July 20, 2011

Company Culture Counts

By Irene Vander Els, associate

We’ve all read rankings, lists and survey results touting the Best Places to Work for Mothers. Many of us have even consulted such reports when contemplating career moves. However, I’m here to argue the things that truly make a company a good place for working parents are more nuanced.

Zola falcons Those rankings give the advantage to large companies with the scale to support things like on-site daycare and women’s empowerment programs.  While those amenities are valuable, they can’t compete with a company with the right kind of culture. I had my first child nine months ago. Her name, Zola, means “of the Earth.” I go to her doctor’s appointments, and when a childcare emergency arises, I work from home, sans snickers. My colleagues with older children go to school plays and parent-teacher conferences and baseball championships.

There is a collective belief here at Hartman Simons that family matters. That may not show up in a report – no magazine can figure out how to track and quantify such a thing – but it makes this firm a great place for working parents, and for everyone else too. A colleague’s wife recently had emergency surgery, and other attorneys pitched into help cover his workload. That doesn’t happen everywhere.

If you’re a manager or business owner trying to make your company a Best Place to Work for Moms, Dads and Everyone Else, here are my three tips, based on what I’ve discovered at Hartman Simons.

• Don’t set insane billable hour goals. The goal should be to get your work done and serve your clients well.

• Set an example. When the boss has work-life balance, everyone else feels comfortable leaving at a reasonable hour.

• Be purposeful in hiring. Recruit the kind of people who like to be part of a team and  aren’t going to demand face time, for the sake of it, from their direct reports.

I very much enjoy practicing business litigation, especially at a firm like Hartman Simons, where we take our work – and our families – seriously.

It makes Zola happy too.


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