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Fiona Cumming

Partner

I joined A&O as a newly qualified lawyer in 2005, training with the Leverage Finance team in London before taking an international secondment to Hong Kong in 2008. I now advise financial institutions, sponsors, and non-bank lenders on a range of domestic, cross-border structured, and event-driven financing transactions. I also act for banks, bondholders, insolvency practitioners, and other key stakeholders on contentious and non-contentious financial restructurings.

I prepared for my partner selection process during my second maternity leave. With sponsors in both Hong Kong and London, I was regularly reminded just what I was capable of, and I felt fully supported through the process. To have colleagues endorsing me and telling my story, even though I wasn’t in the office, gave me the confidence I needed during such a busy period in my life.

As a partner, I am able to balance work and home life in a way that suits my family and practice. I have the freedom to manage my business, and the great support from the wider team makes it all possible. When my children were small, it was about being present at the end of the day, and I was with them when they needed me the most.

I now see myself as an advocate for work/life balance. It shouldn’t just be parents who benefit from flexibility for family commitments; we need to set expectations within our teams so that everyone can ring-fence time to do what is important for them. The dialogue is changing, and it’s for us to role model within our immediate teams.

I took on the role of Diversity and Inclusion Lead for the APAC region in 2019. I’m mindful of the diversity of offices in our region, and I’m acutely aware of the huge range of cultural, social, and religious sensitivities that are at play. Each office is at a different stage in its D&I journey and has a unique subset of challenges that it grapples with; therefore, a one-size-fits-all approach in APAC wouldn’t work. Because of this, we have appointed Diversity and Inclusion partner champions in each office. They are responsible for delivering the D&I objectives that have been developed following employee listening circles in that office. The plans include both quick wins and longer-term strategic plans. Each plan is unique and is supported by an overarching regional plan.

We’re bringing teams together to create a positive network and are building on similarities where appropriate. For example, the Vietnam and Thailand offices are collaborating to support advancements in women’s careers. We are also relaunching the regional mentoring programme – pairing mentors with mentees from different offices to offer guidance and a new perspective, which widens the circle of influence for junior associates in the region.

In Hong Kong, we’re advocates for the LGBTQ+ community, and through pro bono work alongside peer law firms we’re advocating for changes in the treatment of same-sex couples. We also partner with our clients and peers as well as local NGOs, on other initiatives, such as The Zubin Foundation, on the unequal treatment of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong. Using our collective voices and skills, we provide allyship to those in minority communities whose voices are often ignored.

At A&O, the door is always open for innovative ideas and fresh ways of working. We are free to identify a new business opportunity, develop an idea, or explore a move away from a linear career. It’s such a dynamic place to work and there is genuine support for us to control our own paths. I see many examples across all regions that are testament to the power of diverse and inclusive thinking. My story demonstrates how we can shape our lives and careers to suit our aspirations and dreams, and I’m excited to see where my journey with A&O will take me in the future.

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