Interview with: Kresna Panggabean and Benny Bernarto, TNB & Partners

Kresna Panggabean
Benny Bernarto

GC: What do you see as the main points that differentiate TNB & Partners from your competitors?

Kresna Panggabean (KP): We are one of the few international firms operating a disputes practice in Indonesia. Most international businesses know that Indonesian courts can be notoriously challenging to navigate and that the legal market for dispute resolution is dominated by local players. While we are happy to provide clients with a full service offering, we do not focus on matters in the local courts. Instead, we focus on cross-border corporate disputes where we can plug into the strength of the Norton Rose Fulbright network to add value.

Benny Bernarto (BB): Norton Rose Fulbright has been an established presence in Indonesia for nearly 30 years from its Australian connection and has, through various forms of associations and incorporations, acquired longstanding expertise in the Indonesian market. While the core strength of our practice in Indonesia has been handling corporate and banking and finance transactions, over the last three years we have been putting a lot of effort into building our dispute resolutions offering, working hard to increase the capacity of the firm to serve clients on a broader range of matters.

We (Kresna and I) are corporate lawyers by background, which helps a lot in understanding the nature of corporate disputes. In my experience, there are not many disputes lawyers in the Indonesian market who have a strong corporate background or understand complex, cross-border corporate transactions. We have knowledge of how international companies operate and can follow what our partners across Norton Rose Fulbright have seen in other jurisdictions and bring that expertise to bear on matters in Indonesia.

As a rule, clients want to work with the same firm or lawyers. If a dispute arises in connection with an M&A they want to stay with the same firm. Likewise, clients who deal with Norton Rose Fulbright offices outside Indonesia want to keep the same firm if they end up facing a dispute elsewhere. Because these clients are based outside Indonesia they are often unfamiliar with the very unique market dynamics

GC: What are some of the trends facing the dispute resolution landscape in Indonesia?

BB: Business is becoming more disputatious and client demand for dispute resolution services is increasing. This will certainly continue. As the global market becomes more sophisticated we will naturally see more disputes. Market sophistication leads to disagreement and dispute, new regulations lead to disputes, and cross-border trade is almost inevitably going to be followed by cross-border disputes.

KP: Indonesia is an incredibly disputatious market. In the last couple of years, we have received an increasing number of enquiries from clients facing disputes, so it is important for us to have a strong disputes offering. There are really two main sources of these disputes. We are seeing more disputes related to M&A or joint ventures, but we are also seeing an increase in things like anti-bribery and corruption investigations. That means disputes are evolving and a disputes lawyer can no longer focus only on the sorts of matters which end up in court. We have worked hard to help clients when things go wrong by specialising both in the fast-moving nature of cross-border investigations, which are typically being driven from the US, while also integrating our disputes offering more closely with the corporate practice.

GC: What are some of the issues international clients need to be aware of when it comes to facing a dispute with an Indonesian counterparty?

KP: My first advice would be to settle disputes before they go to court or arbitration wherever possible. Of course, this is not always possible, but it is certainly worth exploring any avenues that can lead one away from a dispute to reach a mutually agreeable solution.

Mediation and other forms of ADR are recognised here but are neither common nor effective, and it can be a challenge to get an Indonesian party to consider settling. However, we work closely with our clients to explore all options and examine the likely costs of each course of action.

BB: Most disputes are driven by business teams. The commercial view is that if you can’t get what you want you go to court and try to win. We like to remind them that in order to do that they will need to spend time and money. Clients understand that disputes are expensive, but they rarely appreciate how time consuming and expensive they can be.

There can be a tendency for business to see things like employment-related matters as “not real disputes”, but even these can become very expensive if they are not handled properly. There is a temptation to think, “it’s just an employee, let’s go to court”, but the costs and timelines can spiral unpredictably.

Similarly, we advise businesses to be proactive when it comes to investigations as the processes can be quite unpredictable. For example, we were instructed by an oil and gas contractor based in the US to conduct an investigation into suspected bribery involving several of its employees. We teamed up with our colleagues in Singapore to interview their staffs and establish a case for termination. However, we quickly discovered that the alleged practices were not confined only to those employees facing investigation but were in fact prevalent across most of the sales division. What started as a relatively contained FCPA compliance investigation became a systemic problem for the business involved.

KP: The next most important consideration is to determine whether you are going for litigation or arbitration. Our position is generally to push for arbitration, particularly when advising entities based outside Indonesia, as it is less complex and has a more certain timeframe. It is also safer – arbitral awards can be enforced in Indonesia while court judgements generally cannot be enforced.

In terms of selecting a seat we recommend that our clients based outside of Indonesia push to have their disputes settled at the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) or Indonesia’s arbitration centre – Badan Arbitrase Nasional Indonesia (BANI). Both have a good list of arbitrators, including many who are internationally recognised, but it is often preferable for international businesses to seek a neutral jurisdiction.

In Conversation: Rupert Skellett, General Counsel, Beggars Group

GC: Tell us about your pathway into law?

Rupert Skellett (RS): I initially read English Literature at University and ended up working in book publishing for Penguin. But, I decided that wasn’t for me, and I felt that I needed some kind of “skill” that would make me employable: I was great at analysing and reading literature, but, not really much else. So, I completed a law degree at City University of London and then went to bar school and then a commercial set of chambers. When my pupillage finished, I didn’t fancy going to the bar, so I managed to get a job in Simkins, in their music department. I was there for a year or so.

Then, I went to work for a sole practitioner- James Rubenstein- who worked from his flat in West Hampstead, which was a bit weird, but it was great because it was very hands on sort-of- training: I’d sit about two yards away from him in his office. His clients included a few record labels, one of which was Domino, and another was Beggars. I ended up doing a lot of Beggars’ work. So when Martin Mills, the owner of Beggars, decided he wanted an in-house person, I’d already been doing the job for a couple of years and essentially, I was the natural choice. I will have been at Beggars for 20 years in January.

GC: Tell us about your work day, what items fall under the realm of legal at Beggars Group?

RS: Well for me, the priority of the work is to find new recording artists to sign. That is basically the goal, the one thing we all strive for. What we try and do is sign independent, alternative music and that’s generally UK or US based. Although, that is slightly changing in recent years. The idea is: that we don’t find acts which we think are going to sell loads and loads, instead we sign acts because we like them; we think they’re interesting; and we think that people should hear them. That’s the most exciting part because you go to see an act play live, and then hopefully you negotiate with them and sign them. So, that’s obviously a big part of the job: negotiating the terms of the deal and drafting the recording agreement. A lot of my work, apart from negotiation, is drafting in-house, probably more so than private practice. It’s a specialism, certainly for a music in-house role.

GC: What’s involved in the negotiation stage?

RS: You’ll often be in competition with a bunch of other labels, the artist’s lawyer will be representing the artist and then they will be representing various terms they have in other offers from other labels to you. Then, you have to decide whether you want to match them or not. There are things we can offer that other labels can’t: we very much pride ourselves on being a global company and that means we’re able to offer a really good deal to artists, because none of the revenue we receive goes through an inter-company royalty matrix—which other major labels operate. This is our distinct advantage.

We also sign far fewer acts than other major labels in order to really concentrate on each act. The way we’re set up is that we have our own people on the ground in every major record market in the world–who only work on our releases. We can bring a real focus to pushing, promoting and marketing our artists, much more so than other major labels. If you sign to a major label in the UK, you don’t really have much assurance, that you as an artist, are going to get any priority when your record is released in the US: you basically have to try and persuade your UK label to convince your US label to get behind you. Whereas, with us, it’s much more top-down. The company is run from New York and London, what we sign is prioritised throughout the world.

GC: You’ve been working for Beggars Group for around 20 years now, how has the music industry changed in those years?

RS:  The industry has changed massively in the last twenty years. For a long time, it was in the doldrums. For the first 15 years of this century, the global record industry kept on going down and down, to the point where it basically became half of what it was in the heyday years of the 90’s, with CD’s and the rest of it. The problem was piracy. Piracy was a huge problem which came with the internet. There were attempts in the early 2000’s to license various services and they didn’t really get off the ground. So, for a long time we were fighting piracy and tech companies who didn’t value rights in the same way that we do- so that was a real problem. But, since 2015, the global record industry started to grow again and that’s down to the streaming services—Spotify initially, then Apple Music and Deezer, for example.

GC: Tell me more about these streaming services, how have they changed the market?

RS: Spotify specifically– because it provides a free service and has basically removed any need for anyone to pirate any music. There’s no real excuse to pirate and it’s a lot more convenient. Still, there’s a certain amount of technological knowhow that you need to pirate music. However, things the music industry has been doing, in terms of blocking pirate sites, has helped. Trying to get search engine companies to cooperate with that, is quite tough. So, that’s what I was saying about trying to persuade tech companies to play nice with rights. That’s been a major challenge, but there are signs that is improving. But, it’s down to those efforts in the industry and also the availability of companies like Spotify, who have a great service—you basically have all of the world’s music at your fingertips, in a nice, easy way to find music.

GC: You mentioned piracy a past challenge to the music industry, what are the current challenges that you face today as a GC?

RS: What’s really interesting about today, is that when I was a teenager and in my early twenties, I was really into dance and house music. And, you couldn’t get it anywhere—it was really hard—there were a few record shops in London—a handful outside of London, there were barely any radio stations—and that was really exciting. But, now you have the exact polar opposite problem, you don’t have scarcity, you have too much content—so much content. Every day, hundreds of thousands of tracks are uploaded on Spotify.

GC: That must be quite difficult for you when you’re searching for talent, there’s so much content out there, where do you begin?

RS: This concerns going down the path of monitoring data. That’s obviously quite easy to do now, because there’s so much data out there and so many data collecting systems. Other record labels quickly initiate their flagging systems for anything that looks as if it’s doing quite well and they just sign whatever is on that data system. Whereas, we still definitely operate on the basis of seeing the artist play live, meeting them, getting a feel for their vision and obviously whether we love their music or not. So, the massive challenge is, even if you do sign the artist, how do you get that artist content above the tidal wave of other content that’s out there? That’s something that we’re really good at, because we are quite niche, and we have this global army of fans who promote an artist’s music. That is the real challenge now: the enormous amounts of content generated, which is down to cheaper recording processes and distribution. I mean, anyone can upload content, get a distribution partner and then have your music up on Spotify.

