Buchanan Angeli Altschul & Sullivan LLP Receives Workplace Leader Award

By Andrea Johnson, Oregon Health & Science University and YLS Futures Committee member

On October 14, the OWLS honored Buchanan Angeli Altschul & Sullivan LLP (BAAS) with the sixth annual Workplace Leader Award. The award recognizes a legal employer who makes an innovative and effective effort to promote a healthy work-life balance, acquire and maintain a diverse workforce and/or maximize opportunities for women and minorities to succeed in the workplace and advance to positions of influence and leadership. The YLS Futures Committee embraces all of these values as critical aspects of the evolving practice of law and congratulates BAAS on its achievement.

In establishing BAAS, the four partners worked collectively to design a compensation structure and work environment that would accommodate each individual's varying types of work and schedule commitments. The resulting compensation structure holds the partners accountable for their share of the overhead costs and a baseline commitment to the firm, but beyond that, each individual attorney has the flexibility to work as much or as little as suits his or her present circumstances. Meeting clients' expectations, rather than billing hours, is the top priority. All attorneys at the firm have the freedom to work from home and schedule their work time as they choose. The firm is dedicated to serving the community and encourages each attorney to provide pro bono or reduced rate services as he or she desires.

This type of firm structure promotes collaboration and reduces stress, according to partner Dana Sullivan. She explains that because attorneys are rewarded for the collective success of the firm as well as their personal success, there is no motivation not to share work. The individual flexibility of the compensation structure, however, allows each attorney to establish his or her own balance.

BAAS makes collegiality among coworkers a priority, particularly because this can be a challenge when coworkers are frequently working from home and do not see each other in the office. The attorneys collaborate effectively through frequent phone and email contact, and firm functions are fun and well-attended.

"We have a lot of fun!" Sullivan comments. "The fact that everybody's happy is a plus in terms of the quality of work we put out."

In addition to promoting a healthy work-life balance, BAAS sets an example for gender equality in the legal workforce. Half of all BAAS attorneys, including two of the four partners, are women.

For newer attorneys, Sullivan characterizes BAAS's model as "something to aspire to." Success within the flexible compensation arrangement and work schedule requires the development of a skill set that can only come through experience. While this level of independence is desirable for many reasons, young lawyers in such a setting may find themselves at a disadvantage without the usual opportunities for mentoring found in more traditionally structured firms. Each attorney at BAAS came to the firm with a solid foundation of experience. Being a partner in this environment requires a reliable client base and established sources of income. Sullivan encourages newer attorneys pursuing this type of flexible arrangement to pay their dues in their early years of practice and focus on developing the skills needed to work independently.

The YLS Futures Committee echoes OWLS in recognizing BAAS as a Workplace Leader. BAAS has established a highly successful law practice that is at once dedicated to its clients, involved in the community and forward-thinking in its development of a collaborative and flexible work environment.