Here’s what’s new — a great interview by Bloomberg News of Susie Lees, GC of Allstate Insurance. She nails the subject of part-time work for women lawyers, who need workplace flexibility for childcare and family reasons. She has been there and done that. She did it when it was a concept that was very hard to sell, much harder than it is today when it is not unusual for companies and law firms alike to have part-time lawyers within their ranks.
I particularly like this quote from Susie Lees about her conversations way back when with employers about part-time work — all of which is still true today. “At the time, I thought, ‘Well, what the heck. I’m not going to ask for more money. I’m not asking to be paid as a full-time lawyer. … You pay me based on what I do, and we all win, so what’s the big deal?'”
Isn’t that the point? And how about this quote from Lees? “What’s wrong with working part time? If you’re a good lawyer and you’re good at client service, you can do that 20 hours a week.”
Lees has been at Allstate for almost 30 years and has risen to the General Counsel position. Yes, she is in charge of 70 Allstate offices around the country. What is the key to her success? Clearly she is talented, but she also stayed in. Here is how she explains it:
“[F]or those folks — whether it’s women or minorities or men — who drop out for whatever reason to raise their families, how do they get back in? I don’t think they can. I think when you drop out, you’re out. There’s not an easy way to get back in. I would be very interested in the numbers of women who have dropped out, because the big firm lifestyle didn’t fit with their family needs — would they go back if given the chance? If someone took the time to retrain them, and offered them an opportunity, would they go back?“
And, perhaps that has made the difference for Susie Lees. She did not try to work part-time in law firms. She has spent her remarkable career in the corporate world.
My experience was different. I graduated from law school more than ten years earlier than Susie Lees, and I took the law firm route. Eventually, after my children came along, I tried to work part-time in that setting. Although I sold the concept to law firms as early as 1984, part-time law firm practice was not a satisfying experience. It was too soon, and law firms were not ready for it. Eventually I ended up in public service to stem the tide of my children’s early years, and later I returned to law firm practice. However, I saw resistance to the part-time concept even then, and I think it continues to be a hard sell, especially in the current employment market. Not impossible, but hard. You have to be smart about the way you play your cards to make part-time work in a law firm.
Another thing I loved about the Susie Lees interview was how her proven loyalty to her employer was so obviously derived from the company’s willingness to give her a chance with an untested concept. It is a continuing theme of Best Friends at the Bar that employers should not underestimate the loyalty of women who are treated fairly. It pays off in spades.
So, sit back and enjoy reading the interview. It also touches on other subjects about how to improve law practice that Susie Lees knows well from her GC perch. Be happy that Ms. Lees is a board member at the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL). She has so much value and experience to share.
Here, again, is the link: https://bol.bna.com/allstate-gc-part-time-lawyers-why-not/