The changing face of law firms

Hogan Lovells in South Africa has increased its female ownership to over 40% this year, and quite a few of our female partners are heading up their practice areas. 

It all started early 2014, when we hired Anina Boshoff, a leading banking and finance lawyer, to start the firm’s local banking and finance practice. Shortly thereafter partner Laurie Hammond joined Anina’s team. Early 2015 brought partner Lesley Morphet to the firm as head of our competition law practice in South Africa. 

Earlier this year we appointed two female partners, Vivien Chaplin and Rachel Kelly, in our corporate/M&A practice, and promoted two others to partner: Jean Ewang in our employment practice and Melissa Leibowitz in real estate. And with the retirement of our male head of real estate around the same time, Emili Souris became head of that practice. Now our real estate practice has only female partners.

Our real estate practice is actually a good example on how times have changed. Here are some insights from two female partners:

Admitted as an attorney and conveyancer in 1986, