More than 2,300 companies were nominated or asked to participate in the 2018 Top Workplaces contest by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and its partner, Energage (formerly Workplace Dynamics).
Employees across the metro area responded to print and online solicitations that began appearing in September. Using survey results, a list of 150 workplaces was compiled, consisting of 25 large companies (listed below; 500 or more employees), 50 midsize companies (150-499 employees) and 75 small companies (149 or fewer employees).
Alston & Bird claimed the top spot on the 2018 list, after landing in the top five every year since Top Workplaces began in 2011. The law firm moved from No. 2 in 2017 to this year’s top-ranked workplace.
The honor is one of many accolades and accomplishments in the long history of the firm, which was founded in 1893. The 762 employees in its Atlanta office are among 1,840 globally.
“This will be our 125th year of being here in Atlanta, so we sort of stand on the shoulders of giants, if you will,” said Janine Brown, partner-in-charge of Alston & Bird’s Atlanta office. “And it’s important to us to maintain and continue the good legacy that’s been developed by so many people before us.”
Service and teamwork are hallmarks of Alston & Bird from an employee perspective, but also in its relationships with clients. The firm operates under the guiding principles and values of collegiality, loyalty, diversity, individual satisfaction, fairness and professional development.
The firm may be a century-plus old, but its benefits strive to meet today’s needs and its office on 16 floors in Midtown’s One Atlantic Center is updated with modern artwork, airy workspaces and city views.
The leadership goes out of its way to make people feel confident and comfortable, employees say.
“If I don’t feel comfortable making mistakes or being myself around the people I’m with, that’s not a place for me to grow. I feel like I trust the people around me. They trust me,” said Dan Huynh, senior associate in the intellectual property litigation group. “We all make mistakes, but it’s one of those things where you’re not afraid to go to work. That seems like a weird thing, but I have friends who have had bosses and partners who were just overdemanding. This is a place where you never feel intimidated. You never feel like you don’t want to come to work.”
The feeling of empowerment flows from personal relationships as well as structured programs. The firm’s internal Top Echelon program is designed to energize the workforce with a focus on service and continuous learning. The program’s name is actually an acronym referring to core values — teamwork, openness, planning, excellence, creativity, humor, economic value, leadership, ownership and new opportunity.
The program includes daily discussions that give insight and sharpen customer service approaches and skills, said Erma Rogers, a legal administrative assistant. The firm’s practice areas are complex litigation, corporate, intellectual property and tax, with national industry focuses. Clients include Aflac, Bank of America and The Home Depot.
“The culture is very much driven by our purpose,” Brown said. “As a law firm, we are unrelentingly focused on our client service and client success. And so everything that we do, our attorneys, our staff, everyone who’s here at the firm, we’re just mission driven to provide excellent client service. And so much of that hinges on people.”
Benefits have evolved to include three months paid parental leave, three weeks paid paternity leave, $10,000 for adoptions and surrogacy and $25,000 for fertility treatments. Medical plans also cover chiropractic care, autism, marriage counseling and gender reassignment.
Alston & Bird offers flexible hours, telecommuting and job sharing. In-home backup child care and elder care are provided, and it has a child care center.
“The firm offers excellent benefits,” Rogers said. “It seems like each year, something is being added, from health insurance to community service to outreach. With the packages that we have here, they are generous in what they offer, and for me personally, I think they’re great.”
She’s willing to commute 90 minutes each way because of the culture and friendships she’s developed in her 17 years with the firm.
“It’s a long drive, but it’s worth it,” Rogers said. “I love the firm. I love the people. It’s really the people that, I think, that makes this firm such a great place to work.”
The firm is the winner of the 2018 Top Workplaces Clued in Senior Management special award, with employees responding to the statement, “Senior managers understand what is really happening at this company.”
Employees donate paid time off through the catastrophic leave sharing program. Financial education programs, an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and a College Coach program with personalized planning for employees with children are available. Perks include concierge and errand running services, onsite massages, wellness programs and Weight Watchers at Work.
Employees also appreciate the on-the-job support. For example, an in-house technical support team provides 24/7 assistance.
“I just call the helpline. ‘Hey, I’m having computer issues,’ and they can jump right over and fix it, whether I’m at home or in my office,” Huynh said. “All things that I don’t need to think about, they’re taken care of.”
Brown, who has been at the firm for 21 years, said she looks forward to the annual breakfast that recognizes the tenure of staff members.
“It’s really an opportunity to celebrate the person’s individual service and commitment to the law firm,” she said. “And that’s incredible, to be able to see the kind of relationship and personal commitment that’s developed there.”