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Isabel Boaten

Managing Partner, AB & David, Ghana.

Why did you decide to study law?

To be honest, I was not one of those young people who knew what they wanted to become early in their lives. But just before I entered University, I had this strong sense that I wanted to help people. I was not quite sure of how I was going to do this. By the time I had to make a choice of my area of study, my consciousness of what was fair and unjust had been awakened by the painful experiences of disadvantaged women and children around the world. And I thought to myself - I know what I want to be - a lawyer.

What is your proudest professional moment thus far?

Becoming Managing Partner. It was not the position, but the absolute show of trust in me. The following year, I successfully led AB & David’s campaign to become the first law firm in Africa to secure Lexcel – the Law Society of England & Wales’ accreditation for the highest practice standards.

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Looking back, what is one decision/action you would have done differently?

In the earlier part of my career, I equated my success with making every team member better. It took me a while to realise that not everybody was interested in my plan for them. I know now that sometimes it is necessary for people to exit to make the team better.

Share some major professional challenges you have faced, or continue to face as a woman in law.

As a woman, one recurring challenge has to do with both men and women equating an empathetic leadership style with weakness. The narrative is that to lead you must be logical and totally goal driven. The temptation to prove a point can sometimes creep up on till you realise that you are not the person leading, but someone else who is definitely not you. The challenges of balancing family and work life continue to be a real issue. In my view, work life balance does not really exist. Work or family will hold sway at one time or the other. Additionally, in a subtle way, as a woman you are either held to a higher standard or a lower standard depending on who you are dealing with. There is rarely an intermediate standard by which you are judged, so often, you are either very good or not good enough.

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What are some practical strategies for survival in the legal profession?

As a lawyer in leadership, I realise that there is so much that your "womaness" can bring to the table. I have learnt the importance of leading in line with my femininity and my personality. I realise this makes me authentic and builds trust with my team at work and the people that I interact with. I have realised that to lead people you must influence, and to have the “audacity” to do so , you must be on top of what you do , because then, even people with prejudices begin to care very little about whether you are a man or a woman. They just focus on whether you can get the job done well.

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