Lucia Raimanova über die Slowakei
"Women should decide what works best for them personally and ensure their decision is respected."
Lucia Raimanova, Counsel at Allen & Overy in Bratislava, about moving from one culture to another, the importance of speaking at conferences, Brexit, and the situation of women lawyers in Slovakia.
Lucia, you spent most of your life abroad before returning to Slovakia as a Counsel at Allen & Overy – you lived in London for 15 years, you were seconded to Hong Kong and Moscow, and you did your Master of Law at the University of Vienna. Did you ever have a culture shock or were you just born to be constantly moving from one culture to another?
I moved to Vienna by myself when I was 15. I attended a local high school there. That was hard. I did not have the right accent or the right clothes – both particularly important when you are a teenager. Luckily, most of my classmates were foreign, of diverse cultures and social class. That experience set me up nicely for what was to come. I had no culture shock after that.
You speak regularly at conferences. How important are they in developing one’s career in your eyes?
I think fairly important. The benefits particularly in the early stages of one’s career are manifold. You learn about the topic you are presenting on, develop your own views on topical issues in arbitration, travel the world and meet lots of interesting people ready to have an intellectual discussion. Gradually, this helps you become a better speaker and a more rounded arbitration practitioner sensitive to different perspectives on the various issues that occupy the world of arbitration. And one day, you may be seen as a thought leader. It is important, however, that you have fun doing it.
Just recently, you published an article on the implications of Brexit for international arbitration. Which are the major implications?
It is hard to keep up with the news on Brexit; every day, there is a new headline. The implications will obviously depend on the ultimately agreed terms. I’ll answer this question on the assumption of a ‘hard’ Brexit. So far as investment arbitration is concerned, the implications seem fairly obvious. Intra-EU BITs will become extra-EU BITs although they may be ultimately replaced with a new EU-UK instrument. IIAs concluded by the EU will not be binding on the UK, and the UK will be free to enter into its own IIAs. Current extra-EU BITs will not be affected. The implications on commercial arbitration are more difficult to pin down. However, recognition and enforcement of awards will remain the same – the New York Convention will continue to apply. If anything, Brexit may lead to a switch from jurisdiction clauses providing for English courts to London-seated arbitration as, absent a replacement for the Recast Brussels Regulation, English judgments will not be automatically enforceable in the EU. I can’t see a reason why London would lose on its importance as the seat of arbitration on account of Brexit although I can see purely EU-based parties opting for a Paris or Vienna seat. The threat to London’s status as the premier arbitration center is more likely to come from increased competition in dispute resolution services globally.
When you moved to Vienna and London, did you feel any differences as to how you were treated as a woman compared to your home country Slovakia?
When I left Slovakia I was far more focused on the fact that I was being treated like a foreigner. I did not observe any difference in treatment that I could ascribe to being a woman.
Had things in Slovakia changed when you returned after more than two decades? If so, how?
There is far less petty corruption around and there has clearly been steady economic growth over the years. Slovakia’s accession to the EU has also helped to increase standards across the board.
You are currently expecting your second child. At which point in your career did you get your first child and what were the surrounding circumstances like? What was maternity protection like?
I had my first child while I was a Senior Associate in London and I think the maternity leave policy in magic circle firms is pretty good. The leave is fully paid for six months and one can stay at home for up to a year. Firms also provide coaching for the return to work and there are keep in touch days that make the transition back to work easier. Part-time and flexible working is also being promoted. The one thing I would urge women not to do is delay having children on account of their career – decide when is the right time to have them for you and arrange your career around it. With my first child I stayed at home for seven months because that felt about right for me. This time, I’m trying to develop my practice and my support network is better. I therefore asked everyone to respect my decision to return to work within three months. I think women should decide what works best for them personally, communicate that decision clearly and ensure their decision is respected. Employers obviously have an important role to play in supporting women to make choices that work for them as well as the employer.
Often, women lawyers are afraid that having children while pursuing a career will throw you off your career track. Is balancing career and family a big issue for women lawyers in Slovakia? Was it a big issue for you before you had your first child?
Yes, don’t assume that just because you are from Slovakia, you cannot make a mark on the international plane. Law is becoming increasingly global and EU law obviously applies across the Union. But in order to do that, you have to work hard on yourself and set yourself a much higher bar than Slovak schools and universities force you to do.
Are there many women lawyers in top positions in Slovakia compared to England?
The Slovak legal market is small and fragmented. Even international law firms are small in size, and it is difficult to compare them to City law firms. I also do not have any empirical data to hand. However, I do not get the impression that there are big differences. There are certainly female partners in law firms, but they are noticeably fewer in numbers than male partners. However, we do have a lot of female notaries public and female judges in Slovakia as those roles are easier to balance with family life.
Do you have any general advice for law students interested in pursuing a career in Slovakia?
Combining work and family life is very much a live issue for me. We are only a few months in at this point, so we are still finding our way. I imagine there will be some juggling involved, and lots to learn, but I don't mind a healthy amount of chaos.
Which women lawyer should be nominated as a role model for breaking.through? Why?
The Secretary General of the VIAC Dr. Alice Fremuth-Wolf? I think she is a really good example of a very successful woman who seems to have found the right balance between her career and her family life that works for her and is also beneficial to the arbitration community.
Thank you so much for this interview!
Bratislava, 10 Juli 2018. Lucia Raimanova answered the questions in writing. The questions were drafted by Nadja Harraschain.
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