GC: Has social media had an impact on the growth of an artist?

RS: Social media is very important to an artist’s career now. But, you can experience a problem where you’re massive on social media but that doesn’t translate into consumption or sales of recorded music. So, you need to be careful that you tie them all together properly. There’s a lot of “well, why you can’t do this?” promotion, and it’s a constant battle between “promotion” and rights exploitation, and getting paid for rights exploitation. If you’re exploiting rights, you need to pay for them, because that’s our business and that’s what we thrive on.

GC: You spoke earlier of royalties and licenses. What’s the role that you play in the acquisition of a song?

RS: We have a publishing company, but we, the record company, handle the recordings—this is a separate copyright to the song itself. So, our music publishing company handles rights and acquires rights to songs. They sign song writers to exclusive song writing agreements. I’m involved in that side of things: the signing of song writers, in much of the same way as the record side; helping negotiate terms with the publishing company and then drafting the agreements. But, in terms of licensing songs, for instance, if someone were to use one of the songs in a TV program, or in a computer game, then we have a global licensing department who handles those things.

GC: You said that you work with alternative music, so you have a couple of clients from the UK grime scene, who have in the past, been faced with criminal allegations, how do you deal with that? What are the ramifications when clients face criminal proceedings?

RS: We’re as supportive as possible, where we can be. Mostly this is an issue for the manager and the artist lawyer, not us as the label.  But I do remember that with Giggs, when we were about to sign him in 2006, the Metropolitan Police phoned us up and told us not to sign him. But, we went ahead anyway, because, we thought it was wrong to deny him of the chance of generating a professional career as a recording artist. Yes, people might make mistakes, but you have to give them a chance to change, it didn’t make any sense for us to say: “you’re going to be punished for the rest of your life for something you did when you were younger.”

GC: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the start of your career, after you qualified with your law degree, what would that be?

RS: Be careful what you wish for.

In Conversation: Dan Webster, Group General Counsel, Harrods

GC: Tell me about your pathway into law?

Dan Webster (DW): I studied law at the London School of Economics and went to law school in Chester. I got a training contract at what is now CMS Cameron McKenna. I qualified in litigation, stayed a couple of years at CMS and then then moved to SNR Dentons. I stayed there for a few years and then decided I wanted a change. To my surprise, an opportunity came up to be an in-house litigator at Harrods where the then owner was famously very litigious. Once at Harrods, I quickly realised that I was meant to be an in-house lawyer, and over time, I’ve evolved into a commercial, corporate, employment, IP all-rounder.

GC: Could you tell me a little about that change from private practice to in-house law? How did you find that transition?

DW: I was brought in initially as an in-house litigator. It quickly became apparent that there was a demand for more general in-house work and perhaps less than a full time job available for litigation work. So, I was very happy to broaden my skillset, I wasn’t someone who wanted to stay specialised. I was very happy to become more like a legal equivalent of a GP—if I can make a comparison to the medical profession. The fact that you can kind of turn your mind to most legal tasks, I found that very interesting, and I really enjoyed the variety. Therefore, I really embraced the opportunity to try and be an all-rounder within an in-house practice, as opposed to a specialist litigator.

GC: What does your role as an ‘all-rounder’ at Harrods entail?

DW: I oversee the legal function for the entire Harrods group. This includes commercial, corporate, IP, marketing and consumer work. I look after all the company secretarial work for the group too. I’m also data protection officer, which is probably quite unusual for a GC. I oversee all the GDPR related work. I’m also responsible for the trade mark and domain name portfolio.

GC: Tell me a little about your team and how they assist in the aforementioned work?

DW: I’ve got five lawyers, a contract manager and a paralegal (who we are currently recruiting). In addition to that, I’ve got responsibility for the data protection team, which is currently two professionals. I try to lead by example: by working hard and by having high standards. I tend not to micromanage and let talent flourish. I always seek to be approachable and supportive and to make work enjoyable for my team.

GC: What is a typical working day like for you?

I’m not sure that there is a typical working day, but this is one of the great things about being an in-house lawyer—it’s not repetitive and it’s unpredictable. You learn to expect the unexpected. You might come into work with a list of tasks you’d like to get done that day, but it’s highly unlikely that you’ll actually get through that list without the phone ringing repeatedly with queries and urgent tasks you’ve not anticipated. So, a lack of predictability is something which is a reality of being an in-house lawyer—but also one of the best things about being an in-house lawyer.

GC: How has your role as a GC changed throughout your time in the industry?

DW: I think the volume of work to be done has grown. There’s much more multitasking to do and perhaps a wider appreciation of the GC role and the legal function.

As I mentioned earlier, the legal department at Harrods absorbed the previous company secretary department and I’ve been appointed data protection officer. So, the GC role from my perspective, has become broader and more compliance focused. Even aside of my role as data protection officer, the legal work relating to data protection and data security has become a much bigger consideration during my period as a GC.

As I said, the Harrods business has grown, and so has the volume of legal work. There’s also been a shift towards keeping more of the work in-house and towards upskilling, rather than outsourcing. As a result, the legal team which I manage, has grown and all of us have had to become more versatile and more efficient.

I’ve noticed that during my period as a GC here, the legal department is increasingly seen as more of a general value-add, rather than just a legal function. We often take on more of a general role in the business projects we work on, rather than being limited simply to providing legal advice.

Being a GC is hard work and I don’t think it’s the easy option, when compared to private practice, if it ever was.

GC: Tell me about how you’re planning to use technology in your field?

DW: Another thing that’s sort of changed, is that we now have more of a focus on technology. Indeed, at Harrods, we’re currently trialling a contract management tool. It’s very early stages, but one of the contracts which we use repeatedly is a concession contract: we have many, many companies that operate concessions—effectively shop-in-shops— in Harrods, and it’s a complicated commercial arrangement. We have a fairly long concession contract. So, we are trialling technology which allows us to populate a precedent concession contract based on various different options, depending on the specific commercial deal you’ve struck on with a concession. The idea is that it will save us a lot of time and provide greater efficiency. But, as I’ve said, it’s quite a complicated agreement to do through a contract management tool. We are in the early stages, so it would be much too early to say whether it is a success or not.

GC: Could you tell me a little more about the work you do concerning trade marking?

DW: Well, Harrods has around 700 trademarks throughout the world. We need to protect our brand which obviously is very valuable. It’s one of the most famous brands out there and definitely one of the most famous retail brands in the world. The trademark acts as a deterrent to other organisations using our brand without our permission. It also means that if someone does try and use our brand without our permission, we’re able to enforce our trademark to stop this infringement.

GC: You spoke about your role within data protection, tell me about this?

DW: Companies the size of Harrods are required to appoint a data protection officer, and I took on that role for Harrods. I was appointed in the period before GDPR came into force. Therefore, I was involved in helping to manage the GDPR compliance project along with a data protection team. I am now responsible for the ongoing GDPR compliant operation of the Harrods organisation—assisted by the data protection team and plenty of other people within the Harrods organisation.

GC: Going off the back of that, is compliance a challenge for you and your team?

DW: I’ve talked about the company secretarial role and those challenges, but, we’ve got additional regulation in other areas as well. We have annual reporting obligations required by the Modern Slavery Act, and since 2019, we’ve got governance reporting obligations courtesy of the Companies (Miscellaneous Reporting) Regulations 2018. We’re also helping to prepare Harrods for the imminent introduction of IR35 which will impact on private companies who instruct consultants. As GC, I also attend the annual audit committee meeting and work closely with our internal audit and anti-money laundering team. Overall, there’s quite a lot of compliance work involved in my role, and that of the wider legal team.

GC: What are the current challenges you face at Harrods at the moment?

DW: The business never sleeps, so it’s genuinely a constant challenge—but, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The work-life balance can be an issue, but it focusses you to be efficient in the way that you work.

As well as business as usual, there’s always one or more major project to work on. At the moment, we’ve got a store-wide refurbishment project; we’ve been collaborating with in relation to the new website; and we have two new business we are trialling away from the store: H Café and H Beauty.

Two years ago, one of the projects concerned divesting ourselves of four non-retail subsidiaries. All of these deals were being worked on simultaneously and in fact all of them completed around Christmas 2017, which was a memorable juggling act.

GC: What is in the pipeline for Harrods?

DW: We’re nearing the last stages of the store refurbishment project, we’ve recently reopened our food halls and a state of the art new beauty room. We’re revamping our chocolate room very shortly. We’re re-platforming the website which will be launching early this year. We’re trialling an H Café concept in Henley, which is both a café and a click-and-collect location, with changing rooms upstairs. We’ll be opening two H Beauty shops this year, this is a very exciting new beauty concept and effectively a new brand which we’re building from scratch.

GC: What have been the high points whilst working at Harrods?

DW: I’ve been very luck to work here during a period of rapid change, which has bought Harrods success and growth. Throughout this period there’s been drive, ambition and innovation. I’ve been very fortunate to be in the organisation at this time. Some recent highlights include the projects I’ve mentioned earlier. But another high point is my current team—I’m very lucky to have such talented and dedicated colleagues.

GC: If you could go back in time, when you were starting off your career in law, what would you tell yourself?

DW: I’d say try and get an in-house secondment as a trainee or junior solicitor. This will give you an early insight into both sides of the legal profession: private practice and in-house. This will help you plot your career path and give you a valuable insight into how businesses really work.

In Conversation: Alex Scudamore, head of legal, Wimbledon – The All England Lawn Tennis Club (Championships) Limited

GC: Could you tell us about your pathway into law?

Alex Scudamore (AS): I read French and German at Bristol University, and then completed the law conversion course. Prior to starting that, I took the usual route of looking at different options in terms of what I might want to do. I ended up completing a vacation scheme at Macfarlanes LLP. Off the back of that, I was offered a training contract. I then completed the law conversion course and LPC. It was after this that my training and career at Macfarlanes started.

