Portland law firm Buchanan Angeli Altschul & Sullivan LLP was named the recipient of the 2011 OWLS Workplace Leader Award.
OWLS’ mission is “to transform the practice of law and ensure justice and equality by advancing women and minorities in the legal profession.”
By thinking outside the traditional law firm model, Buchanan Angeli Altschul & Sullivan LLP (BAAS) has structured a firm that provides outstanding legal representation to clients while allowing its attorneys–partners, of counsel and associates–to each maintain the work-life balance that works best for him or her.
BAAS is 50-percent women-owned, with two female partners–Courtney Angeli and Dana Sullivan–and two male partners–Paul Buchanan and Andrew Altschul. While there is a “managing partner,” the partners’ decision-making is accomplished through communication and consensus. Rather than focusing on how much a partner could “bill” annually, the firm is premised on the notion that after meeting a baseline obligation to the firm, each attorney should be able to structure his or her own work-life balance. Thus, each partner is committed to meeting his share of the overhead–which includes expenses, an investment in the firm itself and a commitment that BAAS will be an active corporate citizen–but, beyond that, is free to tailor his or her practice as the partner sees fit. There is no penalty–explicit or implicit–for the partner who may choose to work less than another partner. By controlling its overhead and actively incorporating a focus on individualized practice plans, the partners at BAAS are able to achieve a healthy work-life balance without compromising client representation or the firm’s success.
Recognizing that there are outstanding lawyers in the community who do not want to practice in a traditionally structured firm, BAAS has created a business plan that allows it to tap into that talent pool. BAAS employs four non-partner attorneys: one of counsel attorney and three associates; again, two women and two men. Each is offered total flexibility in their work schedule and all currently work on a reduced-hour schedule, largely from home. Their compensation, when compared on an hour-to-hour basis, is competitive with large law firms, as are the benefits they receive. In addition, each attorney has the flexibility to take on a greater workload throughout the year based on his or her desire to earn or grow professionally. The firm’s priority is not that the non-partners meet a pre-set “billable hour” target but, instead, that each attorney meets the expectations of the clients for whom he or she has agreed to work. Redefining the expectations of a non-partner in this manner allows each to have a successful law practice–one that benefits BAAS–without forcing them to compromise their personal priorities.
The firm’s commitment to professional excellence without sacrificing personal happiness permeates the entire firm. The BAAS staff tells OWLS that they are given a great deal of autonomy in coordinating their schedules because the partners trust them to do so in a way that ensures that the firm’s needs are met.
The beneficiaries of the BAAS approach are not only its members and clients. The firm’s approach also permits each attorney at BAAS to provide pro bono or reduced rate work as he or she sees fit. The attorneys in the firm have provided such services to no fewer than 15 non-profit organizations.
By restructuring the traditional law firm model to focus on revenue rather than “billable hours,” BAAS attorneys are truly able to maintain a healthy work-life balance, contribute meaningfully to the community and provide their clients with outstanding representation. For that reason, OWLS is honored to provide it with the 2011 Workplace Leader Award.