Global Elite Thought Leader Tina Wüstemann explores steps firms can take to ensure equal representation among its leadership as well as key challenges currently facing female lawyers.
I prefer advising individuals and their families rather than corporations. Private client relationships are long-term and sometimes they even extend to the next generation. Apart from that, our clients have a need for a broad variety of services covering different areas of law, which makes my job as a private client lawyer so interesting.
When I started as a lawyer 25 years ago, there were few female partners working in big law firms, a traditionally male-dominated sector. A common challenge faced by many female lawyers – but also women working in other sectors – is to build up a family and a career at the same time. The problem is, however, in my view not so much about working mums, but more about challenges women face in general in getting ahead. In my case, becoming an equity partner took time. I was the first female partner at Bär & Karrer and needed to learn how to build up my business case and my own practice, which was sometimes difficult in a male-dominated environment.
A lot has been achieved during the past 10 years though, and I see more and more successful women in the legal profession in managerial positions. I am proud that at Bär & Karrer we now have seven female partners out of 50 partners in total – among the highest ratios in Swiss law firms. My role is now to coach and encourage young female leaders.
I believe that efforts to support the development of current and future women leaders in the legal sector are highly important. At Bär & Karrer, our gender equality efforts focus on supporting female lawyers in making it to the top. I am aware of what it takes to balance both career and family and I was grateful for any support I received.
While high-net-worth individuals would often prefer male lawyers when I started practising, they nowadays equally entrust female lawyers with their legal affairs, which helps younger female colleagues to build up their business caseload and hence their career. In certain cases private clients prefer being advised by women to gain a diverse view on the situation.
I try to encourage my female colleagues not to rush things, and to take things step by step. My advice is to be self-confident, and lead, encourage and inspire other women so that they can develop their full potential.