GC: How did you move in-house?

AS: I was in the commercial team at Macfarlanes. The department was broad in terms of the areas of law covered – anything from commercial contractual work, to IP, to brand protection and data protection. I was therefore geared up in a very commercial way. I was then sent on a secondment, initially to a card payment processing company – an industry I was not particularly familiar with. It started off as a three-month secondment, but ended up being nine months in total. It was semi-virtual, with half the time spent in their offices out in Cambridgeshire, and the other half of the time spent back at Macfarlanes. So my first taste of in-house life came when I was a year-and-a-half qualified. I then went back to Macfarlanes’ commercial department to carry on there. It was after this that an additional secondment opportunity came up at CSM, a sports marketing company. I enjoyed the opportunity so much that I ended up never going back to Macfarlanes. I ended up remaining at CSM for four and a half years.

GC: How did you come to be head of legal at the AELTC?

AS: I was very happy working in the sports marketing company. But, for me, the appeal of the AELTC was working for a rights holder, as a lawyer. When working for an agency, you’re unable to give external legal advice to your sporting clients – whether that be brands or players, you’re always at a slight distance. I was starting to think about my next move and the appeal of Wimbledon was obvious – it’s such a strong property, it’s such a strong brand, it’s established in the sporting world, and therefore an opportunity that I just couldn’t turn away.

I began as head of legal at the AELTC in September 2018. Before me, the AELTC never had a full-time in-house resource and instead used a combination of retained legal resource (via Kerman and Co.,) and other external firms. But the time was finally right to have that full-time, day-to-day legal resource, so I was brought in as the only full-time lawyer, as head of legal.

GC: What’s a typical working day for you?

AS: I would say no day is the same and the work is extremely broad. I mean, I certainly haven’t been bored since I’ve started working here, there’s been a steady workflow. There will usually be several major contracts on the go at any one time. These could be anything from a renewal with one of our key official suppliers, to queries that arise from broadcast arrangements, IP protection, ticketing issues and data protection. Recently, I’ve been doing a great deal of work on the grass court season that the AELTC has been investing in.

GC: Tell me about Wimbledon’s grass court strategy?

AS: We have invested in developing our grass court strategy. The aim of this is ultimately to provide world-class opportunities for junior players to compete on—and thrive on—grass, at all stages of their development. We’ve obviously got a Grand Slam event here, but there are many tournaments in Europe which form part of the women’s and men’s professional tours. These are very important, as we want to give players the best opportunity to play on grass. In that three-week gap between Roland-Garros, which is played on clay, and Wimbledon, which is played on grass, we have created a grass court series for the world’s top 150 players. We’ve announced a series of strategic investments to strengthen this season. We have also acquired sanctions to stage those tournaments. But, whether it’s been by way of acquiring sanctions or obtaining rights, in relation to the staging of the tournaments, we’re working with tournament delivery partners in the various territories to deliver these events.

GC: What’s legal’s role within the formation of contracts with your sponsors?

AS: If it’s a new official supplier (sponsor) deal, you will be brought into some of the earlier discussions, so around the heads of terms that might be agreed. You’re also brought in materially a little later on. We’re responsible for putting together our ‘official supplier’ agreement. We now have a standard form agreement that we will populate, often followed by some degree of negotiation. The agreement takes the form of your main body of legal terms and a schedule of rights setting out the rights that our official suppliers are getting. This is a standard structure in rights deals.

If you have a renewal of an existing agreement, then there may be certain items that would have been renegotiated commercially, so it would be our responsibility to work with the commercial team to negotiate these agreements.

Earlier on this year, we entered into a new partnership with OPPO – the Chinese mobile phone company. We haven’t worked with a Chinese partner before in the context of an official supplier arrangement, so this was an exciting new deal which also covers an entire new product category.

GC: How have you developed your skills during your time in the industry?

AS: As a lawyer, this is something that happens naturally – I have become much more strategic in a way which enables me to advise in a more commercial way. Having that ability to step away from the pure legal and really understand – to get under the skin of the business – greatly helps. Of course, you still must be that academic lawyer in many senses but I think, certainly in-house, you have a need to be both commercial and practical. You don’t want to be seen as the deal prohibitor in the organisation, you must be the enabler.

GC: Would you say that being a ‘business enabler’ is an advantage of working in-house?

AS: Yes, 100%. When you’re in private practice in a law firm, you have a variety of clients and, to a certain extent, you’re at an arm’s length from their day-to-day business. But, coming in-house, your ultimate main client is the business itself. You are there to protect – and have a credible working understanding of how the business works – whether that be financially or strategically. You also must be able to juggle the various different stakeholders within the business: from your senior board members – the executive board and here, at the AELTC, the committees, made up of members of the All England Club. You must balance those stakeholders within the business, but you must also be able to work with everybody – this includes those involved in the ‘on the ground’ delivery of The Championships. Though, for me, it’s the variety. There’s an awful lot that goes on to ultimately stage one of the best – well, we think The best – Grand Slam event in the world. As head of legal, you have a key role in making sure that you are doing everything in your power to protect the business.

GC: What sorts of challenges are you facing, or have you faced, working at Wimbledon?

AS: I think it’s getting to grips with the business – and that naturally does take time. You may have to deal with legal issues which you haven’t necessarily come against or had much exposure to before. Certainly for me at the AELTC, the area of broadcast has been a new area for me – from a pure commercial understanding, but also legally – so we’ve been working with external parties on that. It’s getting to grips with new areas – you definitely have to learn on the job. It’s not a case of looking things up in a book: reading a case isn’t necessarily going to help you, you’ve got to develop practical learning.

In my role, I would also say that it’s probably been juggling the number of different matters that require my attention legally. You also have to develop a deep understanding of broader issues in the tennis context, from a wider, global perspective. You need to grasp how the various other tennis organisations (like the professional tours for men and women, the WTA and ATP, for example) function and interact. This is very important for us as a Grand Slam event, so for me, the biggest challenge has been understanding how everything ultimately fits together.

I think as an organisation our biggest challenges are compliance related. We are delivering a major sporting event, with hundreds of thousands of people who visit the grounds, so one of our biggest challenges is security. Fortunately, we have great internal and external teams who focus on that. I think for me, it’s also certainly GDPR and data protection. We need to make sure that this continues to remain at the forefront of our focus as an organisation.

Also, there was an independent review into the sport of tennis from an integrity perspective. Since the Tennis Integrity Unit has been established, the AELTC has been actively involved in this to make sure we are upholding the highest levels of integrity in our Grand Slam event and, indeed, these new tournaments that we are now involved in.

GC: What have you enjoyed most during your time at the AELTC so far?

AS: The AELTC is growing at such a pace and we can’t afford to be complacent. We’ve acquired the Wimbledon Park Golf Club that is situated across Church Road from us – that ultimate expansion is very exciting. Further expanding our investment into the grass court tennis season has been a new thing for the AELTC – it’s been a new experience for me too. I’ve had to develop an understanding of how the ATP and WTA sanctions to stage tournaments work. Aside from some of the highlights mentioned, for me, it’s the ability to work with a range of people, and the exposure that I’ve been given within the organisation has been great. It’s pretty interesting for a lawyer here – you’re not kept siloed in your little box in an office tucked away, you are out there speaking to people. I’d like to think that I’ve become, or I am becoming, that trusted adviser within the organisation, which is what any in-house lawyer should strive to be.

GC: You mentioned the rights to stage such tournaments. Could you tell me a little more about these?

AS: It’s about making sure that the agreements we’ve got to stage these grass court events are robust enough to allow us to do what we want to do. We’ve had to juggle quite a few different parties – because on one hand, you must make sure that you’re acting in accordance with ATP or WTA rules (which govern how these tournaments must operate). Then, on the other hand, you’ve also got to manage the relationship with the entities that are delivering these tournaments on the ground. So, there has been some back-to-backing in these agreements: making sure that we’re not giving third-party rights in relation to the tournament, which we ourselves do not have. That has been quite important from a legal perspective because there’s a real balancing act around those protections.

GC: What’s in the pipeline for the AELTC?

AS: We’re continuing to invest in The Championships, which is the pinnacle of the sport of tennis. The investment in the grass court tennis season instils the love of the game in people and, ultimately, the ambition to play at Wimbledon at a young age. We also have the acquisition of the Wimbledon Park Golf Club – that was a very important moment for us in terms of our master plan for the future. We’re investing in our environmental sustainability too. Continually trying to improve and never becoming complacent is key for us.

GC: How important was mentorship for you, as you developed within your own legal career?

AS: I think it’s important to have a mentor, especially from an in-house perspective. This need not necessarily be a lawyer, but someone you can learn from in a career development perspective – someone who’s got experience of working in different organisations. Personally I don’t particularly like these female forums, because I think it actually highlights barriers which shouldn’t exist – and don’t exist sometimes.

Speaking honestly, I don’t think there are any barriers that exist for women getting into the in-house legal profession. I certainly haven’t encountered them. I think you get roles, in my experience, based on merit – and that’s the way it should be. I think one thing that I would say is that you do need to have an added confidence – I mean, certainly being in the sport sector, it has traditionally been a male-dominated industry. I think that you need to have the confidence to speak – if you’re in a boardroom with senior executives who are all men, you shouldn’t be put off by that, but certainly I haven’t seen any barriers from my side.

I think mentorship is a good thing. I think if you’re in a law firm, there is an obvious hierarchy, and naturally it is important to talk to those people who are further on in their careers about how they got there. I think this somewhat slightly changes in the in-house world. It’s helpful to have a network of other in-house lawyers to openly talk to about the challenges that you might be facing and how you go about progression – because the in-house career path is not as obvious as private practice, so to speak. I’m a lawyer for a rights holder; it is important to have a network of other lawyers in a similar position, because there’s naturally learning that you can take from other sporting rights holders.

GC: If you could go back to the start of your law career and give yourself some advice, what would that be?

AS: Stick at it. When you’re in private practice, the hours can be long (the hours are still long sometimes). I think that it can be a bit of a shock, initially. When I finished law school, I was in a corporate firm, doing pretty long hours. But, stick at it. Enjoy the learning.

