Women in Wellness: “Be more proactive when it comes to self-care” with Annette Sciallo of Latham & Watkins

Authority Magazine Editorial Staff
Authority Magazine
Published in
12 min readSep 22, 2020


This might be an unusual way for a large global law firm to measure impact, but at Latham, we gauge our success one person at a time. For us it’s personal, it’s about meeting people where they’re at and engaging them proactively in their well-being journey. Whether that’s helping someone lower their blood sugar through our diabetes prevention program, connecting someone to our support resources when a loved one receives a cancer diagnosis, or giving someone the tools to build resilience in their everyday lives, we are making a difference. Although it might seem like a slow build, there is a ripple effect — on the individual, on the organization, and on those around them.

As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Annette Sciallo.

She is the Director of Global Benefits & Well-Being for global law firm Latham & Watkins, overseeing benefits, health, and well-being strategy across the US, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. In her more than two decades at Latham, she has been a driving force behind the organization’s significant investment in programs that foster well-being, including LiveWell Latham, the firm’s innovative global well-being platform, which she helped launch over a decade ago. Today, she and her team are leading on the development of best-in-class resources that support positive mental and emotional health by encouraging a culture of help-seeking, supporting access to high-quality care, and reducing stigma.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Few people know that I started my career as a legal secretary, moving to Latham & Watkins in 1996 to work for the New York office’s Managing Partner. It was clear to me from the start that this was a forward-thinking organization. About a year into the role, I approached our office administrator looking for more responsibility, and she took a chance on promoting me to the position of Benefits Coordinator. Mind you, I knew very little about benefits at the time, so it was trial by fire! A few years later, as the firm expanded its footprint, my role evolved to oversee benefit plans for our New York office, which led not long after to managing plans and programs across the US. Fast forward to today, and I lead a global team that is responsible for all of the firm’s health and welfare plans around the world.

One of the things I came to realize over the years, after studying our generalized medical claim data and the conditions being treated, was that supporting our people’s health couldn’t just be about providing robust benefits. As a result, my team and I turned our attention to preventive care and ways we could engage individuals in being more proactive about their health. The concept of ‘well-being’ was something we began thinking about back in 2005 — and later launched our LiveWell Latham well-being program with an initial focus on nutrition and fitness. In the decade to follow, this platform grew to encompass broader programming in the areas of resilience, chronic disease prevention, mindfulness, mental health, and more.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

For me, this story is interesting, because the experience really set me on a path for the rest of my career. Not long after I moved into my first benefits role in the early days, I launched a ‘health navigator’ benefit that facilitates access to doctors within a top-tier hospital system. A partner new to our office approached me, as she was seeking referrals for physicians in the area. Soon after connecting her, one of the doctors discovered that she had cancer. The colleague went through treatment immediately and remains cancer-free, thankfully. To this day, more than 20 years later, she insists that having easy access to a highly qualified physician saved her life. This experience underscored for me the power of connecting people with the right resources at the right time.

Over the years, countless individuals across the firm have come to rely on me, and my team, for this type of support. They share personal, confidential information about their health — and they put their trust in us. It is an awesome responsibility to be in a position to help people in this way, and it is deeply meaningful.

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Looking back, the biggest mistake early in my career was trying to keep my hands in everything as I was building out my team. When you work for a dynamic organization like Latham, where innovation and creative thinking is welcomed, it’s hard to shift your focus from making the sausage to planning the menu, if you’ll allow the kitchen analogy. I think a lot of new managers struggle with this. Getting comfortable with letting go and trusting that others will be up to the task, knowing that mistakes will be made along the way, is critical in any leadership role. No one person can do it all. This was a key lesson for me, and it’s one that I try to instill in all the managers who come up through the ranks on my team.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

The person who took a chance on me so many years ago by offering me that first benefits role is today our Chief Operating Officer, LeeAnn Black. She has always been a positive influence and role model for me. I’ll share a story that still resonates today. A couple of years after being promoted into a broader, national-facing position at the firm, I started doubting myself and was ready to resign, believing that the role and anticipated growth was not something I was ready for or could handle well. We’d call it ‘imposter syndrome’ today, but back then, I was just plain terrified. LeeAnn wouldn’t let me give up. She told me that ‘it’s not about having all the answers; it’s about surrounding yourself with the right people.’ It’s exactly what I needed to hear — and no, I didn’t quit.

