Ulvia Zeynalova-Bockin is Counsel in Dentons' Baku and Registered Foreign Lawyer in Dentons Rodyk in Singapore. Her practice includes banking law, Islamic finance, real estate finance, corporate law and finance, with experience in securities regulation, including work with the Division of Corporation Finance of the U.S. Securities and Exchange in Washington D.C.
She has been a member of the New York State Bar Association since 2010 and also ranked as the Next Generation Lawyer by The Legal 500 EMEA in 2017, 2018 and 2019 editions, Recognised Practitioner by Chambers and Partners Asia-Pacific & Chambers Global in 2018 and 2019 editions, and as the Rising Start by IFRL1000 2019.
Currently, Ulvia shares her time between Baku and Singapore offices. In Singapore she advises leading Singaporean and Malaysian banks and other clients with business interests in the CIS region.
ULVIA, HOW IT'S LIKE TO BE A WOMAN LAWYER IN THE CORPORATE WORLD?
It is both challenging and rewarding. We are living through unprecedented times in world history. Globalisation and technology have caused upheavals in business and politics. Cultural perspectives and views of gender are rapidly transforming as well. As a woman lawyer in the corporate world, I am on the front lines—not just seeing it all happen, but playing an active role in establishing a more stable and more equitable order.
YOU HAVE BEEN WORKING WITH EMEA REGION FOR SOME TIME NOW. IS THERE BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEING A WOWAN LAWYER IN THAT PART OF THE WORLD AND THE WEST?
Having worked in the West, the East, and in between over the years, I would say that challenges faced women lawyers are pretty much universal, even though there are subtle differences.
But Singapore seems to have achieved an important critical mass of women lawyers represented at all levels of the legal profession to the point that gender is rapidly becoming irrelevant. I personally have never been referred to as a woman lawyer. Here in Singapore, I am simply a lawyer.
According to various sources, 42 percent of all practicing lawyers in Singapore are women. Of these, 33 percent hold the position of Director or Partner in a law firm.
It’s an impressive statistic, especially compared to the West.
I am proud to say that Dentons, the global firm that I work for, integrates the push for gender parity into our core vision. So, while there’s still much work to do, we are trying our best to do our part.
THE LEGAL PROFESSION USED TO BE ONE OF THE MOST MALE-DOMINATED INDUSTRIES AND HAS PREDOMINANTLY MALE CULTURE. TOP LAW FIRMS ARE STILL DOMINATED BY MEN. HOW CAN WOMEN ADVANCE IN THIS ENVIRONMENT WITHOUT MALE SUPPORTERS OR BEING A PROTEGE?
It is useful to build a peer network within the organization, but also to build a robust network across a range of industries. Your value to the firm would increase dramatically if you can demonstrate your ability to not only deliver high quality work product but also bring in clientele and your network can be a source for those introductions.
Also, “managing up” is its own skill set. You cannot just toil away in the background and expect the recognition you deserve. You have to figure out how to create face time with the decision makers.
You have to sometimes be a self-promoter. After all, if you’re not going to promote yourself, who will?
At the same time, I do not believe that having a male supporter is a bad thing in and of itself. In fact, given that the current power structure within law firms, having influential supporters could be very useful. We may not like it, but these are the rules of the game for the time being.
Play by the rules to get to the top, but once you there, don’t forget to change the rules to make it easier for the next generation.
TECHNOLOGY OPENS NEW AVENUES FOR TACKLING WORKFORCE GENDER GAP IN CERTAIN INDUSTRIES. IS THIS HAPPENING IN LEGAL INDUSTRY?
The legal industry has been rather slow to adopt technology, but that is changing in a big way. For a banking and finance lawyer like myself, technology ushered in an unprecedented flexibility in terms of where and when I am working. My office is where my computer is: in the office, at home office, in a coffee shop, airport or train.
Technology has also made frequent business travel much more bearable—most of the time, I am able to read a bedtime story to my son, regardless of where I am physically.
In addition to the increased flexibility and connectivity, technology has also enabled me to work much more efficiently, delivering value to my clients and the firm, as well as helping me juggle a busy career and personal life.