I would also say have a think and take a step back when it comes to deciding what particular area of law you want to go in to. Don’t qualify into a particular department because of the people alone (although it naturally helps) – it needs to be an area that you’re truly interested in. Fortunately for me, it has been an area that I was interested in. But I’m not sure if I necessarily appreciated that back when I was choosing where I wanted to qualify. I knew I enjoyed being a commercial lawyer. But I don’t think that I appreciated how important that decision was at the time and how it would shape my career. Being a commercial lawyer has been absolutely brilliant because I’ve had the flexibility of starting off in private practice and then being able to go in-house, which has hugely suited me.

In Conversation: Ria Sanz, Executive Vice President, General Counsel, Compliance and Company Secretary, AngloGold Ashanti

GC: Could you tell me about your current role, and your journey to where you are now?

Ria Sanz (RS): I’m currently Executive Vice President, General Counsel, Compliance and Company Secretary for AngloGold Ashanti (AGA).  I’ve been at the company for almost nine years, but I’ve served as general counsel of publicly listed companies for 21 years, in range of industries including industrial gases, private healthcare, paper /pulp/chemical cellulose and more.

As head of sustainability at Sappi, a paper company, I became closely familiar with the importance of responsible and ethical business practices across a number of contexts. This role helped with my transition into the mining sector, given the diverse and extensive group of stakeholders in the industry.

I have a great legal team at AngloGold Ashanti. We work as a team to support the objectives of the business through close collaboration and involvement with our colleagues. We’ve built up a strong compliance function and programme which was implemented over the last five or six years. As a result, we’ve been successful in avoiding any significant compliance issues. This is important since we deal with governments at all levels, from presidents to mayors and other local government officials. It is critical to ensure that our people have a strong understanding of what is legally unacceptable behaviour. We are guided by our values and believe that, in order to maintain our social license to mine, we need to be a good corporate citizen and partner in the jurisdictions in which we operate.

GC: You’re on the Executive Committee and you occupy a very senior role within the business. Worldwide, that seems quite rare for legal personnel, although it’s becoming more common. Was that always the case since you joined, and is that a symptom of the industry you’re in or is that just the culture within the company?

RS: When I joined I was, I believe, the first group general counsel and member of the executive committee that reported directly to the CEO. As the general counsel, I believe you need a seat at the table so that you are well-informed, otherwise you are going to be fighting with one arm behind your back. We operate in complex environments with risks around litigation, class actions, disclosure and instances where just saying something without a comprehensive understanding could have significant legal implications. So yes, I would hope that it’s increasingly understood that the general counsel does need to be a member of the executive.

GC: When you took over the role, was there a period of adjustment and defining boundaries and relationships?

RS: Definitely, it’s normal for it to take time to get the right team in place, put in the work to ensure that the key legal matters are understood and establish one’s role and voice at the table. I’ve also been very lucky that I’ve had good support from the CEOs and members of the executive team.

GC: As far as the role itself goes, since it was a new role, were you able to define the role profile more than you would have otherwise?

RS: That’s one of the advantages when there isn’t a history of the role in place. Senior roles are, to a certain extent, also driven by personalities. People’s strengths differ, even in the same role, and businesses evolve, so I think it’s natural for roles and responsibilities to change over time.

Industries have changed significantly, too. For example, when I was with Sappi and I was asked to head up sustainability in 2007, it was not something that either shareholders or other stakeholders had such an interest in as they do now.

I believe that strong legal people need to be able to adapt in order to contribute towards the strategic objectives of the business.

GC: I imagine that influences the kind of people you hire to report to you directly. In South Africa, is there a good pool of in-house lawyers that can fulfil that role or is it a struggle to find the talent?

RS: Mining is a well-established industry in South Africa, so there is a good pool of talented people. We are also a global organisation and, as such, would look across the globe for talent.

I think more and more people find mining to be an interesting and dynamic field of work. I think younger people want to work for companies that have souls and an opportunity to make a difference.

GC: Speaking broadly about the mining sector, you touched on the fact that you have all of the issues and stakeholders that other industries have, and more. Was there an adjustment period?

RS: Yes, there was. This role has been by far the most challenging and interesting. You eat, drink and breathe the industry,  the company, and the role. It’s a 24/7 industry and, as such, requires a lot of dedication.

I think all of my experiences through the years placed me in quite a good position to take on this role. It was overwhelming to start with, but I had a great team of people that had been in the organisation for some time in addition to having a supportive CEO and executive team. A lot of these people are still in the organisation and I was fortunate to be welcomed and helped – so that made the transition easier.

GC: What do you think is the biggest challenge specific to the mining industry that the legal team faces?

RS: I think it’s the challenge of keeping up with a rapidly changing regulatory environment – and quickly having to understanding the impact that those changes will have on the business in the short, medium and long term.

GC: Is it difficult to keep your finger on the  pulse in many different regions?

RS: I think that mining has significant commonality across jurisdictions. The fact that governments expect a return on the resources is something that is common, communities look to us for employment and for CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) projects. The themes are very much aligned. It’s the implementation that can change from one jurisdiction to another – how you participate with communities; which projects would be most impactful; and how these initiatives are implemented. It is important to understand the jurisdiction and proactively manage the expectations of governments and other stakeholders.

GC: Do you have a team in every jurisdiction, or in some of them are you relying on external advisers locally?

RS: We have legal representation in each of the countries where we operate. The complement is determined by the needs and complexity of the country and the operation, and the types of interactions they are likely to have, i.e. some might interact more with the local regulators, while others with the national government officials together with the corporate team as well.

GC: In terms of the legal systems you’re operating in, I imagine there’s a spectrum, from very well-defined legal systems and regulations to jurisdiction where things aren’t quite as formal, or even stable. How do you grapple with that?

RS: I wouldn’t say that’s exactly true anymore, certainly not in the jurisdictions where we are. Large-scale mining and gold mining are at different stages in different countries. But many of the jurisdictions have had mining activities – whether it’s gold or another resource – for an extended period. More and more governments have well-resourced and experienced people that understand mining. This helps tremendously in our engagements with governments.

GC: Is it easy to keep policies consistent across the board in every jurisdiction that you’re operating in?

RS: If I’m looking at the compliance side – because we are also listed on the New York Stock Exchange and in Australia and Ghana, not just in South Africa –the need to make sure  we’re not in breach of any bribery, corruption or ethical issues, means we do apply policies across the group. It is key that those policies are developed in conversation with individuals in the group. This enables the practical application of the key principles and allows for operating consistency in a number of areas.

GC: I suppose that links to what you were saying before about the business having core values?

RS: That’s right. And also, the reality is that anything that happens in Ghana will impact on how people see you in Colombia. The importance of having a consistent set of operating values, no matter where we are and even if it is to a much higher standard than the local regulation dictates, is key.

GC: Do you set the vision for the legal team on a yearly basis or a multi-year basis? I imagine that the business environment changes quite quickly?

RS: We’ve recently had a re-look at our operation model across the organisation and have made some changes to our team’s structure. I believe this is something that needs to be revised periodically and requires regular attention, even if no changes are made.

GC: Looking ahead to the next five or even ten years, is there anything that you see coming round the corner that may impact the work that you do?

RS: I think there are going to be increased risks caused by external factors. There’s climate change – with increased rainfall,   higher temperatures and rapid population growth: we have to contemplate the impact this might have to our equipment and operating environment. Mining often has a large footprint, so are we going to need to be in dialogue with farmers and other industries for both access and ensuring the preservation of land and the environment.

Technology changes will be another area that I think will continue to gather momentum. We will need to consider the impacts to mining and our production, costs and employment model.

GC: I imagine that you have to keep an eye on the political situation globally, which obviously now is changing a lot?

RS: The political landscape is something we already look at carefully. We often need to make significant capital investment decisions with long-dated returns on capital that need to survive potential changes in the operating landscape.  For example, if a project has a six year payback period and every four years there is a presidential election that tends to come with significant changes in that jurisdiction, we have to consider the risk factors in making a decision on that project.

There are jurisdictions in which we operate now that I didn’t visit in my first five or six years at AngloGold Ashanti because they were politically stable. However, the second there’s change on the political front I visit.

GC: Is there any way that you can safe guard against that?

RS: I think, like always, you’ve got to look at the returns through a lens that considers risk and reward, like in any business. As a management team, it is our job to manage the risks to the best of our ability. We do our part to safeguard the business and its investors from this risk by maintaining a pulse on the political landscape, along with working to mitigate social, environmental and other risks through our approach. Our compliance and oversight measures help to ensure that this work is done.

GC: Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?

RS: I was talking yesterday with a colleague in another mining company, and she referred to mining being an old boys club. It’s still an old boys club and women still need to be better represented. Diversity in every sense is something that we, as an organisation, see as very important. Not only when it comes to our recruitment practices, but also in the law firms that we use. Encouraging our external advisers to also strive for diversity is, I think, another way we can push for change. That is one aspect we need to continue to work on.

GC: Have you found that law firms are increasingly using diversity as a selling point to you?

RS: It is one of the points that comes across in conversations with the law firms, particularly the topic of fair pay. Law firms, though, are realising that salary parity is something their clients find important. Hopefully they see it as the right thing to do and a key business imperative. It is something that I think we, as their clients, are well placed to influence.

 GC: Is it hard for you to assess how effective the law firms are in their diversity and inclusion pushes?

RS: It’s good to understand what programmes firms have in place. I think more and more of them do have initiatives and are progressing in the areas of inclusion and diversity.

But I do find myself also becoming more vocal. Where I see no diversity I’m now having conversations with senior partners and even driving the makeup of teams that work with us. I can have an impact through doing that. It’s also my responsibility to do it. I would expect my stakeholders to be impressing on me to have diversity in my team as well.

In Conversation: Othelia Langner, head of legal and compliance (Southern Africa and SSA), Medtronic

Othelia Langner is speaking in her personal capacity, and not on behalf of Medtronic.

GC: Can you tell me about your current role and your career journey leading to it?

