From the Officers, Women Lawyers' Interest Group, October 2020

Back to Women Lawyers' Interest Group publications

From the Co-Chairs

We have missed meeting you all at conferences and social get-togethers. Nothing can replace the charm of meeting in person. That said, technology has been a big saviour. With technology at our help, we have been able to carry forward our initiatives through webinars and several such innovative outreach mechanisms. Disruptive events such as this Covid-19 pandemic tend to open up the field for fresh thinking and general acceptance to newer ideas. With businesses globally, more than ever before, feeling the need for diversity in cognitive ability to see through these difficult times, we see this present time as an opportunity to carry forward the momentum on workplace diversity initiatives. Covid-19 is showing us yet again why the world needs more strong female decision-makers. As per a recent report, prevention and control measures for Covid-19 have fared better in countries with female leaders. We look to our future with measured confidence and encourage your participation in our digital initiatives during this time.

Charandeep Kaur and Patricia Menendez-Cambo

From the Officers

What a year this is turning out to be. Virtual courtrooms, virtual boardrooms, and in a lighter vein, virtual weddings – no joking, a big movie star wedding was livestreamed through VR (virtual reality) for friends and family! At our firm, working from home has become the norm for the time being and we meet virtually every Friday over specially curated music playlists/talks and have meditation sessions during the day and evening each day. Such initiatives have helped us keep the morale high and our people have really responded well to the challenges thrown by the pandemic. In times like these it’s important to recognise that everyone is facing unique challenges and the importance of fostering a culture of empathy. On a personal front, more virtual meetings have freed time which I am now enjoying doing stuff I have always wanted to but never had time for.

Charandeep Kaur
Trilegal, New Delhi; Co-Chair, Women Lawyers’ Interest Group

The pandemic hit hard and it took from us some very precious things, including physical interaction with other people and the freedom to travel around the globe. However, it has also given us something valuable which is a slowdown in our everyday lives, an opportunity to reconsider the way we live and work. And to start organising ourselves differently – smarter or just better. Cut down on commuting, cut down on travelling, more online work, more work from home. More time with your loved ones, less social appointments, less I-ought-to-stress, more reflections over life and priorities. Seize the day – use this unique opportunity to separate the expectations (yours and others’) from your sincere wishes. And pursue the latter! I very much look forward to meeting you online or later at one of our physical events in a hopefully not-too-distant future.

Lise Lotte Hjerrild
Horten, Copenhagen; Senior Vice Chair, Women Lawyers’ Interest Group

My hope is that we take the lessons learned from this global pandemic and grow from them. Covid-19 has brought unprecedented challenges mixed with an amplification of existing social issues. As we continue navigating this terrain, it becomes clear that there is a deepening need for connection, collaboration and communication now more than ever. How we connect with those in our social network is changing, however the need for human interaction in each of those relationships remains the same. We are doing our best to check in with one another, to show support for people we care about and to build relationships through virtual platforms. We should continue to connect and offer our help where we can, especially during these difficult times where a little help can go a long way. As we work from home, we are met with many responsibilities from facets of our lives that now overlap where they didn't before. Amid all of these developments, we must remember to treat ourselves kindly. We're capable of making positive changes in our daily lives that will generate big impact. We are facing difficult times, but these are also times for collective change, innovation and improvement. We will get through this together.

Jennifer Bishop
Miller Thomson LLP, Toronto; Vice Chair, Women Lawyers’ Interest Group

I have been working from home since early March. The last months were challenging times as virtual meetings, taking classes and correcting homework were shared with the whole family. However, they were also times for rethinking about methodologies and priorities. We learned that virtual meetings can be as efficient as physical ones if they are duly prepared, and homeworking brings a lot of benefits. Prospects were also closer as everyone could attend a quick Zoom or Teams meeting to discuss potential opportunities. Clients valued updated information, care about their needs and availability to help them to look for alternative solutions. Webinars showed to be an interesting way to learn, share and comment on new problems and solutions. Female lawyers proved (again) their capabilities in homeworking, home-schooling, home-leading the team and home-business developing! Positive thinking and promoting collaboration were probably the most valuable drivers! Keep up the good spirit and let’s meet very soon!

