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Leading Questions: Stoel Rives Boss Advocates for Self-Care

Aug. 28, 2020, 9:41 AM

Lawyers are great at asking questions, but how are they at answering them? Bloomberg Law is talking with lawyers and other legal industry players to find out what their lives look like in the age of work from home.

Melissa Jones became the managing partner of Stoel Rives on January 1. Based in Sacramento, Calif., she has led the firm through pandemic-related challenges, and is also focusing on diversity, inclusion, and equity issues. Jones is a trial lawyer, and represents clients from a broad range of industries in complex civil litigation matters in both state and federal court, including the agribusiness and oil and gas industries.

Bloomberg Law spoke to Jones about how the firm is addressing diversity and inclusion issues, the importance of self-care during stressful times, and the challenges of training a new puppy during the pandemic.

Bloomberg Law: Describe your day to day routine.

Melissa Jones: Every day is pretty similar. I get up fairly early, grab some coffee, and get online at my desk by 7:30 a.m. or so. Other than a few departures from my home office to make sure that my kids are up and getting online for school, I’m usually at my desk all day. When the weather is nice —unlike this week when it’s currently 108 degrees in Sacramento— I’ll take a few walks around the block in between phone calls, or even during a phone call. I also try to give myself an afternoon break to work out at home, or will do so later in the evening. I wrap up work around 6:30 p.m., but am checking email throughout the night.

BL: What is the hardest thing about working from home?

MJ: Connecting with our people at the firm is an important part of my role, and I usually would do that in person as much as possible. Since I haven’t been on a plane since early March, I am deliberate about scheduling check-in calls with partners around the firm. It’s not the same as walking the halls, but I think people appreciate it.

Melissa Jones
Courtesy of Stoel Rives

BL: What is something your firm is doing that has been really helpful?

MJ: Our team has put together great resources to help support people working from home—everything from tips about dealing with online schooling to tools for self-care and staying healthy. We also send out a weekly email that shares stories, tips, and photos from people throughout the firm, which is a fun and uplifting read.

BL: What kinds of technology are you using? Any challenges while working remotely?

MJ: For the most part, I’m just using my laptop. I have invested in a standing desk for my home office and a large monitor. Fortunately, I haven’t really had any challenges with technology. The most challenging part of working remotely is the monotony of being at home, in the same room, all day long.

BL: You work extensively on diversity at Stoel Rives. How has that work changed lately given Covid-19 and widespread protests around racial inequality and police brutality?

MJ: The Covid-19 crisis and the national protests around racial justice have created an unprecedented stressful environment for all, but perhaps most acutely for women and minorities. With that in mind, we have worked to implement programs and actions to support and bolster our diverse colleagues. Some examples: our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee (DE&IC) compiled a Racial Justice Resources list which was distributed to everyone in the firm, and launched a 30-Day Racial Justice & Anti-Racism Challenge in July. The Challenge raised awareness and created a participatory experience, while also helping our lawyers and administrative professionals gain an understanding of terminology and ideas that are related to our DE&I efforts. The firm also acted to improve our communities by joining the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance, which connects law firms with legal services organizations to create pro bono projects that benefit communities of color and promote racial equity in the law. We also gave all of our employees time off to recognize the Juneteeth holiday. And we, of course, remain very engaged and committed to our efforts as one of the five Move The Needle law firms across the country working with Diversity Lab on these issues.

BL: What is your number one piece of advice about working from home?

MJ: Make time for self-care. It’s sometimes hard to take a break from work when you are always in your “office.” But I have found that I am much more productive and happy when I am deliberate about giving myself a break.

BL: What’s your favorite working from home story that made you laugh, shake your head, or just throw up your hands?

MJ: We decided to adopt a shelter dog a few weeks into working from home. Ultimately, it was a great decision, but having to train a puppy while working added more stress to our lives than I would have expected. Now that he’s potty trained and not chewing on everything in sight, we’re very happy to have him in our lives.

BL: What do you do to de-stress or take your mind off work when you’re trapped inside (or limited in where you can go)?

MJ: My kids got me hooked on Animal Crossing, a video game on Nintendo Switch. Not to show my age, but it’s the first videogame that I’ve played since Ms. PacMan and Mario Bros. It’s gotten very popular during Covid because it’s pretty relaxing and gets your mind off of the day-to-day stressors. So occasionally on a Sunday morning, I’ll delay reading the paper and work on my Animal Crossing island and house instead.

Editor’s Note: Bloomberg LP general counsel David Levine is one of the Move the Needle Fund’s founding GCs and is an adviser to the Move the Needle Fund. Bloomberg Law is operated by entities controlled by Michael Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mary Ellen Egan in New York at maryellenegan1@gmail.com

To contact the editor on this story: Rebekah Mintzer in New York at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com
Chris Opfer in New York at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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