Othelia Langner (OL): I’m currently responsible for legal and compliance for the Southern African and Sub-Saharan regions.

I followed the ‘standard’ route to qualify as an attorney in South Africa, and then I had the opportunity to join Simmons & Simmons in London. During my time there, I went on secondment to UBS and Renaissance Capital in Moscow, and that is what initially sparked the interest in an in-house environment. My boss in Moscow took up a position as general counsel at a private equity holding company in Almaty in Kazakhstan and he asked me to join him, so I spent some time working there, and I really enjoyed it – it was very, very interesting.

When I was considering my next career move, I was offered the opportunity to come back to South Africa and join the South African office of Fasken, which worked out well because at the time I felt I was just a little bit too junior to go in-house full time. And so I went back into private practice, doing a lot of corporate commercial work in the mining space in South Africa and the rest of the African region, with a little bit in Central Asia.

I spent the next six years or so with Fasken, went through the ranks and made partner. And then Medtronic’s legal counsel resigned and they needed someone on very short notice. I’d just come back from maternity leave and it just aligned. I initially joined on secondment and then never left.

GC: Do you ever miss private practice?

OL: No. I love being in-house. It’s a completely different way of practising law, but – depending on the day! – I love the diversity, the intensity of it. I know in-house lawyers always say this, but you really get to know the business. You don’t practice law in isolation. Actually, the ‘business’ part of it is probably 70% and the strictly legal part maybe 20%. I don’t know what the other 10% is – human nature most likely!

Certainly at Medtronic, it’s a very collegial atmosphere, and I get to  do very interesting work so no, I can’t imagine going back to private practice.

GC: It’s interesting that you dipped your toe into in-house at first, then went back to private practice, and then back in-house.

OL: I was relatively junior (four years PQE) when I was exposed the in-house world. And, actually, it really helped going back into private practice having been in-house. I think all lawyers should ideally do a stint in-house for six months or a year.

GC: In-house skills are never really emphasised throughout law school. Do you think that it takes a certain kind of person to successfully transition in-house, or do you think everyone has it in them, it’s just a case of the right experiences?

OL: Whilst I think all lawyers can benefit from an in-house experience, some personality types may be more suited than others to working in-house. You have lawyers that are very particular about doing things in a very particular way – they want to really interrogate issues – whereas often in the in-house environment you have to make the best decision you can with the information you’ve got, often very quickly in high-pressure situations. You really have to be quite comfortable with assuming responsibility and perhaps (but hopefully not!) making the wrong call. I think the expectation of lawyers in private practice is that they don’t get the luxury of getting it wrong, because they are paid for their time to get it right. And some people are more or less comfortable with that kind of uncertainty and responsibility. I definitely think you can train for it, or at the very least, you can become more comfortable with it.

GC: You mentioned you felt you were perhaps too junior when the opportunity first presented itself to go in-house. When you did join Medtronic, did you feel confident that you were ready, or was there an adjustment period? What was that like?

OL: When I joined Medtronic, I was comfortable that I had the necessary technical skill, but also the gravitas and confidence to really engage with people at a management level.

You really are expected to be a business partner and to advise the business on bringing ideas to fruition and a key component of this is to appropriately manage risk. And when talking about risk, one has to bear in mind that risk can be much broader than, for example, the legal and financial risk that might result from an indemnity clause. It can encompass business risk, reputational risk and the risk of a loss of an opportunity. It would be amazing if you could do everything without any risk but that is not not a reality. And to determine which risks are acceptable, tolerable, given what you’re trying to achieve – I think from that point of view I was very much ready. But it was still a very big adjustment. To go from being able to take the time to really interrogate things to the level of detail you are comfortable with in private practice, to being comfortable with moving quickly – but not negligently or without due consideration – it’s a different dynamic.

GC: You inherited the department at quite short notice. Was it the exact same role to that of your predecessor?

OL: The department existed, and I think we all bring our own approaches to things so we have certainly evolved (not least because of the increasing complexity of the legal and regulatory landscape).

GC: Has the team, or the structure of the team, changed since then?

OL: I wouldn’t say the structure of the team has changed, but I think what we’ve really had to focus on is: with increased demand, how do we deploy the resources we’ve got to effectively address the needs of the business?

In private practice, you’re a revenue generator, whilst in-house you are a cost centre and so, as the business grows, there is often increased pressure on the department but not necessarily additional resources available. Which means you’ve got to look at how you work with those resources.

GC: I imagine that would be a real opportunity for you to develop the management skills that might be a bit less of a focus in private practice, by learning on the job.

OL: I think in private practice, it’s a very different dynamic. It’s much more hierarchical – you’ve got your junior candidate attorneys, your junior and senior, so you manage through the hierarchy. In-house, you’ve got to manage your team, but everyone is kind of semi-autonomous. Stakeholder management is probably the bigger challenge in-house, because you’ve got your team, your local and regional business teams, the regulatory team, the finance team, the quality team, the list goes on, and in a matrix organisation it is important that the right people are kept in the loop.

GC: On the subject of internal stakeholders, is that an ongoing piece of work for you – managing the profile, not just of yourself but also the team as a whole within the business?

OL: Medtronic’s vision includes being recognised as a company of dedication, honesty, integrity, and service, so the legal and compliance function is very highly valued and there’s quite a high degree of visibility and respect. I’ve never found that I’ve had to struggle to be heard because I’ve been able to build close relationships with the businesses I support.

GC: Do you think that’s reflective of the industry, or do you think that comes down to culture of the management of the board?

OL: It is a tough one to answer. I think in highly regulated industries, the importance of legal counsel and compliance counsel is easy to see, because you need someone who can help you navigate that. You can do that with external counsel, but that also involves someone in the business taking responsibility for that process and I think it makes a lot of sense to have that skillset in-house.

So depending on what your business need or goal is, the legal counsel function may play different roles: is it principally to keep you out of trouble? Is it principally to manage contracts? To execute the deals? In my position, it’s a far broader range of risks that we need to consider and manage and so we really are asked to be partners to the business.

GC: Would you say that regulation is the most challenging part of your job?

OL: A criticism that is sometimes levelled at lawmakers is that there may not always be the level of certainty or clarity that industry would want, and so it’s really about trying to navigate that. One way of managing this is to try to understand what the intent is; what the regulators are trying to achieve, and then you try and align with what you consider to be substantial compliance with this intent (rather than looking for loopholes). It can be challenging, but it’s not insurmountable.

GC: Is it difficult to communicate to the internal stakeholders the fact that you can’t give certainties?

OL: I think the thing when communicating with stakeholders is you’ve just got to be clear about the risks that they may be assuming. So you have to form a view. They want to know: can we do this? Should we do this? You can say: ‘Well, having looked at this, this and this, there is a risk that someone can make this argument. If they did make the argument, this is what would happen. We think that this is likely or not likely to happen. Are you comfortable doing this if that could happen? If yes, then that’s a risk we are prepared to assume, so how do we mitigate that? Is there anything else we can do to stop that happening?’

The business may not always have the expertise or the legal knowledge to be able to consider all the possible different structures, so that’s where you really partner with them to understand where they want to get to and how best to achieve it in a legal and compliant manner.

GC: Obviously the industry is highly regulated, but does it change often – are you grappling with new pieces of regulation?

OL: I’d say in the last three years we’ve probably had the biggest changes to the medical device regulations in the history of the industry, not least the amendments to the Medicines Act, which created quite a lot of uncertainty in terms of how they should be interpreted and applied. And when we were afforded the opportunity to provide comments, we made sure we did.

GC: To the regulators?

OL: Yes. For two of the most challenging provisions, operation has been suspended, initially for a year and now for a further three years, while they work through the comments and prepare new drafts.

GC: Would you say that the relationship between companies like yours and the regulators is a positive one – do they take comments like yours on board?

OL: I believe in the value of constructive relationships so it is important to me that when engaging with regulators this is done in a productive way. When it comes to issues that impact the industry as a whole, SAMED also plays a valuable role in escalating matters to the regulator.

GC: As technology advances, I imagine the nature of the products your company is supplying can change quite drastically, and might suddenly involve aspects of, for example, data privacy and cybersecurity, that might not previously have been issues. Do you find the nature of your concerns or priorities shifts as the work that comes across your desk changes?

OL: Indeed, technological advances mean that we need to stay on top of an ever evolving legal landscape too and I have definitely seen an increased focus on matters relating to data privacy and security. So I have had to develop my understanding of these areas, because whilst you can certainly rely on expert advice, you need to know how to work with it on a day-to-day basis.

GC: It seems like it would be difficult, in this industry, to split up the business into jurisdictions based on geography, because of the differences between regulators and what’s allowed in certain countries. Is that the case?

OL: When grouping geographical regions there are usually certain similarities in terms of market dynamics. However, when it comes to specifics on a country level, that’s usually something that would need to be considered on a country-by-country basis. When you are responsible for multiple countries, depending on the nature of the query, you can’t make assumptions that because something is a certain way in one jurisdiction, it is going to be the same in another. You have to ask a lot of questions, and the support and guidance of external counsel in the relevant jurisdictions is key.

GC: Compared to Europe, where there are many countries that are fairly similar, here you have countries right next door to each other that are vastly, vastly different.

OL: And that’s when that comfort with a degree of uncertainty is really important, because in developing markets there may be a disconnect between what the law says and how it is applied on the ground and you need to be able to find a way to work with those dynamics.

GC: Do you ever look at other industries that interest you?

OL: I get to work on really interesting, really complex, really high-level, challenging transactions and, added to that, I get to work for an organisation whose mission – “to alleviate pain, restore health and extend life” – truly resonates with me, so that will be hard to beat!

GC: It must have that added level of satisfaction and motivation.

OL: Our mission was written by our founder, Earl Bakken, and all these years later, we still have the same mission; it still informs how we do business (and I actually have it on the wall in my office). I’m really proud that in my small way I get to contribute to making a difference to patients’ lives. I’m very lucky.

GC: Just lastly, is there anything that you see coming in the next five years, be it specific to your industry, or your job, that you think will affect your role going forward?