Mariana Norton dos Reis
Cuatrecasas, Lisbon; Secretary, Women Lawyers’ Interest Group

In Japan there hasn’t been a strict lockdown, but life and business has changed a lot due to the pandemic, as in the rest of the world. The good thing is that all of us got more used to online meetings, and we can work efficiently either from office or home. Because there are fewer general in-person networking opportunities, I feel clients began to more strictly evaluate and select lawyers based on their skills, expertise and cost-effectiveness. This new trend, if any, may help female business lawyers in some sense, as chances are equally coming, based on the performance as a lawyer. Virtual meetings can never surpass in-person communication and I look forward to the day when we can get together again at on-site conferences. But until then, hope to see you all via online events.

Masako Banno
Okuno & Partners, Tokyo; Communications Officer, Women Lawyers’ Interest Group

Despite all the gravity and uncertainty of the situation, the workflow in our law firm was, in particular during the lockdown, over average. Whereas we were worried in the beginning that we could not sufficiently encourage and stay in touch with our associates and personal assistants, we were surprised to see how well it worked and how motivated everybody was. We introduced bi-weekly videoconference calls to keep the teams up to date on the workload and other projects. Moreover, we introduced in our team weekly virtual drinks on Friday evenings. The lockdown has shown us that it is possible to work from home on all levels in our law firm. It is now more accepted that partners, associates and personal assistants may include a home office day every now and then – even now that we are fully back in the office. Also digitalisation and the cloud have become even more important. Finally, it seems more acceptable now to conduct meetings via videoconferencing than in the past which is also often a plus, since the participants are more flexible. Personally, I think all these aspects are a very fortunate outcome from an unfortunate situation.

Clara-Ann Gordon
Niederer Kraft Frey AG, Zurich; Website Officer, Women Lawyers’ Interest Group

Less than two weeks after President Lacalle took office, Covid-19 landed in Uruguay, with the first cases confirmed on 14 April. On such date, the Government declared a national health emergency, but decided not to impose lockdown or quarantine. Being a passionate advocate of freedom, our President decided to give a vote of trust to the Uruguayan population, exhorting us to have a responsible use of our own freedom. One´s freedom ends where other people´s freedom begins and this very simple but very strong concept was key to the remarkable outcome of this pandemic in Uruguay. Teamwork was and continues to be an underlying concept; we were all in the same boat, surfing this unthinkable and unprecedented thunderstorm together with each single Uruguayan citizen having their own role in the result. Today, six months after the first cases were confirmed, life has been as ‘normal’ as it can be for some time now; the ‘new normal’. Kids are back to school, we are back to the office, small social gatherings are acceptable and so on, but we are all still very much aware of the fragility of this situation. Yes, we feel proud; but we will not cry victory until this nightmare reaches an end in each and every corner of the world, because today, we have it clearer than ever: a chain is as strong as its weakest link.

Corina Bove
Guyer & Regules, Montevideo; Membership Officer, Women Lawyers’ Interest Group

Italy has been one of the first countries to ‘experiment’ with Covid-19 relief measures and we saw, in the long lockdown, our lives, social habits, work and life style totally changing. The pandemic, totally unexpected and so hard for all, has also been a time of discovery both for our professional and personal lives. Clients appreciated more than ever lawyers who proved to be trusted advisers, capable of supporting company managers navigating the incredible flow of emergency legislation, helping them to act/react quickly to daily changes due to the circumstances: being close to clients during the pandemic was a winning point. The search of a new balance also in our daily lives, working from home but with real work requiring real concentration, has been a real exercise for all of us, a step for personal growth. Let’s take the good from this hard time, being active, prioritising the day with clear goals to make it productive even if we are not in the office – time to rebuild the community, our lifestyle and time for opportunities. However, always ready to take the first international flight for an in-person conference when the time will come!

