Gaining strength

iStock 182177242As the InspiraLAw 2019 Top 50 Women list is confirmed, research reveals a widespread belief that prospects for women lawyers in Spain and Portugal are better than they were a year ago

New research commissioned to coincide with the publication of the second annual Iberian Lawyer InspiraLAw Top 50 Women List suggests that opportunities for female lawyers in Spain and Portugal have improved in the last 12 months. A survey of more than 1,000 lawyers in Spain and Portugal – who were also asked to nominate lawyers for the 2019 InspiraLAw Top 50 – found that 88 per cent of respondents felt that “prospects for women lawyers in Spain and Portugal have improved in the last year”. Meanwhile, 90 per cent of respondents said that their organisation is taking practical steps to address the issue of gender diversity.

The fact that the majority of lawyers in Iberia are more optimistic about the future for women in the legal profession is welcome news one year on from the launch of the InspiraLAw initiative, which aims to inspire and promote IBL81 Lidia PeyronaIBM3 webwomen lawyers in Spain and Portugal. As highlighted in last year’s Top 50 report, although most law graduates are women, the vast majority of partners in law firms are men, which makes it abundantly clear that the legal profession is losing a lot of talented women before they get the opportunity to fulfil their potential. The drain of high-quality female lawyers is not only negatively impacting on law firms’ ability to provide the best service to clients, it is also having an adverse effect on their ability to win new business. It is now vital that law firms better reflect their clients and mirror the demographics of their customers – that is, the clients that instruct them, managing partners say. However, it is important to note that there are still barriers to gender diversity in the legal sector. Women are still underrepresented at partner level. And, as partners acknowledge, organisations with greater gender balance have more contented staff and better retention rates, as well as higher rates of satisfaction and productivity.

Inspiring the next generation
The 2019 list of the 50 most inspiring women lawyers in Spain and Portugal includes in-house counsel from Google, Amazon, IBM and PepsiCo as well as managing partners of both local and global law firms in Spain and Portugal. The list aims to recognise women working in the Spanish and Portuguese legal sectors who have been identified by more than 1,000 of their peers as excelling and serving as an inspiration to the younger generation of female lawyers.IBL81 MariaJoseMenendez AshurstsWhen asked to give the reasons behind their nominations, the explanations provided by the participants in the research were many and varied. However, a few significant themes emerged – “technical expertise” (cited by 85 per cent of participants) was the most common reason why candidates were nominated. The second most common reason was “leadership skills”, with 79 per cent citing this as a factor in their choice of nominees. Other common factors included: problem-solving skills (77 per cent), work ethic (72 per cent), personality (71 per cent) and communication skills (65 per cent). Other common reasons for being nominated included teamwork skills (65 per cent), client service (65 per cent) and industry knowledge (61 per cent).

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Included in the Top 50 list is María González Ordóñez, head of legal Spain, Portugal, UK, Israel and SSA at Google, who was praised for a wide range of qualities including her problem-solving skills, mentoring skills, leadership and work ethic. Also featuring in the list is Ana Buitrago, Spain legal director and associate general counsel at Amazon, who was commended for her technical expertise, as well as her leadership, communication and problem-solving skills.
Others to make the list include Lidia Peyrona, IBM head of legal for Spain, Portugal, Greece and Israel, who is seen as having significant technical expertise, excellent leadership and problem-solving skills, and a strong work ethic. Also included in the Top 50 is Carmen Neira, senior counsel south west Europe at PepsiCo, who was widely regarded as being an excellent motivator, having exceptional leadership skills, and being an outstanding communicator.
Private practice
Among the lawyers from private practice who make the Top 50 are Ashurst’s Madrid managing partner María José Menéndez, who was highly commended for her industry knowledge and client service, as well as her leadership skills and work ethic. Also included in the list is Watson Farley & Williams’ Madrid office managing partner María Pilar García Guijarro who was widely regarded as having technical expertise, excellent interpersonal skills, a strong work ethic and outstanding leadership skills. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner Silvia Paternain – who is recognised for her leadership, mentoring and motivational skills – is also named on the list.IBL81 MariaJoaoRicou Cuatrecasas

Portuguese winners
Portuguese lawyers who made the Top 50 include Novo Banco head of legal Patrícia Afonso Fonseca – who was commended for her technical expertise, problem-solving skills, industry knowledge and adaptability – as well as Grupo Visabeira head of legal Isabel Fernandes who was recognised for her leadership skills, mentoring skills, technical expertise and problem-solving skills.
Private practice lawyers from Portugal named on the list include AAA managing partner Dulce Franco, who is praised for her work ethic, client service, interpersonal skills and technical expertise, and Cuatrecasas Portugal managing partner Maria João Ricou, who is highly regarded for her client service, leadership skills, work ethic and motivational skills. Also included in the Top 50 is SRS Advogados partner Alejandra Valente, who was commended for her industry knowledge, problem-solving skills, leadership and mentoring skills.

Winners will be recognised at a ceremony in Madrid in early 2019.

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Laura Escarpa