OL: I think in-house legal counsel play a very important role in the business. I don’t see that falling away, but I do think that it is going to change, as it already has changed. Where the most complex legal matters used to go to external counsel, I think the breadth and depth of in-house skills and in-house capabilities will continue to be developed and enhanced, so you will really have in-house specialists. If I look at our organisation, the expertise and the quality of our in-house legal and compliance teams is just tremendous.

So yes, I believe that there’s going to be more and more emphasis on in-house legal being an integrated partner to the business and having a high level of technical expertise in-house. And with a lot of organisations facing huge pressures on driving down costs, I think there’s going to be a huge focus on making sure you get the right kind of candidate in the role so that they can execute effectively across a whole range of needs.

When it comes to technology, I’m interested to see how reliance on AI will evolve. At the moment, it would seem like more of a  possible concern to those in private practice, where there’s a lot more of the commoditised work. But, honestly, in the in-house environment, no two days are the same – so it will be a long time before AI can catch up.

That said, when it comes to adopting new technologies in the in-house environment, this too will continue to advance and will require us to constantly consider how we are doing what we do and whether there are tools that can enhance the value we provide. I believe that if we remember to regularly reflect on where we are and to challenge assumptions about how we have worked in the past, then I think we can, and will, evolve.

Andrea Gualde

My journey into an in-house legal role has not been a traditional one. I reached my current leadership position as Director of legal and institutional affairs without having any previous corporate experience. In fact, I had next to no previous experience in the private sector at all!

My career developed almost entirely in the public sector, where I focused on administrative and regulatory law. In 1991, almost exclusively I started working for the Executive National Legal Counsel and Solicitor General’s Office. This was the beginning of a career that lasted more than two decades. My roles over that time encompassed many different responsibilities, but mainly I was leading legal teams at the Ministry of Justice and the Secretariat of Human Rights, where I was the national director of legal affairs. During those years, I worked heavily in the international arena, involving topics as wide-ranging as investment protection treaties and human rights. Despite the diverse nature of those topics, they shared many common aspects: the development of complex strategies; the coordination of interdisciplinary teams for international arbitrations and trials; and human rights legal proceedings and negotiations. I learned from excellent mentors the skills I needed in cases before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), the Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights, the United Nations Human Rights Council, and Mercosur.

From a very early stage, I understood that these tasks demanded combining the law’s more technical aspects with wider political analysis and a knowledge of international relations. Thankfully, politics was not absent from my education nor from my calling.

I became a student at the School of Law of Universidad de Buenos Aires in 1985. I was part of the generation that lived during the transition to democracy, which started in 1983 with the election of President Alfonsin and ended seven long years of military dictatorship. This historic circumstance left a deep mark on law students who moved between classes and deliberation forums, thinking about the effects caused to a society whose rule of law had been substituted with terror practices. This was, definitely, the origin of my professional calling on the area of human rights, where I worked for more than 15 years as a public official, and which I continue to support even after leaving government. In fact, I currently head the regional advisory board for Latin America of the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation in parallel with my corporate in-house role.

Another very strong influence for me – and one which shaped the way I perceived the law at a very early stage of my career – was the opportunity to continue my academic studies at Yale University as a visiting scholar. Throughout those years, I was exposed to discussions that weren’t yet taking place in Argentina: exciting discussions about feminism, diversity, and multiculturalism. These discussions had a lasting impact on me.

After working as a government official for more than 20 years, another great challenge was put before me: I received the invitation to join an Argentinian private healthcare company to help it strengthen its in-house legal department and to help it tackle important regulatory challenges related to the business’s growth and expansion. (Healthcare is a highly-regulated industry in Argentina.) And so, in 2013, I joined Farmacity to lead its legal department. Not long after I joined, my responsibilities expanded to include leading the area of institutional relations, communication, and sustainability.

“My point of view is that the gender agenda cannot be separated from the history of my generation, nor from my professional training.”

The transition from the public to the private sector was a steep learning curve for me, and involved having to adopt different cultures, languages, practices, and traditions. However, despite working in such a different environment, I realised that the training, principles, and my perspective on justice and the application for the rule of law remained the same and enabled me to adapt quickly to my new situation. I became aware that every position, every role, has been and will always be a continuous learning experience, in which the skills developed and assimilated at one time and for a specific context are adapted and used at other times and in other contexts.

In my corporate life, I find myself applying many of the skills I learned in my years as a government official: the ability to manage and resolve conflict, to lead big teams, to work under pressure, and to make decisions and face the consequences. My experience working within interdisciplinary areas also allowed me to learn vital communication skills: explaining complex legal concepts to non-lawyers, and managing interfaces between political decisions and technical structures. Those same communication skills are used daily in my job as in-house counsel. They are present in the relationships I have with external counsellors for the development of strategies, and during the decision-making process with our shareholders.

As a corporate in-house lawyer, it is important to understand who is responsible for the legal strategy or institutional decision, the scope of the external advisory services, and the way in which the in-house professional provides a unique view of the business’s needs. Also, it is vital to remember the point of view of your shareholders.

The combination of experiences I talk about are not reduced simply to the technical legal skills or qualifications I have gained. It is so much more than that. In this regard, I would like to focus on the human rights agenda – mainly in connection to the gender agenda – and the connection between cultural and societal values and beliefs, and how organisations behave.

My point of view is that the gender agenda cannot be separated from the history of my generation, nor from my professional training. Legal education and professional legal practice for women in Argentina historically reflect the same structural discrimination experienced by other professions and activities, and that women face daily in their lives outside of work as well.

Most students in schools of law in Argentina are women. However, that proportion is transformed in the labour market, where the pyramid is totally inverted. Let us specifically have a look at the proportion of women who are partners at big law firms, or the negligible proportion of women in managerial positions. Let us look at the public sector where most workers within the judicial system are women but only a small number of those women are judges – and those women judges hold office mostly at courts of first instance, seldom at courts of appeals, and where only one woman is among the justices of the Supreme Court. It is worth mentioning that only in 2004 did a woman become part of the highest court in Argentina, and only in 2009 did the School of Law from Universidad de Buenos Aires appoint a woman as dean – for the first time since it was founded in 1821.

Of course, this reality is not unique to the legal industry, not to Argentina. Across the corporate world, most of the top positions in companies are held by men. However, in the legal industry, this vertical segregation is also coupled with horizontal segregation. There are legal areas traditionally performed by women and others by men. The ‘women’s world’ of legal practice has been historically limited to family, labour, and employment law or to those areas considered protective, and related to care. At the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the world of power, dominated by men: public law, business, and diplomacy. These areas are rarely entrusted to women.

This double layer of gender segregation relies heavily on unconscious biases that support the training, recruitment, and professional development of men at the expense of women. The professional development of a woman lawyer when she graduates is different from that of men. The opportunities to study a major, to study abroad, to publish articles, to become a member of professional boards, and to attend networking activities have historically been more limited for women than for men. This is because the time for professional development often coincides with the time at which women are of reproductive age. If development opportunities occur without any accompanying active policies that allow women to balance their professional lives with their decision to become mothers – and also level caring activities between men and women – this gap will only become wider.

Inequalities and gaps are not fixed on their own. In top in-house positions, as with any other leadership role in any other organisation, corrective measures must be implemented to fix the original inequality. Organisatations should regularly review their selection and promotion processes, they should incorporate gender perspectives into their assessment processes, and they should develop policies to make work and family life compatible.

“All women who have been able to develop a successful professional career have a responsibility to our gender to offer support and guidance.”

For women lawyers in in-house leadership positions, there can be an additional barrier in their way – that legal departments in companies are often support areas, and therefore outside the ‘core’ business areas, which are still very much dominated by men, and seen as men’s responsibility. This segregation is, once again, not only vertical but sometimes horizontal.

Happily, though, a new paradigm is emerging in organisations. The global women’s movement, to which Argentina constitutes no exception, is changing the way in which the gender agenda must be considered by the private sector – almost mandatorily.

Diversity, inclusion, and, in general, human rights, are not only a matter for state or international bodies, but are also starting to become part of companies’ agendas. In 2011, the United Nations issued a document of Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. As a consequence of that universal declaration, the topic is, little by little, moving from the periphery of the private sector’s agenda and advancing towards the center of the business. Companies that embrace diversity and inclusion are committed to broaden the scope of their human rights work; they are moving from traditionally isolated actions that were undertaken under the umbrella of corporate social responsibility, to developing a whole agenda on gender, labour conditions, diversity, and environmental protection for the entire organisation.

This is what we propose to achieve at Farmacity. For more than five years, we have been putting actions in place related to the promotion of equality and the fight against gender-based violence; to educate, prevent, sanction against, and eliminate discrimination and violence against women in any of its forms; and to create alliances with government bodies and organisations from the private sector and civil society to boost the actions carried out together within the framework of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. In line with our belief that words matter, we made a public declaration that Farmacity is a company with a focus on gender equality.

That said, actions speak louder than words, and so our first concrete action was developing an internal protocol for gender-based violence interventions. We established a procedure that must be followed when violence cases are detected; this includes the provision of special leave for women who are the victims of violence, and arranging assistance with the help of the legal and human resources teams, in a strictly confidential process. In collaboration with specialised institutions, we train all our personnel on gender-based violence: how to detect it and how to provide assistance to the person affected. We also contribute with public campaigns about this serious social problem, which in Argentina causes the death of one woman every 32 hours.

This was then followed by several other initiatives. In collaboration with the National Ministry of Justice, we developed a programme that trains convicted women or women recently released from prison in cosmetics and personal care. This empowers women and also provides job opportunities to an often invisible group of women that faces many different types of discrimination.

We also implemented self-assessment initiatives with the United Nations programme, which enables us to develop a sustainable equality agenda, tackling issues such as women in leadership positions and the reduction of the gender pay gap, amongst many others. These initiatives, along with others that we intend to put in place in the future, result from having an organisational culture that values and promotes an inclusive leadership, and that encourages individuals to be committed to gender equality and women’s rights.

