HOANG Nguyen Ha Quyen, managing partner at LNT & Partners, who was named as one of ALB Asia's Top 15 Female Lawyers for 2023, talks about the issues of equality in the legal profession.
Thinking about equality (gender or otherwise), what key policies or concrete actions in the legal profession have you found effective or helpful personally?
The 2006 Gender Equality Law and Decree No. 70/2008/ND-CP detailing several provisions of the Law on Gender Equality are two legal instruments on equality that apply to all ﬁelds. However, there are not yet any speciﬁc regulations for the legal profession, a gap which I think should be addressed.
What has been the most challenging part of your career? What did you learn from it?
I once represented my client in an M&A negotiation where the other side – all men – showed zero respect for women. They came from a country with a notorious gender inequality record and refused to shake hands because I am a woman. The negotiation was extremely difﬁcult because they didn’t want to discuss but only said no to our conditions without explaining the reasons for disagreeing.
In that situation, I knew that the negotiation would fail and my client would not achieve their goals if I expressed any anger. I chose the opposite, implicitly let them know that I am experienced and fully understand how negotiations work, and asked that they negotiate with respect. Gradually they realised that I couldn’t be bullied into accepting unfavorable terms, and negotiated with a more collaborative attitude.
At the end of the 5-day, 15-hour-a-day, negotiation, the counter-party came over and thanked me sincerely for being professional, calm and gentle yet resolute. It was one of the key factors that facilitated the success of the transaction. They came to me and said that the deal wouldn’t have gone through had someone else been the lawyer.
What practical advice would you give junior women lawyers today, and young men in the profession who want to be allies for equality?
In Vietnam, statistics show that although female students generally outnumber male students at law schools, there are fewer practising female lawyers than male lawyers. It is unfortunate that many female lawyers feel they have to choose between having a successful legal career and building a happy family, or that they have to give up one for the other. With an open mindset and a good support system, I believe all female lawyers can have the ‘best of both worlds’. One little piece of advice I would offer junior women lawyers is to hone your time management skills. […] Good time management has allowed me to make time for my family despite a busy work schedule.
As for young men in the profession, support your female colleagues wholeheartedly when she asks for help. She will be one of your greatest allies too.
What aspect of the legal ecosystem would you change in Vietnam to ensure greater equality in the profession?
Allow female lawyers to have more flexible working hours. Speaking from personal experience, it is difficult for working mothers with young children to balance between taking care of her family and furthering her career. I believe flexible working, at least in her first few years of motherhood, would help reduce pressure on working female lawyers while facilitating her transition to a full-time schedule. She would also be more productive at work and be in the right mindset to improve her performance.