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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.

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.

 

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.