice to start at Ogletree.

As my children grew older, I gradually ramped up my hours, and I was elected Shareholder in 2011 while working reduced hours. I later resumed full-time work, and in 2016, I was elected to be an equity Shareholder. I recently became Chair of Ogletree’s Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Practice Group.

Like most attorneys, I use holistic flex options like telecommuting as needed. Sometimes I’m in the office five days. Other times I’m in the office for two or three days, depending on my travel schedule and personal and work commitments outside the office. Even though I work full-time, several of my colleagues work flexibly to better manage their work-life demands. I understand that experience and support them 100 percent.

I joke that I had the longest path to partnership in history because of the choices I made, but I’m grateful I had those options and don’t regret making them. In the late 90s, we didn’t have email or smart phones, so the hardest thing to give up was accessibility while working reduced hours. I always worried I would miss an opportunity if a partner walked by my office with a new project, and I wasn’t there. Or would I miss the next meeting with the client? Now technology alleviates those concerns. Someone may be out of the office, but they’re always accessible. Today’s technology allows for more successful flex arrangements.

Ogletree made sure I was positioned to succeed. My colleagues introduced me to their clients and included me on important client development opportunities. I was always part of the team. When you offer people flexibility, it’s important to look at the person’s experience and expertise, and hold them in the same regard/position no matter what their billable hour requirements are. It is important to evaluate and value the quality of their time worked, not just the quantity of time worked. There’s always going to be a project where you have to say “no” because of other commitments – it’s a judgement call. It’s important to be in a place where you can say “no” because you shouldn’t have to fear losing the opportunity the second time around. You build trust between you, the firm, your colleagues, and your clients when you learn to be honest rather than saying “yes” and then not being able to meet expectations. I try to remember this philosophy and apply it in my role today by always asking my team whether they have time to take something on. We want to set people up to succeed – not to fail.

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?

SS: On a community level, when my daughter was in elementary school, I left the office at 2 pm twice a month to be a co-leader of her Girl Scout troop. That started when she was in first grade and continued for several years. My flex schedule allowed me to take part in this activity and develop a real love for the organization. Currently, I’m on the Board of Directors for the Girls Scouts of Central Indiana and serve as the Vice Chair. A few years ago, I traveled with a troop of high school girls to Europe, went hiking in the Swiss Alps, and I’ve had some of the most amazing experiences through the organization. Without flex, I would not have been able to be nearly as involved in my daughter’s Girl Scout troop or the organization as a whole. In this way, my flexible work schedule gave me the opportunity to be more connected to my community.

On a personal level, flex helped me when my mother was in kidney failure. She had to go to dialysis three times a week, and my siblings and I split caregiver responsibilities. My schedule allowed me to leave early to take her to her medical appointments and pick her up from dialysis. We all have temporary family obligations that go beyond childcare, and it was a blessing to have that time with my mom. You always want to be able to spend time with your family while you still can.

On a professional level, I recall how a flexible work schedule helped me manage work for my first large, Fortune 100 client. I worked closely with their in-house ERISA counsel, and we had weekly, if not daily, phone calls. My client was going through a period of rapid divestitures and corporate restructuring, and our calls would happen during all hours of the day, weekends, and sometimes well into the evening.   I was still working reduced hours at the time.   I balanced my day to be available for the calls regardless of when they occurred. When this hectic period was over, I asked the client for a reference that included their experiences with me working as a reduced hours attorney. The client confessed that she had no idea I worked reduced hours. That speaks volumes to not only how technology has made flex easier, but also to how flexibility is seamless – done right, an attorney can work reduced hours without diminishing client service or the quality of their work.

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

SS: It was very much a “figure things out as I went along” type of thing. Now that I’ve reached this stage of my career, I’m grateful that I didn’t walk away from my law practice to find balance. Now, even as an empty nester, some days it’s hard to find the right balance, but I really enjoy my practice. I enjoy working with my clients and colleagues to solve problems, and I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes with a job well done.

I would tell my first-year self to be patient and give myself time to learn the practice of law; stop expecting perfection from day one. You really have to learn how to practice law, and that takes time for everyone. In my area, the law is constantly developing, and I’m always learning. To me, that’s the best part of this job!

Starting in January 2020, I’ll be teaching an employee benefits class at Indiana University McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis. I anticipate incorporating flex back into my schedule to leave early in the afternoons once a week on the days I teach. I want to expose the next generation of law students to this area of law and let them know there are great career opportunities out there for them.

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

SS: In the summer time I love to be outdoors – hiking, swimming, spending time at the lake, and being in the water. But I also have my Netflix addiction! I also love to cook, collect cookbooks, travel, and spend time with my kids.

I believe in paying it forward, no matter how informal it may seem. I try to maintain a team approach – we all have different jobs to do, but we also work better together. Whether you’re an attorney, paralegal, or administrative assistant, we all have things that are important to us, and we should all be able to use flex in the ways we need it. I strive to create and foster a culture that encourages people to ask for help if they need it. If I see someone struggling to meet their obligations, I try to work with them to come up with solutions to help them find the balance they need. I’ve worked with attorneys who are on part-time, full-time, hourly, reduced hours, and even project-based schedules. I may be working with someone in the next office or someone across the country – there’s no need to be physically in the office at all times to get the job done and done well! When you realize and accept that, people can structure their practice as needed and be extremely successful. I encourage attorneys not give up, but to take control over their careers in the ways they want to move forward.