Ayda Habboush and Saerim Kim
Trowers & Hamlins
Ayda Habboush and Saerim Kim at Trowers & Hamlins, Interlaw’s partner firm in England and the UAE, reflect on a challenging 2020 and look forward to the opportunities to achieve greater gender equality during 2021.
When the world went into lockdown in 2020, making the shift from face-to-face to a virtual working environment proved to be a major challenge for both Ayda and Saerim. Tasked with keeping the team motivated and clients engaged brought home that it really is ‘good to talk’, as partner, Ayda explains:
“During 2020, reassuring clients and contacts that we were still open for business and could provide the same, if not a better, level of service was key. We managed to do it and to keep relations with those clients active.
“However, the most difficult part I think was making a concerted effort to keep the team together and communicate with each other. It is very easy to just send out emails asking people to do various tasks and never speak to them, unlike when we're all in the office and can just pop in and see people. Being away from each other is hard, especially for the more junior members of the team, so we scheduled regular team meetings, not just to discuss work but also to find out what people were up to and how they were. I think seeing everyone (even if only virtually) really did, and still does, help.”
This sentiment is echoed by associate, Saerim, who admitted that the sudden shift in working practices presented the biggest challenge over the past year:
“I think, for me, going from a busy, vibrant and friendly office to a virtual office and making that change in a relatively short space of time has been the biggest challenge. Whenever possible, I tried to actually call or video call colleagues rather than just sending emails, just as I would pop over to a colleague's office to discuss or check something or ask a question when we were back in the office. It made my virtual office feel much more interactive and lively - thanks to all my colleagues for always answering my video calls with such a lovely smile!”
Both Saerim and Ayda have been very mindful of the importance of staying connected and supporting colleagues throughout the pandemic. At a practical level, this has been essential for helping the team to overcome challenges and adapt to new ways of working. Both Saerim and Ayda believe this type of personal connection and support, with women supporting women, is key to furthering gender equality in the year ahead, as Saerim explains:
“I want to challenge myself to reach out to other women in the profession - to connect, to share experiences and to encourage - I think this can be my own "reach out challenge"! I would like to reach out and speak to women lawyers both inside and outside the firm, and in other jurisdictions too - I am sure I have a lot to learn from everyone and I would like to offer my support, especially to those female lawyers who are in the early stages of their career. I think it is important for us to ensure that women support other women!”
A sentiment echoed by Ayda:
“On a professional level, my challenge to myself this year is to promote women within the profession on an international level. I work with the Middle East quite regularly and have been an avid promoter and supporter of womens' initiatives and engaging with women in business in those regions. I'd definitely like to continue that work and encourage women to actively take part in their businesses and push through the barriers that we face. The more of us who do that, the fewer barriers there will be for the next generation.”