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Chambers and Partners 'Women in Law' interview with partner Mayesi Hammoud
The Chambers Women in Law Initiative aims to provide a forum for recognising the outstanding achievements of female lawyers; leading lawyers at the pinnacle of their professional achievement. For the profile section on the website, Chambers and Partners 'Women in Law' interviewed partner Mayesi Hammoud of VanEps Kunneman VanDoorne.
How long have you been working for your current company?
I was born and raised in Curacao, an island in the Dutch Caribbean, and attended law school at the Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands. During my student days I worked for VanEps Kunneman VanDoorne in a summer job as a receptionist. I have been working with the law firm since January 2003 as an attorney at law. As of January 2012, I have been a partner at the firm.
Briefly explain your career history and what led you to your current position.
After finalising law school I was accepted for a trainee program by the Dutch government. I was placed at the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Netherlands, aiming for a top career as a civil servant in the Netherlands. Despite the interesting work, I realised I missed my island. I also realised that I preferred a career as an attorney. That is why I finally decided to return to Curacao, joining VanEps Kunneman VanDoorne.
What is your proudest professional achievement and why?
The professional achievement I am most proud of is being asked to become a partner at my firm. It is not only the largest and oldest law firm in the Dutch Caribbean, but also a firm with the best attorneys in their practice areas, from whom I have learned a lot. I run an all round practice in the fields of dispute resolution, corporate law, employment and insurance law, and work for a large number of clients in the private and public sector, focusing on the fields of energy, real estate, telecommunication, media and technology in the Dutch Caribbean. I am very proud to have such a diverse job with very interesting matters.
What are the greatest challenges that you face in your current role and what do you do to overcome them?
I have a busy practice and the greatest challenge is combining the many tasks I have and making sure I perform each one to the best of my ability. Amongst other things, I am responsible for the training of the young attorneys within our firm, the recruitment of new attorneys and I am also responsible for our firm’s pro bono work, as well as our charitable donations. It takes effective organisation and planning to make it all happen. I recently gave birth to a baby girl, so I am now facing the new challenge of combining my role as a mother with my professional career.
How difficult is it for you personally to attain work-life balance and how do you endeavour to do this?
So far, I think I have managed to keep a good work-life balance. I make sure I spend enough quality time with my family and friends. Not checking your blackberry every few minutes for new messages in the evening or at weekends also makes a difference. Also in this respect, effective organisation and planning makes it possible to have a good work-life balance.
Did you have a mentor or role model in your career or while you were studying law? Who were they and how did they help you?
In our jurisdiction, a person in your office is assigned to you as your tutor during the first three years of your career as an attorney. Molly Steward (also a partner at our firm) was my tutor and to this day is my mentor. We have interesting discussions on a regular basis, not only about legal issues, but also about life.
How effective do you think corporate diversity initiatives are? What methods do you think are most effective and why?
I strongly believe that women and men have equal chances. Our firm recently received an award for being the most women friendly Curaçao company in 2011, which we are very proud of. The ratio between male and female attorneys within our firm is equal. An important aspect within our firm is that we offer our lawyers the opportunity to become specialised or all round professionals and there is no difference between men and women. Our firm invests in human talent, education, training and technology, which helps us to get the best out of our professionals and enables them to have a good work-life balance.
Were there any points in your career when you felt you were at a disadvantage or at an advantage because you were female?
I never felt I was at a disadvantage or an advantage because I am female. I have had, however, some occasions where I would answer my phone at work and people initially thought that they had my secretary on the phone, because they were expecting a male attorney. It amazes me that people still automatically link an attorney to being male.
What do you think have been the most significant changes for women in the legal industry over the past five years?
More and more women are starting a career in the legal industry. However, that cannot be said for women in leadership positions in the legal industry. Equal opportunity for growth is definitely a significant change, but my hope is that the amount of women with a leadership position will grow.
Chambers and Partners