Amandla! Woman to Watch
Member of the International Arbitration Team, Hogan Lovells International LLP Munich
Looking back, I will say two major influences framed my decision to study law: (i) I grew up in Nigeria at the peak of intense military oppression, infringement on free speech and human rights. My role models were smart outspoken lawyers who criticized the government of the day. (ii) The other influence was from an encounter with a lawyer who defended my family in court after a horrible incident. It was only natural for me to follow in the steps of these "superhumans" who were working tremendously to make the world a better place.
I have had many proud professional moments as a lawyer. In my current role, I am quite proud of the work I do with the German-African Practice Group and more thankful for a team that allows me to bring my "whole" identity to work.
I have had some curveballs thrown at me. However, I cannot think of any decision/action that I would have done differently. I have accepted those curveballs as lessons rather than mistakes.
As a woman in law, I frequently struggle with the need to maintain work-life balance without compromising work output or neglecting the home front. While men also strive for work-life balance, women in law, due to the tasking and unforgiving demands of the job, always find ourselves at the forefront of the search for this equilibrium.
Another professional challenge I grapple with is representation. As a woman of African descent living in Europe, I do not see a lot of people who like me in many rooms.That is why we cannot overemphasize the need for diversity in all corners of the world. To overcome the representation gap, we must take advantage of mentoring opportunities - vertically and horizontally.
i) Leverage agile work structure: I think it's imperative to seek and take advantage of flexible arrangements that are agile and effective to get the work done.
ii) Build mental resilience: I think this is a crucial, rather underestimated quality. The legal profession can be a challenging one. The average lawyer is trained to leave no stone unturned and with this attention to details comes, hailstones in form of feedbacks. We must build the mental strength to weather stormy seasons.
iii) Embracing alternative trajectories: We must all accept the proliferation of alternative paths/trajectories outside of traditional legal careers. With the level of disruption that our daily lives and industries have witnessed in recent times, it is high time all lawyers, especially professional women, embraced this change. Now more than ever before, there is a need to extend our skills/services to these non-traditional paths.