Editor’s Note: MSJDN asked its members to help us spotlight employers that are going above and beyond for military spouse attorneys. Each employer in this series was nominated for MSJDN’s Members’ Choice Award for doing just that, by members who told us in their own words about the awesomeness of their employers. MSJDN is thrilled to tell these employer stories as a way of expressing our gratitude for supporting military spouses as they build careers in the legal profession.
The MSJDN Members’ Choice Award recipient will be announced at MSJDN’s Annual Reception in Washington, D.C. on May 6.
Big law firms tend to have a reputation for being formulaic or insensitive in their approach to employment. Bryan Cave LLP, an international business and litigation firm, has shattered that stereotype by embracing alternative ways of employment in order to accommodate their military spouse employees.
It is hard enough balancing family and work life in general, but military spouses attorneys face extra hurdles presented by frequent Permanent Change of Station (“PCS”) moves. All too often, a PCS means the military spouse attorney needs to being the lengthy process of obtaining a new license, establishing a new professional network, and pursuing a new job. Shayna Fernandez Watts, an associate at Bryan Cave, was no stranger to the challengers she would face balancing her law career with her husband’s active duty military career. Her firm, however, has continued to surprise her in its accommodations, making their clients and employees all the better for it.
Shayna was a summer associate for Bryan Cave, LLP in 2008 and was hired by thier Pheonix office when she graduated from law school. In 2011, her husband was stationed in Las Vegas and she was living in Phoenix. The two drove back and forth for months, seeing each other mainly on weekends. In 2012, the couple learned that they were expecting their first child, and the travel back and forth from Las Vegas to Phoenix came to be more of a challenge. Nonetheless, the partners for whom Shayna works were continuously accommodating and understanding. As her due date came near, they encouraged her to work from Las Vegas. They told her it was the work she was doing, not her location, that made the difference.
Even when Shayna’s maternity leave expired, Bryan Cave allowed her to take an additional month of leave while in Las Vegas so she and her husband could make family plans that took into consideration the issues created by their different geographical locations. When Shayna spoke with her partners about her complicated situation, they were willing to let her work from home in Las Vegas for another year, returning to Phoenix as needed for hearings and case commitments.
Just before the end of that year, Shayna’s husband got transferred to a location in North Carolina two hours away from any of Bryan Cave’s offices. Once again, Bryan Cave did not falter. They supported Shayna’s move across the country, encouraging her to keep her family together. The closest office to her husband’s duty station was in Charlotte, and they welcomed her with open arms.
Shayna says that, “Family values are not something that many employees can say they learn from their employers, but in my situation, I can.” Like many military spouse attorneys, she never expected to be able to continue her career with a spouse in the military and with a growing family. Yet she has been able to do just that because of Bryan Cave’s flexibility, understanding, and forward thinking.
Shayna nominated Bryan Cave for MSJDN’s Members’ Choice Award because of the support the firm has shown military spouses by being accommodating, creative, and open-minded. MSJDN and Shayna resoundingly thank Bryan Cave for its support, and hope that other employers will follow suit.
Find out the recipient of the MSJDN Members’ Choice Award at the 2015 Annual Reception in Washington, D.C. on May 6th. Tickets and information available here.