Q&A - Alessandra Pala and Giorgia Giorgetti reflect on the progression of female lawyers through the ranks
08 March 2022
On International Women's Day, we have met International Capital Markets counsel Alessandra Pala and Employment senior associate Giorgia Giorgetti, recently featured, respectively, as Top female lawyer and Emerging female lawyer on the Italian business weekly Italia Oggi, to ask them more about their career and their suggestions for young lawyers on their career paths.
What is your proudest achievement in your work?
Alessandra: I am truly proud to have contributed to the growth of a remarkable practice and team by focusing not only on the work side, but also most importantly on human relationships. I have been in Allen & Overy’s Capital Markets team for 15 years and during these difficult but exciting years we have achieved great job satisfaction and created a fantastic environment to work in.
Giorgia: When I think about my proudest achievement at work, my thoughts do not immediately go to a particular matter or client, but rather to the fact that through the commitment and work over the years I contributed to developing the Italian employment and benefits department from scratch and helped mould it into its current shape. Since Livio (Bossotto) and I returned to Allen & Overy in late 2010 the department has grown exponentially in terms of quality and number of clients and mandates. Above all, we are very proud that our department today can count on a professional, young and close-knit group, placing itself in the Italian market as a reputable standalone practice.
What are the drivers that motivated you through the years?
Alessandra: The desire to grow has always been the basis of every step I have taken in my work. I get an adrenaline rush from carrying very difficult activities, from the smiles of clients and colleagues at the end of a transaction, and then from starting all over again!
Giorgia: I think my first driver was – and still is - the strong will to live up to the expectation of a profession in which your credibility increases as you become more senior. This is related to having been directly exposed to important and demanding clients in a “young” department at a very early stage in my career and having liaised with counterparts, often male and senior, more experienced than myself at the time. This also leads to the second driver - which still pushes me and I believe always will - which is the awareness of always having something to learn and a higher level to reach. This driver is accentuated by the particular area of law in which I work, as employment law is a constantly and quickly evolving discipline that requires constant update and curiosity.
Reflecting on your area of expertise, are there any new trends or developments on the horizon?
Alessandra: The financial markets are constantly evolving and at the moment they are strongly impacted by the sad events we are experiencing. In general, there is a lot of attention on private debt and of course the trend of green, social and sustainable investments is thriving. We should also keep an eye on cryptocurrencies.
Giorgia: We are seeing an increasing interest among clients in the gender gap, pay transparency, diversity and social inclusion programmes. Most companies in 2022 are required to draft a report and receive social contribution benefits, focusing on equality. They must also provide information regarding a number of employment issues around gender. This content is still under evaluation and new legislation is in the making. We also expect a specific focus on health and safety, including in the case of remote working, due to increasing psychological and social risks, prevention of stress and anxiety at the workplace and, and last but not least, due to the recent Ukraine conflict. Regulation of disconnection is one of the aspects of remote working currently under debate and companies are completely new to it, which makes quite realistic an increase of tailored assistance also on this kind of topics within the “new normal” way of working.
What do you believe is the biggest challenge for a young professional starting his/her/their* career today?
Alessandra: Young people are a great asset to a law firm, because they bring new and fresh ideas. My suggestion is to learn from the most senior colleagues without losing their own point of view. This is crucial if they want to provide real added value.
Giorgia: Perhaps the biggest challenge nowadays is to exercise a certain degree of perseverance, determination and humility, which is also a good starting point for ensuring high levels of technical competence over the years within a challenging and quickly changing legal framework. In this scenario, I believe that it also falls on us, as senior lawyers, to carefully train and support the young professionals in acquiring both the personal and professional instruments that are crucial for their development.
The progression of female lawyers through the ranks remains a hot topic among law firms. What advice would you give to younger women in the profession?
Alessandra: My suggestion for female lawyers is to strongly believe in their potential and not to be disheartened by any incorrect behaviour. Do not be afraid to stand up and speak out if something is not right. Today there are many tools at our disposal and there is much more sensitivity around gender issues. Furthermore, female lawyers should always seek the much-desired balance between work and private life, maintaining a constant and constructive dialogue with colleagues.
Giorgia: My advice to a younger woman starting her career would certainly be to be more confident and clear with herself and with her seniors about her expectations, aspirations and goals. Young women are often very accurate and competent, but when it comes to speaking up they are, on average, not very bold or incisive, which has an impact on slowing down their career progression. I would also suggest avoiding adopting a leadership model which does not suit you. Times are evolving, albeit slowly, and it is becoming more and more acknowledged that a female leadership model could add value within our profession. You will not last long if you are anything but the real you. Last but not least, do not concentrate all of your efforts in life to the office, but rather try to create your own network and interests outside the office when you can. The first suggestion will be useful as soon as your career starts to progress, as some of those relationships could end up being fruitful in terms of contacts, and the second will help you develop a balanced approach to life and work and maintain a certain positive distance from daily tasks.