Lyubov Duyko participated in the roundtable discussion “Women in law: course set for changes” held at the III St. Petersburg International Legal Forum

24 May 2013

Participants of the roundtable discussion “Women in law” deliberated on the issues involved with female lawyers in the legal sector.

The section debates were moderated by Julia Bateman, Head of International at the Law Society of England and Wales.

Experts from diverse countries took part in conversation: Elena Borisenko, Deputy Minister of Justice; Lyubov Duyko, lawyer and Chair of Council of Partners at the Attorneys at Law S&K Vertical; Linda Klein, Chair of the American Bar Association House of Delegates; Maura McGowan, Chair of the Bar Council of England and Wales; Irina Paliashvili, Managing Partner of RULG-Ukrainian Legal Group, Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, President of the Law Society of England and Wales; and Maria Esther Reus, Minister of Justice of Cuba.

As said Julia Bateman at the beginning of debates, the roundtable discussion was meant to present the core messages of the International summit “Women in Law” held in 2012.

Elena Borisenko set the tone of discussion; she told about Russian women successfully working in the legal sector, and in the government's employ.

“There are lots of female lawyers in Russia. There are also many female deputies in the State Duma. As to female judges, they are even more numerous than male ones. The staff of ministries (heads of departments) also includes lots of women. Having read the report, I was surprised to find that Russia is ahead of our colleagues from Europe and US, when it comes to this matter. Let me quote you some information. Russia is a country that adopted Roman law; that’s why notary in Russia is a prestigious profession; they make good money, and have good working conditions. 85% of notaries are women, 60% of lawyers are women, and about 60% of judges are women”, said E. Borisenko.

She pointed out that recently women in Russia increasingly often hold key positions both in public authorities and in large-sized companies.

“20 years ago when the new legal system started forming in our country, women were not afraid of new developments. They often had better language skills, were more flexible, and were the first to apply for work in international law firms. They were the first to acquire experience, their professional growth was faster. That’s why currently many representational offices of international companies are directed by women”, said the Deputy Minister of Justice.

However she noted that in today’s Russia employers would prefer to engage a man rather than a woman. According to her, the reason is an established opinion that women are focused on family, while men are focused on career. Elena Borisenko is convinced that it is a serious obstacle to female lawyers.

Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, President of the Law Society of England and Wales, was of the same opinion. The expert believes that combining family life and career may be necessary for both genders. Moreover, employers should strive to create comfortable environment for employees, first of all, by allowing them to work flexible hours.

“There are companies that allow their partners to work flexible hours for a week or even for a year. It doesn't mean that a person is lazing away the time. The legal profession involves performance of specific tasks. Now and then, performance of such tasks by the lawyer doesn't depend on where they are: in office, at home or on a beach. The result is the key. Therefore people do not necessary have to stay in office during working hours. Yes, it is desirable that a lawyer stays in the office part of the time; however, if a woman wants to spend more time at home, with her family and children, why not allowing her to work flexible hours”, said Scott-Moncrieff.

She considers mandatory gender quotas a relic of the past, and believes that law firm should hire their teams based on professional qualities.

“Usually quotas are established by government. They are strict, not the flexible. If a woman was hired under such quota, she feels herself branded as an employee that got her job only because of that quota. We believe that there should be some performance targets. And once these targets are set, directors or senior partners will assess talents, achievements, and potential of new employees, their potential professional level”, explained Scott-Moncrieff.

Lyubov Duyko, Partner Chair of the Board of Partners at the Attorneys at Law S&K Vertical is of the same opinion. She is convinced that mandatory gender quotas yield no benefit, while flexible hours will provide comfortable environment for female lawyers. Besides, L. Duyko made several suggestions on improvement of working conditions for female employees.

I don’t think appropriate the use of mandatory gender quotas in Russia. And I would like to dwell on what can be done to improve the situation. The key thing is to create of standard lines of career progress, system of qualification and professional updating for women. There is a need for adaptation policies to help women continue their professional growth after maternity leave and not lag behind their colleagues. Flexible hours are a must. I can tell that our company actively applies this policy”, said the lawyer.

To summarize the discussion, Elena Borisenko said that we should make no distinction between men and women in legal profession. She believes that talent is the only distinction of a professional lawyer.

“There's no doubt in my mind that there is no innate differences in professional behavior between male and female lawyers. Life is that way: when people become professionals, they no longer depend on who they were, of their nationality, gender, and qualities of character. If you are a professional, these secondary qualities disappear, and professionalism persists, since it is the most important thing”, said Elena Borisenko.

Source: press service of St.-Petersburg International Legal Forum

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