Posts

January 2022 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 January 2022 Spotlight on Flex we are pleased to share insights from Jessamine Lee, Shareholder, Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks, P.C.

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?

Jessamine Lee: Flexibility has been a key to my success at Wolf Greenfield.  After coming back to work from having my first child 11 years ago, I went on an 80% schedule. I was a junior associate at the time. I stayed on an 80-90% schedule through having my second child three years later and then becoming Counsel and a Shareholder at the firm.  During that same time, I also had a flexible arrangement in which I worked remotely twice a week.  The firm was supportive of my requests and made it possible for me to have this alternative work arrangement during a time when it was not common to do so.  I had a lot of help from my colleagues. For example, at times when my workload was too high, I was able to transfer work to other colleagues who had more bandwidth at the time.  This is a testament to Wolf Greenfield’s collegiality and culture – we work as a team.  I also set boundaries, made expectations clear to both my colleagues and clients as to when I was available, and inquired about firm and client expectations as well.  Of course, there were times when urgent projects needed to get done, but for the most part everyone was respectful of these boundaries and I was able to meet the expectations of those I worked with.

 

December 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 December 2021 Spotlight on Flex we are pleased to share insights from Katelyn Miller, Partner, Seyfarth Shaw.

 

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?

Katelyn Miller: Upon returning from maternity leave after the birth of my first child in 2015, I transitioned to an alternative schedule.  I had wonderful role models at my prior firm who guided me through the process of requesting and moving to a flexible schedule.  When my daughter was one, I moved to Seyfarth.  After receiving an offer, I very nervously called the head of our Litigation Department and asked whether I could join the firm on an 80% schedule. Within hours, I received a response that Seyfarth would be happy to accommodate my schedule. It was clear from the beginning that in addition to providing exceptional client service, Seyfarth truly valued its team members and provided different opportunities and avenues for its professionals to succeed.

I have maintained my 80% schedule since joining Seyfarth, with the support of my department and firm leadership.  I prioritize my flexible schedule by clearly communicating with my colleagues and setting and managing expectations at the outset of a project or new piece of litigation. I also carefully consider my workload when taking on new matters to ensure that I can devote the requisite amount of time and attention given my alternative schedule. However, once I take on a new matter, I am 100% committed, regardless of my schedule.  I am fortunate to work with attorneys and clients who respect my time and arrangement, and who trust me to provide excellent client service and work product.

Litigation can be very tough and I obviously cannot control everything, like court-ordered deadlines and schedules, client emergencies or weeks-long out of town trials. But, I have worked very hard to maintain my flexible schedule since becoming a mom and am thrilled that Seyfarth has always and continues to support me.

November 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 November 2021 Spotlight on Flex we are highlighting our 2021 Flex Success® Award honorees Liz Dillon, Partner and Franchise Practice Group Leader, Lathrop GPM LLP, and her client Iris Rosario, Senior Counsel, Choice Hotels, and Sarah Kuehnel, Partner, Ogletree Deakins, and her client Bonnie Smith, CEO of Studio B Entertainment.

These partners and their clients were recognized for their exceptional success while working a reduced hours schedule during our virtual annual conference, Reflect. Reimagine. Recalibrate. Paving the Way to Inclusive Flexibility, on November 3. Their careers clearly demonstrate that partners working reduced hours and remote schedules can provide exceptional client service when they have the support of and collaboration from clients and firm colleagues.

Liz Dillon, Partner, Lathrop GPM LLP

Lathrop Partner Liz Dillon’s flexible schedule generally includes working four days a week, allowing her to spend most Fridays with her family, other than two months of the year when her practice is particularly busy. As the leader of Lathrop’s Franchise & Distribution Practice Group, she oversees more than 30 lawyers and paralegals and has been recognized for her legal prowess in Chambers USA, Chambers Global, The Best Lawyers in America, “Legal Eagles” by Franchise Times and the International Who’s Who of Franchise Lawyers.  Under her leadership, the firm was named the “Best Franchise Law Firm” in the world by Global Franchise Magazine in 2021.

