Game Changer 2013: Rochelle Karr
Director, attorney professional development & alumni relations, O’Melveny & Myers, Newport Beach, California
Rochelle Karr lives by the mantra, “You never know unless you try,” and it is indicative of her 13-year career at the law firm O’Melveny & Myers.
As the director of attorney professional development and alumni relations, she has cultivated an inclusive culture among employees and transformed the firm’s work-life balance and integration through creating and developing the firm’s flexible job-share and sabbatical program CustOMMize.
Having spent her entire professional career at O’Melveny & Myers, Karr understands the firm’s needs. When there wasn’t a staffing program available that could coordinate assignments fairly among nonpartner employees, Karr was able to identify the disconnect and fill the information gap. She created a more balanced formal work assignment system that benefited diverse attorneys and employees returning from leave.
“As a former O’Melveny lawyer, I like to think I have changed the status quo at O’Melveny by understanding the firm from both the associates’ perspective as well as from firm management’s perspective,” says Karr, 38. “At the end of the day, the interests of the associates and firm management overlap quite a bit, and by being able to spot those intersections, I think I have been in a unique position to effectively drive change.”
From the start of her career, Karr says she has kept a skeptical eye and consistently questions the effectiveness of deep-rooted office norms. In addition to changing the way assignments are coordinated, she revamped the firm’s performance management system from informal, unstructured feedback to a full-scale program supplemented by formal coaching and mentoring programs.
“Questioning the status quo and exploring ways to make things better not only allows us to distinguish ourselves from the competition, it also gives us an edge when it comes to attracting, retaining and developing our star talent,” Karr says.
After receiving her law degree from the University of California at Berkeley School of Law in 2000, Karr has continued to change the interworkings of the firm, making it a more inclusive and flexible work environment for parents and the firm’s alumni. She implemented new-parent transition coaching, midcareer attorney mentoring and an extensive alumni network for the firm that connects the firm’s current 1,586 employees with past workers.
Karr says the aspect of the job she appreciates the most is “the opportunities I have been given to grow—from speaking to article writing to trying out my ideas with complete and total support.”