Bettina B. Plevan, Partner, Proskauer Rose LLP
How long have you been working for your current company?
I have been working at Proskauer since 1974.
Briefly explain your career history and what led you to your current position.
In the earliest phase of my career at Proskauer, I worked in the Litigation Department, training to be a trial attorney in commercial and employment litigation. Subsequently, I specialized in employment litigation representing management exclusively as part of our large Labor and Employment Practice Group. Today, I represent companies and organizations of a very diverse nature, including media, financial services, health care, education and professional services organizations, including many global law firms.
What is your proudest professional achievement and why?
Being selected and having the opportunity to serve as the President of the New York City Bar Association, one of the largest voluntary bar associations in the United States. It provided me with an opportunity to lead for two years an amazing volunteer organization whose members contribute extensively to the betterment of our city, state and country as well as the world in areas as diverse as taxation, human rights, criminal defense, antitrust, ethics and professional responsibility, and many more law reform activities, providing legal services to the poor, etc.
What are the greatest challenges that you face in your current role and what do you do to overcome them?
My greatest challenge is finding the time to do everything that I would like to do, juggling representation of clients on a 24/7 basis and still finding time for other activities, family, etc.
How difficult is it for you personally to attain work-life balance and how do you endeavour to do this?
I find it difficult to obtain work-life balance, although it is somewhat easier (or I just feel less guilty) since my children have grown up. When they were young, I tried to discipline myself to have a hard stop at the office to go home even if it meant that I would have to continue work late into the night. Since my spouse is also a litigator, it is hard for us to achieve that balance together, but we do take our vacation time every year without fail.
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?
Several partners who were more senior to me at Proskauer served as excellent mentors and role models in my career. They were all men, but I did not find that to be at all an impediment to our relationship in their roles as mentors and role models.
How effective do you think corporate diversity initiatives are? What methods do you think are most effective and why?
I think corporate and law firm diversity initiatives are important and effective primarily with respect to hiring. More challenging has been the retention and promotion of diverse lawyers, and we need to do more to improve our approach to those issues.
Were there any points in your career when you felt you were at a disadvantage or at an advantage because you were female?
I don't think being a woman has been a disadvantage to me in my career and at times, it has been an advantage, perhaps not always for the right reason but in certain kinds of cases where gender issues are involved, I know that companies believed that it would be helpful to them to have a woman as their lawyer. I often have thought that it is helpful as well to the company not only as a strategic matter before a jury but also because in certain kinds of cases women bring insights and might make different arguments or in a different way than a man would.
What do you think have been the most significant changes for women in the legal industry over the past five years?
I think the most significant change for women in the legal industry in recent years has been the increased number of women who have achieved positions as General Counsel. We have not seen a comparable increase in the number of women becoming partners in major law firms, however.
Bettina is a ranked lawyer in the Chambers USA Guide.