It is wonderful being a woman and equally wonderful being a lawyer. Being both together, however, is a challenge that is intensely rewarding. And extremely strengthening. I grew up in an extremely gender-equitable and liberal environment. So, when I entered a profession which at that time, was quite a male-dominated bastion, I found it a little strange and slightly unreal. But if one is sure of one’s own worth, one does not really need to bother too much.
Things are very different now. Much larger numbers of women are joining the legal profession and they are forging new paths to move forward, when they find the old ones restricting. Interestingly, there are many more avenues and opportunities within the profession open to a young entrant today than what was available, say, even ten years ago. But some things still remain unchanged. It remains one of the hardest-working professions, which gives you no quarters and doesn’t forgive mistakes. Men say it’s a jealous mistress. Women don’t even have that luxury.
As I often say, being a lawyer , a mother, a wife and a daughter means you are doing atleast 3 full time jobs at the same time. My son has been a back-row attendee in many an arbitration. He has had a work table to himself for months in an overseas office where I was at a Client site. He has even been down in under construction Metro Tunnel to check out project execution!
I believe it is only women who have the strength and grit to do this while doing justice to each role. Or perhaps we don’t give ourselves a choice about this. And we need our support system. A mother who looked after my son and my niece for years so that both my sister-in-law and I could continue in our respective professions. A husband who would take care of my infant son if I needed to put in an all-nighter at office.
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I believe that Women can only push forward if they support each other, both at the work place and at the personal front. I was brought up to believe that I can do anything if I am determined to do it. I have tried my hardest to maintain the balance in my various roles on that basis. And I think women bring the same balance in judgment to the task of problem-solving in a corporate legal advisory set up. Today my team includes so many smart, dedicated and extremely motivated women who give their fullest to all spheres of their lives. They excel in Corporate Law Practice in their interface with the business and financial world. They are my pillars of strength. In this piece, I echo their thoughts as much as my own.
The practice of Law is a passion that keeps you going. Women in this profession today are a clear-headed, motivated and an extremely capable lot, who seek no favours but just want a safe, fair and equitably rewarding environment to work in. To end with an anecdote, a recent lengthy posting in Cairo at the client site was declined by every male associate at our offices citing lack of security. Every woman who was offered the job accepted it with enthusiasm. That says it all.
The author, Sonali Basu-Parekh, is partner is a leading law firm in New Delhi. She has an MPhil in Economics and an LLM degree from University of Michigan. She is admitted to practice in India and New York.