I believe that all women who have been able to develop a successful professional career have a responsibility to our gender to offer support and guidance. The organisational culture that I am committed to promotes and encourages women in such way that they should not have to make any extra effort to demonstrate their value.

From the positions we have, we must contribute to make the road easier for future generations and I believe mentoring constitutes an essential activity within all organisations. For those who are already in senior positions, it is so important to share your experience with those starting their career, to enable an easier road, to reduce gaps, and to eliminate inequalities.

Patricia Barbelli

My decision to pursue a career in law was driven mostly by the male role model I had when I was teenager: my father. He has always shown strong passion, commitment, and energy. He was also very dedicated to his legal career, having been an executive of a large bank and a Judge for some time. I was inspired by him to also follow a career in the legal industry.

I completed my undergraduate degree in law, my postgraduate degree in contract and tax law, and then completed an MBA. Unlike a lot of lawyers, who often begin their careers in private practice, I have always worked in in-house counsel roles. I began my career as a lawyer for PepsiCo before moving to Bayer, where I was promoted to the role of senior legal manager. After six years with the company, where I was also a member of the executive team (as corporate secretary to the CEO), I became a GC for the first time at Pirelli. I then moved to Whirlpool as their legal director of Latin America. I was at Whirlpool for almost four years when I was contacted by a head hunter to speak about an interesting opportunity at Diageo.

There are many reasons why I decided to move to Diageo. The main reasons, though, were its reputation (in having strong governance, values, and compliance); its solid and remarkable brands; its leadership in the spirits industry; and, finally, its bold diversity and inclusion agenda.

For me, the role of the legal department is so much more than simply a business partner – we are a business peer. The legal department must, fundamentally, help the business to do business. At the end of the day, in-house legal teams must consider themselves as a department that helps to sell and helps to deliver the company’s goals and strategies. We are not a support function for the business. Legal is a role that thinks not only for the consumers, but also for both the stakeholders and shareholders. It is important to challenge the often-held belief that the role of the legal department is to say no! We are there to ensure legal compliance, and to find solutions, always bearing in mind the consumer, stakeholder, and shareholder interests, and to help the business to grow.

This belief is very much reflected in how my team is structured and how our work is done. My team and I typically have very intense work days, which usually involve business meetings, discussions, projects, and deliverables that link to the company’s strategy. And, of course, we are responsible for all legal matters across the business. This involves various kinds of litigation, including tax, which is a complex area of law in Brazil. Our litigation work is not limited to liability but also includes asset litigation, contract litigation, environmental law, data privacy issues, real estate, mergers and acquisitions, antitrust, brand protection, and corporate security.

I believe it is very important to emphasise the different roles men and women may (and often do) play at home and work. It is even more important to establish limits when necessary in order to support the work-life balance, for both genders. This is where we must count on mentors or leaders within companies and organisations to support diversity and inclusion initiatives. Alongside this support though, it is just as important to lead by example.

Since the beginning of my career, I’ve personally faced many challenges as a woman. But I overcame these by being professional, resilient, and by showing my commitment and capabilities. I can recall many business meetings in my career where ‘manterrupting’ and ‘mansplaining’ were commonplace. I overcame this by being respectful, while also creating a space to put across my point of view. More importantly, I stood up for myself, and was not afraid to show my points of view and capabilities.

“The role of the legal department is so much more than simply a business partner – we are a business peer.”

Some years ago, I joined the executive team of a multinational company (a more traditional business) and I was the only woman to occupy an executive position. The other executives were much more senior than me and had been working for many years for this company. In the beginning, it was very difficult for me to gain their trust, their attention, and to be included in the most important discussions, to really ‘sit at the table’. I faced challenges to build the relationships and get closer to them, but I am glad to say that they have turned into very nice colleagues… and one of them is currently my mentor!

In my opinion, the largest barrier facing women in the legal industry – and particularly in the in-house profession – is not getting women in, but the promotion of women to the top levels . This is because many companies are only starting to discuss diversity as an important issue. Unfortunately, from a practical point of view, this means that women tend only to occupy some levels in the hierarchy of organisations, and often only up to managerial level. While this is true to some extent in the corporate arena, it is especially prevalent in law firms. Senior leadership positions in companies and most partner positions in law firms are still occupied by men. Often this is because a lot of women give up their careers when they have children. This is not due to their skills, capabilities, or desire to return to work. This is, more often than not, due to the lack of flexibility from companies and law firms in helping women to continue to grow their career while also being a mother.

I certainly faced challenges when I had my daughter. Although I was lucky in that I found several supportive executives (both male and female), I was surprised at the low level of support I received from some female executives (some of whom were already mothers). It can be very tough without the right support. Taking lessons from my own experiences as a working mother I am, as much as possible, very supportive of my colleagues, my team, and other women who are pregnant or returning to work from maternity leave. I strongly believe that, as women, we must support each other because we all face similar challenges in life (in work and at home), and have the same aspirations and ambitions as men do.

With that in mind, and alongside my role leading the legal team, I also sponsor Diageo’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. This was created in order to address matters concerning women’s participation in the workplace, people with disabilities, race, sexual orientation, and gender identity, and support them with initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion. I am also a board member of WILL (Women in Leadership Latin America), an international organisation with chapters in São Paulo and New York and an advisory board in London. The aim of the organisation is to share best practice, aimed at closing the gender pay gap, promoting women in leadership roles, and helping organisations to establish career development programmes for women.

As a company, Diageo is very open and transparent in having conversations regarding female advancement in the legal profession. Gender equality remains a major issue in most organisations and there is still a gender gap in the vast majority of companies in Brazil. Despite the relatively slow progress in Brazil, Diageo has an impressive track record in advancing women (without having laws in place) and being a benchmark for companies in Latin America. For example, females in senior leadership positions has increased from 22% to 50% in the last two years.

If I could give one piece of advice to myself at the start of my own career, it would be to have a mentor and to make connections with a diverse range of women. It would also be to share my own experiences more, learn with other women, and count on their support. Mentorship is very important for young aspiring female leaders. Having a mentor may help the young woman to share their own experiences while learning from others’ experiences and counting on their own mentor’s support during their career.

I am fortunate in that I have had the pleasure of working with many admirable women in my teams throughout my career. Some women who joined my team in junior roles have progressed to being mothers in senior roles. I also have mentorship sessions with women who are new, or may not be on my team, to help them with their respective careers. I always try my best to teach, discuss, and give feedback to my mentees. I try to motivate them to keep focussing on both their career paths and own life aspirations, despite any challenges that they may encounter.

Zelma Acosta-Rubio

I would like to say that my move from private practice to an in-house role was a carefully thought out decision; but, as with most things in life, it was simply an opportunity that presented itself at the right time and where all the conditions were there for me to step in and thrive. The decision was not so much to go in-house – it was more about the challenge to build a modern, innovative legal team profile in a Peruvian bank that was already at the forefront of redefining banking services in Peru.

When it was privatised in 1994, Interbank’s revised value proposition focused on convenience, speed, and service. It was the first bank to establish financial stores operating seven days a week (9am–9pm) at supermarkets. It built a large distribution network, owned the largest out-of-branch ATM network, and redesigned its financial stores with a human-centric approach. By 2010, data mining and scoring had evolved, and the bank moved from product offerings to customised financial services solutions based on deep knowledge of clients’ needs. The challenge for the legal team was to modernise the way legal services were delivered. Speed was key.

When I joined Interbank in 2007, we renewed about 40% of the legal team and set ourselves a vision: ‘to unlock value for corporate strategy’. In terms of speed, that meant working closely with cross-functional teams from the outset in order to design timely solutions with strategic value. Thus, all our lawyers were required to develop business, strategic, and financial acumen to ensure the legal function’s strategic alignment with the rest of the organisation; and to understand Interbank’s strategic intent and be able to articulate our internal clients’ business plans and KPIs. We launched (and continue to run) meet-ups and workshops to instil these new skills and develop a strategic mindset across the entire team. For me it is imperative that, as an in-house team, you have a deep understanding of your company’s strategic intent, and make strategic decisions when dealing with legal risks. You are not just acting in an advisory capacity; you need to own your recommendations and decisions and understand the value proposition as if you were responsible for the P&L.

When I started my first job in New York, I was hired as a foreign associate and had a front row seat learning about power dynamics in private practice. I worked in the financial services practice – an area that was 100% dominated by men, and where women struggled with late nights and family commitments. By the time I got to London a year later, I had made the decision to focus on work, and maybe – just maybe – have a family later. While London was a bit more cosmopolitan, and a bit more inclusive, the hours were still very long and it was still highly competitive. I made a conscious choice to get ahead by playing on my strengths: my knowledge of civil and common law, my pitching skills, and Latin America’s privatisation wave. I was 28 years old and originating deals in Latam, which was unusual for a young associate.

When I moved in-house to Interbank, it was a very different experience, not only because it was a move to an in-house role, but because it was in Peru. However, there was one factor that remained the same, and that was the nicely packed set of stereotypes and unconscious bias in the workplace that help to perpetuate and hold together the dynamics of power. What I observed was a strong underlying assumption of ‘women take care’ vs ‘men take charge’ as a shared belief by men and women alike. This was not only in Interbank, but across the corporate sector in general. And it applies equally to private practice. This, I believe, is the biggest barrier to true gender equality.

“As our research progressed, we realised that it was strategically important for us to accelerate diversity and inclusion.”

In private practice, I think the focus on hourly billing is particularly troublesome; the lack of flexible working arrangements and the penalties women endure for taking maternity leave set them back on their path to attaining partnership. Working in-house is not necessarily better. Stereotypes and unconscious bias are still present; however, what we do see is more and more corporates taking decisive action towards diversity and inclusion, which of course benefits the entire organisation. At Interbank, for example, we share with our panel law firms our diversity and inclusion initiatives, and will be asking them for their data, policies, and accountability for diversity and inclusion in the teams we work with. We also push our firms to give us more women as contacts, especially because firm relationship management has typically been a space reserved for male senior partners.

