‘My career has been a tale of reinvention and creativity.
I have been very lucky in that I have worked on three continents. I started in New York as a corporate finance lawyer in the traditional sense, then transferred to Singapore where younger lawyers did a bit of everything: investment funds, LBOs, JV finance, capital markets.
I came to London to establish Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe’s London office in 1997 – when securitisation was taking off. Post-financial crisis I had to reinvent myself even further. I handled some of the restructuring work coming out of that. I joined Reed Smith in 2012 to start their structured finance practice.
Men and women alike think of leaders as having certain characteristics, which are often male. We think of leaders as charismatic, a bit arrogant and slightly dogmatic: these are all characteristics that are regarded as attractive in men but extremely unattractive in women.
For women it’s much less obvious that the most talented will always succeed. We promote men on potential, women on performance.
As long as managers are male, there is the tendency to bring people on that are alike to them. It is only natural. The opportunity for women to be put into management has been narrower: that’s just the society we have been educated in.
For me it was a combination of passion and incredibly hard work – I am a workaholic, but it comes from a passion so that’s where I was lucky. I had great mentorship and people who believed in me and pushed me when I was not able to push myself.
Some of the bias we talk about also works against men: they feel it is expected from them to be proper leaders. There are a lot of identity issues. Women have the leeway to say: “You know what? I am opting out!” and they can go and do something else.
So many fantastic female lawyers have left law and launched incredibly successful businesses, or left to go in-house where they have also been very successful. They moved in-house to have a little more of a balanced life and got promoted. So law firms now have women as clients and are asked to provide diverse teams – it is changing because of this.
We now have so many more female managing partners, an exciting change going on in the industry. Having a female manager is now a much more normal occurrence.’
Tamara Box is managing partner for Europe and Middle East Reed Smith and highlighted in ‘Alphas’ Legal Business’ current cover feature on the City’s outstanding women lawyers (£)
Interview by Marco Cillario.