Legal Business Blogs

International Women’s Day 2022: Patricia Volhard, Debevoise & Plimpton, Frankfurt and London – leading individual investment funds, Germany

Which woman most inspired you in your legal career and why?

There have been so many strong women who have inspired me, it seems unfair to single out an individual (except for my older sister). I’ve been fortunate to meet, and often work alongside, women who have inspired me through their open-mindedness, energy, skill and appetite for their work. One combination that I have often found especially inspiring is the ability to balance a passion for your work with a certain coolness of temperament. Certainly, when I was younger, it wasn’t clear to me that it’s possible to both love what you do, and also not take the world too seriously. That’s something I’ve learned from a number of role models, and a quality I aspire to emulate.

What advice do you have for aspiring lawyers?

Find out what you like most and then go for it, without listening to others. You simply have to believe in yourself and think positively, that is the most important thing. There are still so many hurdles out there, and so many people who will challenge what you do, so it is important to stay calm, curious, decisive and confident. It’s certainly easier said than done, though!

This year’s IWD theme is ‘BreakTheBias’ on gender inequality, discrimination and stereotypes – how biased is the German commercial legal market these days and what is the biggest change that still needs to happen?

I think we can still do so much better on equality and diversity in Germany. Female and male lawyers have the same opportunities from the outset, and things have really improved a lot since when I started my career. But there is still room for improvement, in particular after becoming a mother. That’s an area in which our whole society, not just the legal market, can do better. There are still too many women who struggle to resume their original career path after having a child (in part because there are fewer role models). I think we need a change in how we perceive fatherhood as well. We need to make it more normal for men to take time out of their careers after becoming a parent, and not just a few weeks. That would lead to less career disruption for mothers. There is still an impression that you are a bad mother if you do not make significant sacrifices in your career when you become a parent, and that is a problem.