Annalisa Reale
Chiomenti Studio Legale, Milan; Conference Officer, Women Lawyers’ Interest Group

Peru, my home country, swiftly implemented a full lockdown upon identification of the first Covid-19 case. We remained in lockdown for over 100 days and while the measurements taken were quick and tough, currently we are ranked in the top ten in the world in terms of number of cases. It is easy to feel discouraged at this point. Most of us haven’t seen our relatives in months, or terribly, a loved one has sadly passed away. This is a time to look forward to the future, understanding that what we do has a direct impact on our and everyone else’s health, work hard to rebuild our economies, but above all, to enjoy and cherish the time we have with our families. When this all passes and it will, we will mostly remember the days and months we spent with our children, partners and family. Let’s enjoy it and live it fully!

Ursula Ben-Hammou
Rodrigo Elias & Medrano Abogados, Lima; Scholarship Officer, Women Lawyers’ Interest Group

I don’t think six months ago I would have thought that I would be yelling ‘don’t forget your mask’ before my family leaves the house (I can’t imagine that any of us would have foreseen then where we would be today). While physically we are forced to be further apart, in some sense the world has never been closer together as we haven’t lived through one simultaneous global experience such as this. Although it has been difficult for all of us, especially given all the additional work being piled onto the already full plates of working mothers, it is important for our mental wellbeing to reflect on the positives brought by the current situation: the gift of additional time with children who leave the house all too soon, the video calls with friends we haven’t seen in a long time and the positive impact on our environment. As the saying goes, ‘this too shall pass’, and hopefully we will all be able to be together again soon.

Alexandra Aguirre
Morrison & Foerster LLP, New York; Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Women Lawyers’ Interest Group

Guatemala has been no exception to the rest of the world, with Covid-19 having had a major impact in the country. Numbers are still increasing so the pandemic is not part of our past but our present. The need for adjusting legal services from home has been a challenge, especially when that decision was taken from one day to another. Covid-19 has highlighted the need for everybody to adapt and adjust to new conditions, and especially for us as lawyers to be able to react to a changing world that offers no certainty of the future. Clients will need our ability to help them adjust their business and expectations to the so-called ‘new normal’. My experience has been that this is the time for us to be there, listen and follow up with clients as part of their team, and show that we care for their business, their health, and most importantly, their lives.

Gabriela Roca
QIL + 4 Abogados, Guatemala City; Mentorship Officer, Women Lawyers’ Interest Group

We have been working from home since the end of March. In Colombia, cases are still surging and probably we are just now reaching the peak, hence reopening our offices soon doesn’t seem to be realistic.  So, we have taken a second breath, facing fiercely this second half of the pandemic. We must keep up our spirits because although the uncertainty we are facing right now is enormous, without a doubt this crisis will pass and we need to be strong and healthy to actively work for the recovery of our economies. Our most important obligation right now is to be part of the solution, to be safe and take care of our families and employees, to adapt to this ever-changing environment and work enthusiastically through this crisis. We need each other more than ever so let’s take care of each other and let’s make this our new normal.

Claudia Amparo Barrero
Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uria, Bogota; Projects Officer, Women Lawyers’ Interest Group

I am proud to be the first male officer of the IBA’s Women Lawyers’ Interest Group. As head of my firm’s Human Capital Committee and our Gender Equity/Equality Committee, I have seen our young partners and associates adapt brilliantly to the ‘new normal’ during the pandemic. This has been challenging (personally, emotionally and professionally). At the same time, for young lawyers, both men and women, it is also a time of opportunity. The skills and abilities of the younger generations of lawyers are very valuable in these times of increased reliance on technology, collaboration and innovation. We will get through these trying times and I encourage all young lawyers to showcase their strengths in these areas. Let’s make the best of it!

Neftali Garro
BLP, San Jose, Costa Rica; Young Lawyers’ Committee Liaison Officer, Women Lawyers’ Interest Group

Back to Women Lawyers' Interest Group publications