Alongside my role as GC, I also hold the position of board secretary. I realised I wanted to learn more about diversity in the boardroom. And so I asked for Interbank’s data. In 2012, overall female representation at Interbank was 58%, with 44% C-suite female executives. On the surface this looked to be a good balance. But when we delved more deeply into the data, we learned that female representation reduced to 38% (supervisor), 34% (deputy manager), and 11% (manager). This showed us that we had a significant pipeline issue. It was at this point that I ‘dug my heels in’ and decided to figure out the why, the how, and the what of diversity and inclusion for Grupo Intercorp. We started by asking the following question to large groups of women in several of our Group companies: what are the main reasons that prevent women’s development and keeps them from attaining higher positions? Is it a matter of skill sets, lifestyle, or confidence?

We then asked the following, more in-depth questions:

Skill sets

  • Do women have different skill sets than men?
  • If so, are these differences a key element that will advance a man’s career to the detriment of a woman’s?


  • For you, what is a normal day?
  • Does being married or single make a difference? Why?
  • Is being a mum an obstacle to career advancement? Why?


  • Are men more confident?
  • Is lack of confidence a barrier for women’s career advancement?

As our research progressed, we realised that it was strategically important for us to accelerate diversity and inclusion, and to build on the collective learnings across Grupo Intercorp. In December 2018, the role of chief diversity and inclusion officer was created, as was a Diversity Board, and we have made significant progress since then.

All Group company boards now have approved D&I policies and guidelines and accompanying action plans. We determined to set internal targets by the end of 2019. The policies recognise diversity as a value and inclusion as a leadership trait. The guidelines for 2019 were, first, to prioritise three tracks: (i) attraction, selection, retention, and advancement of women in the organisation, (ii) work-life balance, and (iii) zero tolerance of sexual harassment; and, second, to educate on and build awareness of stereotypes and unconscious bias. All our Group companies prioritise the same three tracks, though some may decide to take on additional ones depending on their own demographics. We also continue to participate in Ranking Par, Latin America’s first-ever gender equality ranking.

We hire for competence and hold interviews with structured and diverse panels. I am also a full supporter of female-led law firms. In the past two years, I have retained (+3) and recommended female lawyers who have set up their own individual legal boutiques. These are women who left the larger firms because they wanted to own their time and deliver results.

Internally, I make sure women get stretch assignments and I expose them to senior leaders across the organisation. I lead by example by engaging in the conversation, making a point of bringing people’s views forward, and being explicit about being equal in our differences.

My commitment to promoting gender equality in the legal industry extends beyond my roles at Grupo Intercorp and Interbank. In 2016, together with ten other lawyers, I formed Women in the Legal Profession (WIP) Peru, an initiative borne from the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice for the empowerment of women in the legal profession. At WIP-Peru, we focus on five tracks:

“The advice I would give to any woman wanting to get ahead in the legal industry is this: play to your strengths. Understand complexity. Always negotiate your salary. ”
  • Design and divulge guidelines for the selection, promotion, and retention of female lawyers;
  • Develop leadership skills for female lawyers (workshops);
  • Actively commit to have female lawyer representation at public events;
  • Run mentoring programmes;
  • Measure best practices and progress.

As part of WIP-Peru, and as GC of Interbank, I promote direct conversations with law firms around diversity and inclusion matters. I encourage them to adopt guidelines for the selection, promotion, and retention of female lawyers and design D&I action plans. Of course, the question of quotas versus targets often comes up. For me, it’s about looking at the demographics, setting realistic targets for diversity, and managing expectations. Personally, I believe 40% is a nice target to start with. In some cases, though – and depending on the toxicity of the culture or the need for change – a hard quota should be placed to accelerate the inclusion of women. I want to stress, though, that in all cases you must make sure you have the best talent ‘auditioning’ for the part, whether or not there are quotas or targets in place.

Finally, the advice I would give to any woman wanting to get ahead in the legal industry is this: Play to your strengths. Understand complexity. Always negotiate your salary.

Mariana Olivares

I decided to become a lawyer when I was in high school. I am the very first lawyer in my family, so I cannot say it came from a sense of family tradition. However, my parents instilled in me from a young age the importance of justice and values, to do the right thing, and to always be ethical, no matter the consequences. From my very first class at law school, I was incredibly passionate about it; I knew I was in the right place.

Like many lawyers, I started my career in private practice, and had not really planned to move from private practice to an in-house role. But when the opportunity with Sodexo came about, it was too good to turn down. I remember that when I first started, I felt very strange! I was used to managing many different corporate legal accounts, and not ‘only one’. But I soon realised that, in fact, an in-house legal department also has many different clients – all the company’s other departments!

I believe that as an in-house lawyer it is very important to be involved with the strategy, the company’s business: you cannot be unaware of the core business units and interlinked functions. The legal department’s decisions affect the entire company: our shareholders, providers, employees, and community. Our mission is to provide high quality services – with high ethical standards – in order to contribute to the accomplishment of the corporate mission and the company’s objectives as well.

If we compare women’s progress in the legal industry, we can see that the situation is the same in different countries. In the majority of cases, the positions of equity partner and managing partner are held by men. Is this a coincidence? Absolutely not.

Put simply, the ‘rules’ have been made by men: that is the reason why most of the top positions are occupied by them. I strongly believe that had those rules been established by women (or, at the very least, in consultation with women), the reality would be different.

For me, it is very important that men and women work together in order to achieve gender equality in organisations. But how can this be done? First, review your hiring and promotion process; second, train your lawyers regarding unconscious bias and stereotypes in the legal profession; third, empower your women lawyers; and, finally, always review whether the conditions for men and women are both equitable and equal. This last one is very important because, while the aim of equality is to promote fairness, it really only works when everyone is starting from the same place (equity).

In the case of in-house lawyers, you do see more women in leading positions (e.g. legal director, general counsel) than you do in private practice, however there is still much to be done before there is true gender equality and representation. The individual challenges might be different, but, in essence, we are all supporting the same cause. We are all working to obtain equitable conditions for women in the workplace. We have to ensure that not all the leadership positions are for men. And we must always remember that, just because we do not see women in those positions that there are not talented women lawyers. It means the system is broken, and needs to be fixed. We have to empower women and make visible our capabilities. We must take action.

In my career, I have faced the challenges that most women have – not only because I am a woman, but also because I am a mother of two wonderful children. I got through those challenges with work, work, and more work.

“I feel a responsibility as a woman to help other women reach their full potential and progress in their careers.”

I am also lucky because my husband and my family have always supported my decisions and my career. In addition, my company and my colleagues really do believe that businesses with gender-balanced teams do better, not only for company results, but because it is the right thing to do.

Working in a global company such as Sodexo has given me several opportunities to grow and develop my career in many areas, not just in legal. For example, a few years ago I joined Sodexo’s leadership programme for women, based on development opportunities for women in senior management positions. Then I passed to the second stage of the programme: mentoring sessions.

I am also now responsible for the D&I strategy in my country. Along with other members of our D&I local committee, I work every day to reach gender balance in our company. In August 2019, we launched Sodexo’s ‘So Together Peru’, an internal network that seeks to promote the development and empowerment of women in open spaces, in which women and men participate equally to build a true culture of gender equality.

Sodexo also encourages us to volunteer with a worldwide programme (Stop Hunger) to fight hunger and malnutrition. I am the leader of this programme in Peru, and we work for a hunger-free world in three fields of intervention: support to local communities in need, women empowerment, and emergency assistance. We are convinced that providing women with better education, training, means of production, and financial resources will maximise the possibility of eradicating hunger from the world by 2030. Our commitment with Peru’s gender balance is also as a corporate citizen and this year, I was proud to receive recognition of our work from CONFIEP (The National Confederation of Private Business Institutions). This recognition motivates me to continue working on gender equity.

Beside my role at Sodexo, I am member of WIP Peru (Women in the Profession), an initiative from the Cyrus Vance Center for International Justice. I am part of the leadership committee, and this year I am a mentor in the mentoring programme. This initiative is only for women lawyers. I feel a responsibility as a woman to help other women reach their full potential and progress in their careers , but I also encourage other women in leadership positions to be role models for others.

Sodexo is strongly committed to advancing gender equality. As a world leader in quality of life services, the company fosters an open, inclusive culture where everyone can thrive. The global gender balance strategy is a key driver in ensuring that both men and women have equal access to growth and opportunities in our workplace.

Sodexo’s research shows that gender-balanced teams perform better, and so we are working globally to have women represent at least 40% of our total leadership by 2025. This goal will not be met overnight, so the company has established a specific gender strategy to help to achieve this.

Not only do we have cross-border initiatives, but we also develop many local initiatives. Last year we published an inclusive language manual that we now use in all our communications. We trained our senior management regarding unconscious bias and stereotypes and promote campaigns about gender balance. We also participate in panels, forums, and committees with other companies, and last year Sodexo Peru was considered first in the Aequales Ranking as the company with best practices promoting gender equality (category more than 1,000 employees).

Of course, multinational companies such as Sodexo that have strong D&I initiatives positively influence other companies and they set a good example. However, local leadership is very important to implement D&I initiatives and adapt them to a country’s culture. In our case, the issue of gender equity is balanced against things such as violence against women, which in our country reaches high percentages. So, while the global initiative is fundamental, local leadership is necessary to develop a D&I strategy that is aligned with the country reality.

With every day that passes, I am more convinced that we need quotas to achieve gender equality. Working to a ‘best efforts’ rule is not enough: we need quotas in order to achieve our goals. Once we have equity in leading positions, we can change our mindset, trust in a meritocratic system, and talk about equality between men and women without the need for quotas. In the legal function at Sodexo, we have a diverse team, but we are now working on developing capacities, nurturing talent, and empowering women so we can grow under the same opportunities.

It is important to always follow words with actions. While there are specific challenges faced by women in the legal industry, unfortunately gender imbalance is a global issue and one that needs to change. If I could give any advice to those women who are just starting out on their career path, it would be this: What you see as your weaknesses are your greatest strengths. It is what it makes you unique. Your youth is an opportunity to see the world with a fresh new eye. Never give up, fight for your ideas, and for what you really care about. Be ethical. This is the best gift you can give.