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From time to time, we will be highlighting our member firms and corporations who we believe are leading the way in flexibility and diversity initiatives.  Recently, Alliance President & CEO Manar Morales spoke with Matt Keen, Managing Shareholder, and Michelle Wimes, Director of Professional Development and Inclusion, at Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. about the work they have done with their firm’s flexibility policy and the creation of two Reduced Hours Advisor positions.  The following are excerpts from their discussion:

Ogletree DeakinsMorales: What was the impetus for creating a formal flex policy?

Keen: It was an evolution over time. As more women have taken shareholder, equity shareholder, and leadership positions, our awareness has been heightened. When Michelle was hired five years ago, we adopted a more formal flex policy so that all our attorneys would know what was available.

Wimes: While we’ve always informally tried to accommodate anyone who wanted to work flexibly, we wanted to make it more formal so that everyone in all offices knew about the option. We created the Reduced Hours Advisor positions to increase communication to all regions and to provide support to those working flexible schedules. Now we have two Reduced Hours Advisors – Kelly Hughes on the East Coast and Terry Egler on the West Coast – who have been through the process of working flexibly and can provide coaching and mentoring to others.   Both hold quarterly calls with their assigned regions and provide practical advice and positive reinforcement to others. Read more

Attorneys and other professionals who work flexible schedules can experience a sense of isolation from their co-workers that can come from limited face-to-face meetings as well as a decrease in hours. Affinity groups – groups that bring together those with shared identities, interests, and experiences – can help prevent this isolation and lead to increased career advancement and satisfaction.

In fact, Affinity groups can be created around any underrepresented group of individuals such as members of the LGBT community, members of a particular race or ethnicity or those working flexible schedules, but have most commonly been created for women in law firms. Creating an Affinity Group is an excellent way to build community and provide employees with a support system of others who share similar identities or experiences. Read more

Consider these questions…Are your clients consistently happy with the attorneys working for them? Have your clients complained about turnover in the firm? Have they taken their business with a departing partner? Have they refused to pay to get a new lawyer up to speed? Read more