MinterEllisonRuddWatts partner champions greater opportunity for female lawyers

Sarah Salmond talks about growing up on lawyer shows like “Ally McBeal” and her desire to see the gender imbalance in the industry addressed

MinterEllisonRuddWatts partner champions greater opportunity for female lawyers
Sarah Salmond

Sarah Salmond saw her future career on the TV screen when she discovered lawyer-focused shows like Ally McBeal in her youth.

Today, she has risen up the ranks of MinterEllisonRuddWatts as a partner on the corporate team in the firm’s Auckland office, and she wants to see more women obtain the same position, challenging the gender issues that have long been present in the industry.

In this interview, Salmond also talks about adapting to remote working conditions, raising three young kids with her essential worker husband and helping to jumpstart the New Zealand economy after COVID-19.

What made you choose a career in law?

I grew up watching TV shows like LA Law, Law and Order and Ally McBeal, and they made lawyering look pretty fun. Then as an adult, I thought being a lawyer would be an interesting, varied and personally fulfilling way to make a living, and it really is.

What do you love most about your job?

Working with great people and solving gnarly problems.

What is going on at the firm? Are there any new programs and initiatives that you’re particularly interested in?

COVID-19 has caused lots of disruption, but our people are resilient and adapting fast. Like lots of workplaces, we’ve really embraced working from home and Skype meetings. And anyone who has seen my desk will be amazed to know that I’ve fully embraced the firm’s new paper-light way of working!

What has been your proudest accomplishment in the last year or so?

Without a doubt, joining the partnership at MinterEllisonRuddWatts. The partnership promotion process is a long and rigorous journey. But now that I’m in the partnership, I feel fully supported, encouraged and inspired—it’s great.

What should the profession and law firms focus more on?

Improving the retention and advancement of female lawyers. We’ve been talking about these gender issues for years, but the headline statistics never seem to change. Right now, two-thirds of law graduates are female, but only one-third of law firm partners are female. If we want to address this imbalance, we need to tackle unconscious bias, encourage flexible working, close the gender pay gap, and promote equitable instructions. And rather than just talking about these issues, we need to make plans, take action and measure progress.

What has been the biggest challenge you and your practice has faced amid the pandemic?

Getting our clients the urgent advice they’ve needed, while caring for three kids under five and an ‘essential worker’ husband. That’s been really tough. I can’t imagine how some parents also managed to home-school their kids.

What are you looking forward to the most in the coming year?

Lots of things! But first of all: changing out of my ‘active wear’; escaping my COVID-19 bubble; catching up with friends, colleagues and clients; eating meals I didn’t make; and playing my small part in getting the New Zealand economy humming again.

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