Hermine Voûte, Partner, Loyens & Loeff
How long have you been working for your current company?
Briefly explain your career history and what led you to your current position.
I started as a trainee in the M & A department and I was asked to start up an employment law department in 1993. I became a partner in a firm called Loeff Claeys Verbeke in 1997. A part of this firm merged with the tax advisers of Loyens & Volkmaars in 2000. I have been head of the employment law department since 2000.
In 2010, I joined the management of our firm. I‘m also a member of the Board of the Dutch Bar Association and a member of the Diversity Council of the Dutch Bar.
What is your proudest professional achievement and why?
My proudest professional achievement is the fact that my associates are proud to be members of the employment law practice at Loyens & Loeff.
What are the greatest challenges that you face in your current role and what do you do to overcome them?
The greatest challenge is to maintain a balance between the different roles that I have - as a mentor, as a boss, as a lawyer to my clients, and as a board member for the Bar members. I try to remain aware at all times that I have different responsibilities in my various roles.
How difficult is it for you personally to attain work-life balance and how do you endeavour to do this?
As a mother of three children, I am always conscious of the fact that the time that I spend with them is limited due to my work and the same applies to my work when I am at home. I try not to worry about it too much. I’m a mother when I’m at home and a lawyer when I’m at work.
Did you have a mentor or role model in your career or while you were studying law? Who were they and how did they help you?
My role model was a senior – male - partner who visibly enjoyed his work. He taught me that work should be a joy and never a burden. He encouraged me to do what I was good at and not to be disappointed if my career did not develop exactly as I had planned. Any setbacks I encountered made me stronger.
How effective do you think corporate diversity initiatives are? What methods do you think are most effective and why?
Diversity should be at the top of any list for the management of the larger law firms. The talent in the legal community is limited. Diversity initiatives do not show instant results, but in time they do pay off. I’m in favour of quotas for woman at the top. It may seem forced when you first apply it, but that feeling is temporary.
Were there any points in your career when you felt you were at a disadvantage or at an advantage because you were female?
When I had less experience, I didn't consider it to be an advantage to be a female lawyer. Now that I’m experienced and well-known, I do consider it an advantage especially in doing business with male peers. I’m taken seriously as a professional and they also like doing business with me because I am a woman.
What do you think have been the most significant changes for women in the legal industry over the past five years?
One significant change in the last five years is that diversity is no longer a ‘dirty word’.