I’ve been fortunate to have the benefit of LeeAnn’s wise counsel and mentorship for 20-plus years. Once, after watching me prep for an important presentation that would have me delivering what was likely to be controversial news, she said, ‘that was really good, but I want to give you a piece of advice. Don’t sound apologetic. Go in with confidence.’ I appreciate that she has always given constructive, straightforward feedback. LeeAnn doesn’t mince her words — and because of that, she’s helped me be a better thinker, to have an open mind, and even to chill out when I was getting in my own way!

Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

This might be an unusual way for a large global law firm to measure impact, but at Latham, we gauge our success one person at a time. For us it’s personal, it’s about meeting people where they’re at and engaging them proactively in their well-being journey. Whether that’s helping someone lower their blood sugar through our diabetes prevention program, connecting someone to our support resources when a loved one receives a cancer diagnosis, or giving someone the tools to build resilience in their everyday lives, we are making a difference. Although it might seem like a slow build, there is a ripple effect — on the individual, on the organization, and on those around them.

I’d like to share a story about this kind of impact in action. Last year, a colleague — we’ll call her M — was referred to me in profound distress. Her husband had received a cancer diagnosis several weeks earlier, and they didn’t have confidence in the aggressive treatment plan proposed to them by their doctor. M was at her wit’s end, she wasn’t sleeping, and she didn’t know where to turn. Fortunately, we were just getting ready to launch two new cancer support benefits, so I connected her quickly with these resources. In short order, M and her husband were able to get a medical second opinion, along with emotional support and advice from an experienced oncology nurse who was available to them every step of the way. The experience was absolutely life changing for this family — for the first time, M confided, they felt hope, and her husband ended up receiving a more effective and less invasive treatment from one of the best cancer centers in the world. M was so grateful that she decided to share her story with the entire firm, wanting to ‘pay it forward’ in the event that others could benefit from knowing that these types of resources were available. It’s that ripple effect.

And as a firm, we also believe in paying it forward by sharing best practices from our decade of work in the well-being space. It’s heartening to see so many of our legal and professional services peers stepping up their efforts to support employee well-being, and we relish opportunities to learn from one another. For example, we are members of the City Mental Health Alliance (CMHA) in Hong Kong and the UK, a not-for-profit that is business-led and owned by its members. The CMHA focuses on how employers can support and improve the mental health of their employees by working toward destigmatizing behavioral health issues, raising literacy of these issues, and developing practical resources and steps toward change. Latham was also one of the first signatories to the American Bar Association’s Well-Being Pledge, which commits organizations to fostering well-being in the workplace.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

