UBS: Barbara Levi, inclusion is the key in legal teams

by mercedes galán

A self-made woman, who started in law almost unintentionally and ended up falling in love with her profession until she reached the top. Great influences in her early years were her mother and her philosophy teacher in high school who thought her the values of hard work, independence, and intellectual honesty and she stood for these values throughout her successful career. Having a positive impact on others and inspiring young people who are just starting out on their careers to reach the sky is what drives her. With a friendly character, she does not hide her devotion to her family; husband, four children and a dog and, without losing her smile, she takes a firm step showing that she is a natural leader.

Did you always wanted to be a lawyer?

I really didn’t want to be lawyer at the beginning. When you are young you don’t really know what you want to do. That’s exactly why I decided to go to law school, thinking that this area of studies was broad enough to provide me with the optionality to decide later. 

There came a point when I fell in love with the law. I became passionate about it while I was studying it. I studied in Italy and my first vocation was to become a notary but after I started, I realized that this is not what I wanted to do. I was eager to discover the world and I felt that I was limiting myself. I have always been a person with great curiosity and a desire to learn.

You moved to the USA around 20 years ago. What has your career been like since then? Did you imagine the success that awaited you?

We can say that it was a sort of adventure at the beginning. I was very young, I really wanted to explore the world but I had one difficulty, I didn’t speak English. How could I have an international career without English! I had studied French in school. At that time, a friend of mine from law school who was in NYC told me about a law firm in NYC that was looking for foreign lawyers and within 24 hours I was on a plane to the USA without speaking English.

I read recently that you are not a big fan of multitasking. How do you organise your time?

I don’t like multitasking, I’m more into organising my week and days by priorities. I organise my time by identifying what are the key things I need to do by the end of the week that have impact for the company, these are the “must do”, the rest I call “nice to do”. My rule is that I do not perform the “nice to do” tasks, until you have done the “must do”. However, there are times when you have no choice and then of course you need to multitask.