Finding the right fit: ORAU empowers employee Eboni James to pursue law career
For Eboni James, passing the bar exam was marked by months of cramming, late nights in the books and juggling work/life balance as a wife, mother and contracts administrator at ORAU. On the day James became a lawyer, she did so with the full support of her family, manager, mentor, colleagues and ORAU by her side.
As the first lawyer in her family, James, ORAU associate general counsel, began her career at ORAU in 2018. James was fresh out of law school and a new mother. She always had a vision of serving others. As she began her job search, her expectations were simple: to work for a company that fostered employee empowerment, allowed her to develop professionally and provided balance for her personal life and family responsibilities.
“I wanted to find a new avenue besides a common practice law firm. I hadn’t found a culture that fit me yet, and I wanted to find some place where I could be for a long time.”
James came across a contracts administrator job at ORAU. Soon after being hired, she realized that she found the right fit. While her new role provided James the chance to do work that sparked her interest and flexed her knowledge in law, it was ORAU’s emphasis on community service and employee engagement that won her over.
“Everyone told me this was such a great company to work for,” James said. She would experience this firsthand within her first year at ORAU. Still hoping to pursue her license to practice law, James knew she needed to begin studying intensely for the Tennessee bar exam. Unsure of how to continue working full-time during this time, she turned to her manager, Angela Holmberg, for guidance.
“She was immediately excited,” remembered James. “We just had to figure out a way to get this done.” ORAU President and CEO Andy Page signed off on a flex schedule and temporary leave for James so she could focus on studying away from the office. “This made me feel like they saw value in my personal pursuits as their employee,” said James.
James spent more than two months working from home and used the remainder of her paid leave to focus on the bar exam. Her ORAU colleagues let her know they were cheering her on. “My team sent me this huge basket of chocolate, popcorn and cookies. It meant so much that people at work were thinking of me,” James said.
The support didn’t stop at chocolates. The day James became a lawyer, both Holmberg and ORAU’s current vice president and general counsel, Rachel Lokitz, were there to celebrate her accomplishment. With that same encouragement, James was later promoted to ORAU associate general counsel.
“In spite of it being a crazy year, ORAU made it easy to achieve balance that most people don’t get other places,” said James. “Having the support of company leadership from the top down meant everything to me."
Now working alongside Lokitz as associate general counsel, James said she is in her element practicing law at ORAU. “I thought it would take me much longer to find the home for my career, but now I can’t see myself anywhere else,” James said. “I am truly grateful to serve here and continue with the vision I set for myself so long ago.”
ORAU provides innovative scientific and technical solutions to advance national priorities in science, education, security and health. Through specialized teams of experts, unique laboratory capabilities and access to a consortium of more than 100 major Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local and commercial customers to advance national priorities and serve the public interest. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and federal contractor, ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).