Law Firm Offers Careers, Support to Guard, Reserve Members
By Sara Moore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 25, 2008 Because they are military veterans and have a unique understanding of the sacrifices servicemembers make, some of the top leaders of the law firm Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge and Rice have created a military-friendly work environment that supports not only veterans, but also employees who serve in the National Guard or Reserve.
The law firm has many policies and programs in place to support its employees who serve part-time in the military, and for its efforts in this area, it is receiving the 2008 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award.
Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge and Rice, a business law firm with headquarters in Winston-Salem, N.C., has 11 offices along the East Coast. The law firm has several employees who have been deployed with the National Guard and Reserve, and the firm goes above and beyond legal requirements to make sure these employees are taken care of when they’re gone, said Bruce Buchanan, marketing copywriter for the firm, who prepared the nomination for the Freedom Award.
When an employee is deployed, the law firm makes up the difference in the employee’s military pay vs. what he would make at the firm, Buchanan said. In that pay differential, the firm includes the total amount the employee would make with bonuses and overtime, not just base salary, he said.
The firm also continues health, dental, life and disability insurance for the employee and his family, and any time employees spend on active duty counts toward the community service hours all attorneys are expected to perform, he said. The company also gives all employees in the National Guard or Reserve 10 days a year to complete military training.
The firm also does other “informal” support activities, such as sending care packages and cards to deployed employees and organizing drives to collect items for the troops, Buchanan said.
“It’s very simple. These are the people who are protecting our safety and guarding our freedom, and anything we can do for them is just a very small token compared to what they do for us,” Buchanan said. “Certainly, we can never repay the men and women in the armed forces for all their hard work and sacrifice. We do all we can, but you can never do enough.”
Chris Geis, a judge advocate general officer with the Navy and a lawyer with Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge and Rice, knows about the firm’s support efforts firsthand. Geis, who served on active duty for four and a half years and is now in the Navy Reserve, has been deployed twice. His first deployment was on active duty, but his second deployment came after he joined the reserve and became an employee of Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge and Rice.
Geis was deployed two years ago to Kuwait, and the firm took care of him throughout his time there, he said. The company made up the difference in his pay, and his coworkers wrote him letters and even helped him with the legal services he was providing to the sailors in his unit. The support continued after his deployment as well, he said.
“When I got back, it was not only as if I had never left, but they just showered me with attention and appreciation,” he said. “I was very grateful for that.”
Geis said he enjoys working for Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge and Rice because of the military culture. Many of the employees are former military, including the office administrators in four of the firm’s offices, and that makes the company as a whole more appreciative of servicemembers and the sacrifices they make, he said. His military experience also helps him in his civilian job, he said.
“You get a great perspective being in the military, not only because you know what’s important in life, but you are constantly in touch with a culture that values integrity, commitment, duty, and things like that,” he said. “And the other thing is, you are constantly dealing with all types of people in the military, and that helps you deal with your clients as a civilian lawyer.”
The firm’s leadership also recognizes the added value of employees with military experience, Buchanan said. In fact, the firm actively seeks to employ National Guard and Reserve members and retired military personnel.
“We’ve had good experiences with those people. They typically have very strong leadership skills, are willing and able to accept responsibility and have a proven track record of performance in the military,” he said.
Everyone at the firm was very excited to hear about the Freedom Award, Buchanan said. Receiving the award is a huge honor, but is also very humbling, he said. “Anything we do is only a small gesture compared to what the men and women in the armed forces do,” he said. “We’re very honored.”
Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge and Rice will receive the Freedom Award along with 14 other companies in a ceremony Sept. 18 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center here. The Freedom Award was instituted in 1996 under the auspices of the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve to recognize exceptional support from the employer community.