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.

 

September 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 September 2021 Spotlight on Flex we are pleased to share insights from Stephanie Salek, Associate, Hollingsworth 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?

Stephanie Salek: After my son was born in 2018 and I took maternity leave, I knew that I wanted to return to work on a reduced-hours schedule.  Hollingsworth said that it would work with me to craft a schedule that fit my needs, and offered several different models of flex time, including a reduced-hours policy in which attorneys can work fewer hours overall at times convenient for them, and a part-time schedule for those who need a set schedule with defined hours of work.  Because my husband’s work schedule is less predictable, I wanted to have a defined work schedule for childcare purposes.  So I decided to try a part-time schedule in which I have set hours and leave at 5:30 pm three days per week, and work remotely 1 day per week.

It has worked out wonderfully.  For my part, I make sure to frontload work on projects by getting new projects off the ground and running immediately, and making a point of checking in on any delegated portions of a project early and often.  And because I am off on Fridays to care for my son, I make sure to do a full status check of each project every Thursday before signing off, so that projects continue progressing while I am offline.  I am grateful that my firm has been so supportive of this flex schedule, and I think our joint commitment to making it work is the reason for its success over the past 2.5 years.

 

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.

 

October 2020 Spotlight on Flex

For our October Spotlight on Flex, we’re pleased to highlight Tessa Mielke Partner, Dorsey & Whitney (Minneapolis, MN)

 

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

Tessa Mielke: I graduated from law school in 2010 when the legal world seemed to be upside down (though it was certainly less crazy than now!). Because of the Great Recession, I had the opportunity to spend a year working at Harvard Law School’s transactional law clinic before transitioning to a full time associate role in the tax group in the Boston office of Ropes & Gray. In 2013, my husband started his medical residency in Minneapolis; I left Ropes and started at Dorsey & Whitney in their tax, trusts and estates group. I was working a typical full time associate schedule, but reevaluated my work schedule in 2015 after my first child was born. She had a few health concerns, including needing major surgery on her skull (she’s fine now!). I decided to reduce my hours so I could take my daughter to her numerous medical appointments without worrying about the hours I was missing at work.

I switched to an 80% reduced hours schedule with the intention of ramping back up to full time once we were done with my daughter’s medical appointments. But once that time came and things settled a bit more, I realized that I really appreciated the flexibility of a reduced hours schedule. I still came into the office every day, but I worked shorter hours and could take more vacation days (or sick days to care for my daughter or myself when we inevitably got sick the first few years) while still meeting my work obligations. The result was that both work and my family life were more sustainable.

After about a year and half of working a reduced hours schedule, I decided to increase my hours to 85% to match the hours I’d been putting in while maintain a schedule that worked for me and my family. I’ve been on this schedule ever since. It’s been wonderful, and working a flex schedule has not impeded my career trajectory at all. While working reduced hours, I was promoted to income partner in January 2018 and then to equity partner a year later (even though the typical progression is three to five years from income to equity).

Now with everyone working from home almost exclusively, “coming into the office” is quite different. I’ve still been working shorter hours to meet my family obligations, but I’ve also started using my flex schedule to take one day a month off for self-care and personal projects. This new way of incorporating flexible work has really helped continue to keep my work schedule sustainable.

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

TM: The firm has clearly been on board with my flex success journey – the biggest example has been with my partnership progression. My practice is really conducive to flex; I work with several clients and on several projects at any given time, which makes it easier to work on fewer matters and still give clients the highest level of service.

My practice group has also been very supportive. We’ve coordinated to make sure my flex schedule works for everyone. For example, my husband is a frontline worker in the hospital, and when the pandemic started, I worried about potentially exposing my colleagues and clients. I stopped coming into the office before the firm mandated teleworking, but I still had matters that required in person signings. Without hesitation, my partners stepped in to oversee those meetings. The point is, pandemic or not, we all work together and support each other.

