Can you tell us about your legal career so far, and some of the highlights?

In the early days of my career, I went to the United States for an LLM study at Temple University School of Law under a Fulbright scholarship. That was the first opportunity I had to see the world outside Vietnam in my life. Inspired by many stories and experiences during the Fulbright LLM trip, I joined Vilaf as a partner on returning to Vietnam, making part of a small team of aspiring lawyers to develop one of the first business law firms advising cross-border transactions and cases in Vietnam. Together, we have gone from a 12-lawyer firm to a first-tier law firm in Vietnam with nearly 90 lawyers.

My legal practices currently focus on advising M&A transactions, financing transactions and project development, with clients mainly from energy sectors, financial services sectors and industrial sectors.

How would you describe the opportunities for female lawyers to advance in Vietnam’s legal industry today? Are there any factors that hold them back?

According to most international female entrepreneurs statistics, Vietnam ranks relatively high among the reported countries in Asia as to the percentage of female business owners and female board directors over the total in the country. The professional and business climates are relatively supportive to females. The status is similar for lawyers.

Nonetheless, female lawyers do face certain factors which may hold them back in contrast to their male peers. 
Some of the prevailing examples may include imbalanced family and motherhood duties and lack of spiritual and other support from family for career investments due to traditional social stereotypes.

What can law firms do to make the environment more conducive to the hiring and promotion of female lawyers? Are there any initiatives you are involved in?

I think an environment that could motivate both female and male lawyers is an environment that allows fair flexibility in work styles and schedules, allows lawyers to choose the level of time investments in the career and the speed of their career advancements and fosters a remuneration and promotion system which is transparent, performance-based and straight-forward. That is the system we have built in our firm.

What advice would you give to young female lawyers seeking to follow the same career path as you?

An important secret of success is to find your own distinctive strengths and exploit them. Males and females are born different – each having their own different strengths. In my personal view, gender equality does not mean ignoring such differences because in ignoring them you may waste your own distinctive strengths. Respect and love who you are and find environments and people who support who you are and help you exploit your distinctive strengths.

First, find out your particular strengths, talents and passions. Invest in them, cultivate them and make them shine out. It is not necessary and not advisable to be the same as your male peers to be successful. You are yourself and you can shine in your own way. It’s important to be yourself and confident and comfortable about who you are.
Second, find your mentors in your career. Find a work environment and colleagues that are supportive and can develop and use your personal strengths and talents. Ensure that your immediate family understand and support you and your career. On the other hand, be ready to mentor and support other female lawyers.

Third, speak up and be direct. Don’t assume what others (including male colleagues) think and don’t assume that they understand or know your priorities and preferences. It’s important to speak up and express your aspirations and goals. Take risks and take on opportunities.

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