Eva Sanchez, Senior Associate, Squire Sanders UK LLP
How long have you been working for your current company?
Since May 2006.
Briefly explain you career history and what led you to your current position.
I started working as a trainee in a big Spanish Legal firm, where I spent the first years of my career as a lawyer. That firm’s policy was to rotate young lawyers between the different practice areas and departments to allow us to gain a more experienced vision in the practice of law, acquire knowledge of different practices and consequently be sure of the area that we wanted to dedicate ourselves to. Thanks to them I did not have any doubt to choose for a specialism in corporate law and this decision made me able to start building a good knowledge within real estate law.
Subsequently, the development of the market and the economic situation in Spain meant that topics of real estate increased or potentially peaked and the needs of the clients resulted in my gradual specialization in real estate law. This process accelerated with my arrival at Squire Sanders just at a time when the real estate sector was at its height and they were beginning to build their real estate department. During this time we participated in many real estate operations, including, buying and selling, financing, letting etc. It was a great experience, professionally as well as personally to contribute to the growth of a department that started from nothing and in recent years has managed to become one of the most important within the Madrid office. Parallel to the growth of the department, my professional development thrived until my promotion to senior associate.
What is your proudest professional achievement and why?
I could not choose only one. In every deal that I have been involved , there have been challenges and complications that I have had to resolve and overcome and I have learnt from all of them, from a technical point a view as well as managing and conflict resolution.
All of the above, combined with the daily contact with clients, is what has allowed me to develop my professional skills and reach the two milestones that have been of vital importance to me: being promoted to senior associate six months ago and to be mentioned individually in Chambers&Partners two consecutive years (before being promoted) as a lawyer to bare in mind in the real estate sector in Spain.
Finally, I am currently experiencing being part of a firm that has just merged two big law firms on either side of the ocean and the opportunity of being able to contribute to the creation of a unique firm that supplies legal services on a global level is been extremely enriching.
What are the greatest challenges that you face in your current role and what do you do to overcome them?
Currently, due to the deep worldwide economic crisis in which we are emerged, and that is especially affecting Spain, the main problem I am being faced with is wining new clients and operations. Unfortunately, as of late, financing in Spain has practically frozen and consequently investments and new operations are practically non existent. This has led to a significant rise in competition with other firms that have been forced to dramatically reduce their fees. Despite all of this, the dedication, accessibility, absolute efficiency in costs and an excellent advice when our services are needed has allowed us to form long lasting relationships with our clients based on absolute confidence and dedication. All of the above elements are very important when it comes to win new clients and our involvement in new operations.
How difficult is it for you personally to attain work-life balance and how do you endeavour to do this?
In the real estate sector (in periods of economic boom) big selling and buying operations -regarding real estate assets as well as regarding the companies owners of these assets- are usually numerous and their deadlines are often tight and in many instances even arbitrary.
During these cases, in order to be able to provide the client with adequate advice, you must adjust strictly to their needs, and the personal life of a lawyer comes second to this. Personally, not having family duties helps this dedication enormously and I am aware of the difficult circumstances of lawyers that have a family to look after, making it more complicated.
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?
No one in my family has been involved in law, meaning that when I decided to study law everything was new to me. Therefore my first mentor was my corporate law professor at university, who provided me with the material I needed and allowed me to realise that was the sector I wanted to specialise in. Additionally, during my university years, I also had a classmate (today a reputable lawyer in the sector) whose energy, determination, initiative and knowledge of the legal world was determining for me when it came to choosing my professional path.
Subsequently, at the beginning of my career as a lawyer I was given the opportunity to work in a big Spanish law firm, where the partners in the corporate and real estate law departments introduced me to legal practice and allowed to confirm my professional choice. Once I arrived at Squire Sanders (formally Hammonds), my partner mentor (Ramon Castilla) provided me good training in the practice of law, giving me the opportunity to take part in interesting projects and operations that allowed me direct and personal contact with the clients. This proved crucial when it came to my promotion. Without his support, my promotion may not have been possible.
How effective do you think corporate diversity initiatives are? What methods do you think are most effective and why?
The nature and characteristics of the legal sector mean that implementing initiative schemes is more difficult that in other types of companies where those initiatives are fully and easily consolidated as can be a reduced day of work, flexibility with working hours, etc.
In the case of law firms and especially in determined departments like corporate and real estate, the type of operations that we work with require the complete availability of the lawyer.
Notwithstanding the above, Squire Sanders´ policy forecasts the possibility of combining work in the office with work from home, which assumes an advance with the material and probably is one of the most effective ways of achieving the establishment of the previously mentioned initiatives.
Were there any points in your career when you felt you were at a disadvantage because you were female?
Up until now, I have not found myself at any serious professional disadvantage for being female in a sector where males predominate. In working day to day, surrounded by my colleagues, it is not something that I particularly notice until I enter a meeting room in which there are only men.
The added difficulty I think women encounter is to find the right balance between their working lives and their personal lives in countries like Spain where working hours are very long and historically women are in charge of their homes and their families which consequently means that often women have less opportunity of participating in high profile deals which can lead to fewer career opportunities.
What do you think have been the most significant changes for women in the legal industry over the past five years?
In the last years, the number of women who are in positions of power has considerably increased, although there is a long way to go yet. As an example of the abovementioned increase, in Squire Sanders Madrid office there are 3 equity partners and one of them is a woman.