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

TM: I’m able to provide the same high caliber work and service to the firm and clients because of flexibility. I can work at a pace that doesn’t overshadow my personal goals and family commitments. My flexible schedule has also allowed me to participate in business development opportunities that I wouldn’t have had time for if I was billing at 100%. I’ve been able to expand my professional development with internal clients, too. For example, Dorsey’s Women Attorneys with Children affinity group has been a great source of connecting with other attorneys in the firm with shared experiences. We understand the need for flex and can mentor one another.

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

TM: I would tell myself to not be as nervous about expressing what I need. I worried that people would think I wasn’t as committed by working reduced hours at first. The mentality is quite the opposite though; it’s because I am so committed and want to excel, I knew I had to reduce my hours. I knew I wouldn’t be able to give 100% to the firm, my clients, and my family by working full time. I think it’s important to make it very clear with your colleagues from the beginning that you’re still just as committed to your work. People are understanding and receptive when you take the time to have a real discussion.

I would also be better about periodically reevaluating what my needs are. I used to look for the “answer” on how to balance work and life. But I’ve realized there is no answer that works for everyone or even an answer that works for one person for their entire career. That’s why you need to check-in with yourself on what’s working and what’s not on a regular basis. If it’s not working, then try something else. That’s been especially true for me during this pandemic.

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

TM: I’ve learned I need to spend time outside – walk, run, take bike rides – anything that gets me moving in the fresh air. It’s a mental break, and I can shift gears from focusing on work and parenting to focusing on being present. I like to knit too, and have been knitting since law school! I want to keep learning new things, and working on new, complicated knitting patterns helps me relax and refocus.

I pay it forward by informally and formally mentoring summer associates and other young attorneys. The sense of community I’ve found at Dorsey has been a great resource to me; I know that my generation of attorneys will play a major role in paving the way for flexible work and supporting those coming up after us.

 — — —

If you are a professional working a flexible schedule and would like to share your story in an upcoming Spotlight on Flex, contact Jane Caldeira.

 

 

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 September Spotlight on Flex, we’re pleased to highlight Colleen Haas, Partner, Frost Brown Todd (Cincinnati, OH)

September 2020 Spotlight on Flex

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

Colleen Haas: It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been at the firm for over 20 years. I started here during my 2L summer internship and then as a first year associate right after graduation from Notre Dame Law School in 1997. After I had my first child, I reduced my hours to 90% of my original billable hour requirement but still came into the office five days a week. When I had my second child three years later, I reduced my billable goal a little more and changed my schedule slightly by coming into the office four days a week and working one day remotely.

My flexibility manifests in the form of a reduced hours schedule that is annualized to compliment my husband’s work schedule. He is a scout for a major league baseball team and his consistent “crunch time” each year, with extensive work and travel, is during the spring and summer. However, during the fall and winter months, he has much more flexibility. Knowing this, when I first approached the firm about reducing my hours, I asked for a schedule where I could work four days in the office and one day from home, but only for six months of the year. I would then go back to five days per week in the office for the other six months to ramp up my hours during my busy year end. As a transactional attorney, I knew I needed to maximize both mine and my husband’s schedules in a way that would work for our family and the changing seasons.

As you progress through your career, your goals and needs change. There was a short period of time when I took myself off the partner track and went to counsel because I thought that would fit my family needs better. I had three young kids at home and between juggling their activities, my work commitments, and my husband’s travel schedule, I didn’t want the extra pressure. My “aha” moment was, however, when other partners were telling me that I should be on the partner track because I was already doing everything they were. They believed in me and didn’t see reduced hours as a roadblock to partnership. With that encouragement from my peers, I switched back to the partner track and was promoted to the partner class very soon thereafter.

I would set my yearly billable hours and stick with that number no matter what reduced hours percentage I was working at the time. This is how I approached flexible work as an associate, and it’s how I approach it at the partner level now too. Once my third child entered kindergarten, I ramped back up to being in the office five days a week but leaving early when I needed to for any commitments. You get to a point where you’ve earned the respect and trust of your colleagues; they know your work ethic, your work quality, and that you’ll provide top notch client service.

