Hot List Lawyer: Female partners “significantly” under-represented

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Corrs Chambers Westgarth partner Sandy Mak is a lawyer with few borders who tirelessly champions women lawyers both inside and outside her firm: The Australasian Lawyer Hot Lister tells us about pressing issues females face in the profession.

“Females represent the majority of law school graduates but they are still significantly under-represented at partnership level,” she says, emphasising how important it is for law firms to take steps to ensure the industry is not losing half of its legal talent pool.

Gender diversity has significant benefits for the culture and business outcomes of law firms, she says.

Mak, who is also co-chair of Corrs’ Diversity Council, has driven key initiatives and programs at the firm which have seen a significant improvement in the retention, progression, satisfaction and development of women there.

“I think one of the biggest challenges we face is how to put in place successful and rewarding flexible workplace arrangements for all lawyers - not just women,” she says.

At Corrs she helps implement the “Mainstreaming Flexibility” project, which aids to create an environment that supports choices and professional desires for everyone by providing mainstreamed flexible careers, while optimising client outcomes.

She’s also involved with providing executive coaching to high potential women, as well as group-based coaching for Corrs’ working mothers.

“It is important to celebrate the successes of women in the legal profession – we need to profile as many positive role models as possible for our younger lawyers to look up to, particularly given the gender imbalance at higher levels within the profession.”

Outside of the workplace, Mak devotes her time as a lecturer in takeovers and schemes at Sydney University’s undergraduate course Corporate and Securities Regulation on a pro-bono basis.

As a lawyer she specialises in public and private mergers and acquisitions, and equity capital markets transactions.

She says current key areas of focus in this space include the G20 agenda to harmonise international tax laws in relation to base erosion and product shifting.

“Acquirers, particularly foreign acquirers, are going to have to take all of this into account structuring their transactions,” says Mak.

A rise in shareholder activism is another issues for companies undertaking M&A transactions to keep an eye on, she says.

And when she’s not assisting in the march to nurture and champion female lawyers or representing major commercial clients, Mak is a full-time mum.

“Spending time with my three young children and husband is my absolute priority outside of work,” she says. “Attending netball games, pretending to be a dinosaur and watching Peppa Pig consumes a lot of my spare time at the moment.”