  1. Incorporate a daily resilience practice. I have had the pleasure of working with Dr. Amit Sood, renowned physician and long-time Professor of Medicine at Mayo Clinic, who has trained almost 1,000 colleagues across our firm on resiliency. This bespoke program focuses on developing practices around gratitude, presence, kindness, and resilient mindset. I have incorporated these life-changing practices into my daily routine, and it helps me stay centered and focused on what matters.
  2. Be more proactive when it comes to self-care. I wish I had caught on to the benefits of this in my younger days! I am now much more self-aware when I’m not at my best or feeling burned out. Setting boundaries and taking more micro-breaks has really helped me maintain balance during stressful periods. I believe that allowing yourself to do this when necessary can defuse other and more harmful effects of stress over the long haul.
  3. Stay connected. It’s very easy to put relationships with family and friends aside when you have a busy career, but staying actively engaged with those we don’t see often has been very uplifting, particularly during the pandemic. And the added bonus is that those I reach out to have also been experiencing the same benefit for the same reason. These things sound very simple, but they have made me feel more grounded and connected.
  4. Find your happy place. If you had told me 20 years ago that my happy place would be an elephant sanctuary in Africa, I would have said no way! I never expected that a trip to Kenya with my daughter Sara last year could be so life changing. Spending time with these magnificent, gentle giants gave me such a sense of peace — and purpose. Although I can’t travel back there right now, I know that my future, particularly in retirement, will involve doing whatever I can to support elephant conservation efforts.
  5. See a doctor. This one sounds so obvious, but you wouldn’t believe how many people neglect this basic aspect of care. In today’s 24/7, ‘always on’ working culture, it’s not always easy to prioritize our health, but it’s so important. Time and again, I have seen the power of preventive care to change lives and put people on a path to greater well-being. Understandably, people may have some trepidation about seeing a healthcare provider during a pandemic, but telemedicine has become much more prevalent, and medical facilities are taking active measures to provide care safely. So don’t put off those cancer screenings, vaccinations, and other well-care needs — it may just save your life.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

It’s not a panacea for all that ails us, but if there was just one thing that I could do to help people, it would be getting them to think proactively — rather than reactively — about their physical and mental health. So often, people believe they need to be in a state of severe distress before seeking help, but that’s just not the case. Getting help proactively can often prevent short-term challenges from spiraling into major crises.

In my organization, we try not to treat physical and mental health differently; in fact, they’re often intertwined. And just as we encourage people to get an annual preventive check-up with their physician, we encourage them to do the same for their mental health. It takes time to chip away at the stigma that’s often associated with mental health, so it’s critical to stay the course on engaging people around their well-being, recognizing that the light bulb goes off at different times for them. I’ll be there when they’re ready!

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  1. Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks. I had less confidence when I started than I do today and learned that mistakes can teach us many things — and open up future opportunities
  2. Learn to Delegate Well. Shifting from ‘doing’ to ‘leading’ is a difficult transition to make, but it’s important to get this right because it not only provides the opportunity for a leader to lead, it provides the chance for others to grow and shine professionally.
  3. You don’t need to have all the answers. At a critical early career juncture when I was driven by the fear of being perceived as a professional lightweight, I learned that in a growing, evolving field, it is impossible to know all the answers. You just need to know where to find them!
  4. Don’t let the naysayers get you down. One of the benefits of working in a dynamic and forward-thinking organization is that all opinions are welcome. It’s also one of the challenges! Engaging a naysayer is an opportunity to exchange perspectives and understand a broader context. Learn from these experiences, and let them enhance but not get in the way of your vision.
  5. Trust your gut. Get comfortable applying the data from your reliable sources to make the most informed decisions, with confidence.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

I’ve spent the last few years focused in particular on mental health, and this work has never been more vital than it is right now.

Those in the legal profession are already at higher risk than the population at large for depression, anxiety, and substance misuse — and this long period of disruption and uncertainty has affected so many of us personally in profound ways. Research and survey data highlight that the effects of the pandemic extend to mental and emotional health as well as physical health. While not everyone has been impacted the same way, nor to the same degree, this crisis continues to take an emotional toll.

More than anything, we don’t want people to suffer in silence or feel they lack support in addressing challenges they face. There’s no shame in seeking help. That’s why I am incredibly proud of the work we are doing at Latham to support our colleagues, from providing access to confidential counseling 24/7 and offering mindfulness / resiliency resources, to training our managers and supervisors to recognize signs of when a colleague might be struggling and how to get them connected to resources that can help.

I am truly thankful that I work for an organization that cares so much for its people — and most days, I feel like the luckiest person in the world that I get to do this work.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

You can follow Latham & Watkins on LinkedIn.