Read more

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.

August 2020 Spotlight on Flex

For August 2020, we are pleased to share insights from Yingli Wang PhD, Partner, Perkins Coie (Los Angeles, CA).

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

Yingli Wang, PhD: I was born in China and came to the US to attend grad school and study for my PhD with the intention of becoming a professor. I’ve always been fascinated by how things are made or work, and I knew I wanted to find a career path that could merge my training and other interests. I explored patent law because it’s so different from the other legal practice areas; I knew I could combine my analytical and scientific background with my creative interests.

While I was a law student at the University of Washington, I summered at the LA office of Perkins Coie, and after graduating in 2008, I started as an associate here. We were in the height of the recession, and the partners in my practice group were doing everything they could to make sure we had work. I realized early on in my career how important business development is – it gives you security and the ability to control your career. I wanted to see the impact of my work and the results of my efforts.

I focused on building a relationship with our Shanghai office. This meant a lot of international travel and made meeting my annual billable hours difficult. I started to look into a flex schedule because I wanted to show the firm and my partners my value add by cultivating our international relationships. I knew there would be a corresponding pay cut, but I was OK with that. In 2017, I switched to a 70% reduced hours schedule and continued to come to the office every day. Not only was I able to focus on developing key professional relationships, I was able to manage my stress levels and develop expertise in my field.

Perkins Coie considers flexible work as an investment in its professionals because billable hours aren’t the only indication of a person’s value. Supporting flexible work shows trust from the firm and the partners; they believe they’ll receive a return on their investment, and it establishes a foundation to build a long-term future together. And as a testament to that, I made partner in 2019 while working reduced hours.

Because I still travel so much, I don’t feel any different than my peers who bill at 100%. I also appreciate that my partners aren’t strict about face time. With LA traffic, they understand and are flexible too. We all try to be available and responsive when we’re not physically in the office.

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

YW: My flex schedule doesn’t affect my commitment to my work or my clients. Many of the clients are not local, some are in China and in a different time zone, so my flex schedule really doesn’t matter to them. In fact, flexible hours makes me more motivated to upkeep my international contacts.

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

YW: I’m less stressed because I don’t have as much pressure weighing on me. I’m not constantly worried about my billable hours; instead I’m able to focus on being a better lawyer, working on business development opportunities, and providing the best service to my clients. It’s also a beneficial way to invest in myself. I can attend conferences and participate in non-billable projects to enhance my skills and build a niche practice in China.

I’m also able to train, mentor, and communicate with our Chinese staff and clients. This is a huge benefit because many of our international clients don’t understand the logistics of the US legal system. It took lots of practice to have a better understanding of clients’ needs so I can provide meaningful information and counseling. With my extensive experience in working with clients from different backgrounds, I’m able to adjust my communication style so my answers are clearly conveyed.

My commitment and early focus on our China practice was recognized in 2018; while I was still Counsel, I took over as the leader for the China patent group in the Shanghai office.

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

YW: I would have considered incorporating a flex schedule sooner because it improves work-life balance.

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

I like training and talking to associates about their career aspirations. I really enjoy being a lawyer – many people with my background don’t think of it as an option, so I’m always more than happy to discuss my career path with others. I want people to know there are options and alternative careers out there, especially for women and scientists. Sometimes we just need a little encouragement and a broader perspective.

I’m happy with what I do and proud of my journey. I’m appreciative of the opportunities and support I’ve received from the firm. I hope my experiences can be a positive example for women in science and immigrants to this country. I want them to understand they can pursue a career in law. I want to speak up and show you can do it – be a trailblazer – you don’t have to wait for someone else to do it before you.

 

 

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.

