When Loyens & Loeff Netherlands’ HR Department asked Christine Delagaye if she would like to follow OSR legal education Women Leadership Programme, she decided to opt for the international variant (IWLP), as she felt this was best suited to her senior associate position. The programme helped her to work more effectively and subsequently allowed her to find a better balance between her work and private life.
Christine: ‘I started the programme with a question which was very important to me personally: how do you realise a good work-private life balance? Lawyers in Belgium are self-employed, rather than being regarded as employees, as is the case in the Netherlands. This results in even greater pressure to perform and to always be available. That is quite specific to this sector. Fortunately Loyens & Loeff certainly don’t expect me to always be working into the early hours. However, I still often felt guilty when I shut my office door behind me and headed for home. The course made me realise that setting more time aside for myself would ultimately also benefit the office and the quality of my work.’
‘The personal testimonies provided by female partners, in relation to how they experienced their journey towards their partnership, certainly opened my eyes. We’re often fooled into thinking everyone else has their entire lives perfectly in order, both at work and at home. Especially someone like me, who is incredibly tough on herself. Making the right impression and being able to stand your ground are very important in the legal profession. But that doesn’t mean you have to be perfect at everything you do in both your private and professional life! I now have the confidence to say out loud that my accomplishments are valuable. This confidence is definitely also something you’ll exude where your clients and younger employees are concerned.’
‘The programme is so interesting because you’re intensively interacting with women in similar positions from all over Europe’, Christine explains. ‘You really get to know each other well in the two-day sessions. My group included women from Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Belgium. Scandinavian countries are way ahead of the Netherlands and Belgium where gender equality and diversity are concerned. It’s therefore quite amusing to find they struggle with the exact same issues, like going home on time to collect your children from school, or to do some sports activities. I certainly find the fact that the differences really aren’t that great a comforting thought. My buddy was Anniina from Finland. We had a great click and still stay in touch every 3 to 4 weeks. We then talk about how things are progressing with the objectives we set ourselves during the programme. That fresh perspective of someone who is independent of the office, but who you do have a great deal in common with, is certainly very helpful.’
‘I thought one of the most fascinating sessions from the programme was the one about effective leadership and Covey’s 7 habits of highly effective people’, Christine continues. ‘The tips were very usable in daily practice. Everything had been set up very practically and covered areas like networking, dealing with colleagues, communication style and the circle of influence. You will always have a steady stream of colleagues coming to see you as a senior associate, sometimes making you feel you have no time left for your own work. I have learned to organise my time more effectively, for example by concentrating on my own work for 20 minutes without distractions and by informing everyone of the fact: I’m having a ‘not now moment!’ This will allow you to work much more effectively.’
‘The legal profession is a real people’s business. I have always felt it was important to take proper time out to call clients. I do this even more consciously now. This empathy is in my nature, which instantly makes it evident in my leadership style too. I have always enjoyed helping people to do bigger and better things. I now feel even more secure in that role after following the IWLP. Receiving that acknowledgement certainly results in a great deal more self-confidence.
I already have a few Loyens & Loeff colleagues in mind to introduce to HR for the next course; women who, just like me, have the ambition to grow in their careers. There are currently more women than men studying law, but the higher up you go, the fewer women you’ll come across. I am convinced it will benefit the legal profession as a whole if more women are employed in high-ranking positions.’
Christine Delagaye is a senior associate at Loyens & Loeff Energy & Utilities Team in Belgium.IWLP