July 2020 Spotlight on Flex

 

For July 2020, we are pleased to share insights from Samantha Lee, Partner, Wiley Rein (Washington, DC)

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

Samantha Lee: I’m a Wiley Rein lifer; I summered at the firm and have been here ever since. I was pregnant with my son while I was a senior associate, and I assumed I’d return full time post leave as if nothing had changed. But after I had my son, I realized that coming back full time and pretending nothing had changed was definitely not going to work for me! Luckily, there are models of flexible work at the firm to look up to; I knew I needed to take a flexible approach with my return to work in order to maintain my mental health and my personal life, to be able to thrive in a high pressure position, balancing my commitment to client needs, and be active in firm citizenship.

I spoke to the firm’s Professional Development and HR teams to discuss my options – I didn’t know what flexible work would look like for me. The firm was supportive from the very first person I spoke with in both departments, and that support carried through to my practice group leaders (PGL). I was nervous about speaking with my PGLs because they play such a huge role in my professional development at the firm. But their immediate response was unhesitating support. They never questioned my need for flex; it was amazing and so incredibly reassuring that I was making the right choice for my career and for me.

Our nanny was also a grad student at the time, and she had to leave early on certain days for class. This allowed me to become comfortable with saying “no” because I also needed to be respectful of her schedule. The bottom line is that a flexible schedule gave me breathing room and provided the options I needed to come back to the firm after leave. Without it, I would not have stayed and been able to address some of the post-partum issues I was experiencing at the time too.

My original plan in 2017 was to come into the office every day and bill at 80% reduced hours for a year. But I stayed on this schedule for two years until I made partner in January 2020. It’s important to note that my choice to reduce my hours did not delay my path to partnership; I was promoted at the same time as my peers from my summer associate class. Once I became partner, and now that my son is older, I returned to a 100% billable hours schedule.

Even though I’m not on a formal flex schedule anymore, I still rely on flexible work in different ways. Wiley is a firm that recognizes people as people. If there comes a point where I can’t or don’t want to bill at 100%, I know the firm will support me. I know I can (and did) deliver the best quality service and work to my internal and external clients while working reduced hours. I openly share my flexible work experiences with everyone; people need to know they’re supported and shouldn’t feel stigmatized for wanting or needing to work flexibly. I understand why some people in less supportive firms feel the need for secrecy, but I don’t believe in this approach. The more people talk about working flexibly, the more mainstream it becomes.

 

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

SL: I haven’t needed to address my schedule with clients; it’s just not something that comes up. I managed my reduced hours schedule by working on fewer matters, but I never gave less than 100% to every client. Because our group is so focused on building a talented and sustainable group, it’s easy to rely on a team and give younger associates the opportunity to learn and progress.

The firm has always given me what I needed; I have a great flex success story. I know the firm would support me again and any other attorney looking to incorporate a flex schedule in a heartbeat.

 

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

SL: By reducing my annual billable target, I was able to focus on firm citizenship and business development opportunities that were important in my career. I was part of the recruiting committee, traveled for on campus interviews, and was able to take the time to speak to law students interested in working at Wiley Rein. Had I been billing at 100%, I would not have been able to do these things.

 

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

SL: I would have spoken up sooner. Once I realized that flexible work was an option and what I needed, I waited too long to ask for it.

 

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

SL: Part of it’s maintaining a flexible schedule and the idea of being kind to yourself in all aspects. For me, that meant being OK with asking for childcare help one weekend a month so I could take time to recharge and focus on me. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. My biggest responsibility is to be transparent, advocate on behalf of flexible work as a resource, and be an example of how it’s a viable option for career success. It can work for everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

June 2020 Spotlight on Flex

 

For June 2020, we are pleased to share insights from Catie Romanchek, Partner, Squire Patton Boggs (Cleveland, OH)

 

 

 

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

Catie Romanchek: I started as a summer associate at Squire Patton Boggs (then Squire, Sanders & Dempsey) (“Squire”) during the summer of 2002, became a full-time associate in 2003, and I’ve been here ever since.

I had my first child in 2007, and as I was preparing to return to work after maternity leave, my husband and I decided it would be best for me to work a reduced hours schedule. He had just completed his MBA, was working full time, and was traveling a lot for his sales job. When we were discussing our priorities, we knew that my staying at 100%, full time work at Squire was not the best plan for us. I spoke with my then Practice Group Leader (PGL), Bruce Gabriel, and asked to work a 65% reduced hours schedule and come into the office three days a week. My PGL was very supportive of flex schedules, and he didn’t see a reason why we couldn’t try my schedule out.

At first, returning from leave was difficult because I knew I couldn’t take on as much work as I had before, and my biggest struggle was learning how to step back. The firm and my colleagues were very accepting as I figured out how to manage my new schedule. I didn’t know a lot of people on flex at the time, so it took some trial and error to figure out how to make my new flex schedule work.

Fast forward to present day, and I’m still working reduced hours (and have had two more children since 2007), but now I’m in the office four days a week and telework on Fridays. As my career evolved, my roles within the firm changed too. I was promoted to principal in 2016 and to partner in 2018. My husband still travels extensively for his job so my flex schedule gives me the control I need to be there for my children and balance our crazy schedules while still meeting the demands of my clients as a partner.

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

CR: Some of my clients are aware of my schedule and are supportive of it too; if they’re able to, they’ll schedule calls and meetings around Fridays because they know that’s my telework day. But I also don’t want my flexibility to weigh on my clients; I’m flexible with them too. I make it clear that I can always rearrange my schedule for their needs. That may mean I switch my telework day for the week, and that’s fine.

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

CR: I’m very appreciative that Squire has never let my flex schedule inhibit my ability to take advantage of business development opportunities and advance my career. In 2013, I was part of the team that responded to an RFP for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (“MWAA”) that oversees the Dulles and Reagan airports in the DC area. I was included in the RFP based on my experience from working with the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport since 2004. Being part of that RFP team was a huge turning point in my career. Now I work on airport financings all over the country and have developed an expertise on these matters. I really enjoy it, and I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to be part of the team that responded to MWAA. My flexible schedule didn’t exclude my involvement, and more importantly, from being considered to be part of the team. That opportunity really transformed my career and my skills set. I think it’s very important to find ways to continue to grow and evolve in your practice while maintaining your flex schedule.

My flexibility has also provided opportunities for me to develop leadership roles within the firm. I oversee, with another colleague, associate and paralegal evaluations in my practice group in the Cleveland office. I also co-chair the local government team here in Ohio and was asked to be part of a Cleveland office’s business development task force. The latter really opened up opportunities to meet and work with other people outside of my practice group. I really enjoy these roles within the firm, and I feel that working reduced hours has given me the opportunity to take them on.

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

CR: Have confidence that this can be done, and don’t feel like you have to apologize for making decisions that are necessary to make your flex schedule work. When I first started working flexibly, I felt, at times, like I always had to try and “make it work” and would apologize if I couldn’t accept a new matter. I’ve learned that people aren’t looking for apologies; they understand, want to work with you, and with communication, you can make a lot of things work out. It also took me awhile to feel comfortable sharing my schedule with clients. I had to be confident and know I wasn’t giving them any less quality work or service by reducing my hours. I give every client 110% of my focus and service; I just work with fewer of them.

The advances in telecommuting now have made flex arrangements so much easier too. You can work with your colleagues and clients to ensure they’re always receiving high quality service while respecting your flex schedule.

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

CR: I recharge by being with my family and being fully present with my kids. My two girls take piano lessons and helping them practice has given me the opportunity to start playing again myself – this has always been a wonderful outlet for me. They’re also very involved in horseback riding, so we spend a lot of time together outdoors with the horses. We have a lot of fun and learn so much during our weekly time at the stables. I absolutely love watching them become wonderful riders.

Externally, I pay it forward by being active in my church and at my kids’ school. Within the firm, I’m often the point person for interviews to talk about flex options or when younger associates ask about it. I am always happy when I can help Squire incorporate flexibility as a cultural norm. The firm has worked with and supported me throughout my career. I want to help Squire continue to grow in this area and continue to be a leader in the industry on fully accepting and supporting holistic flex.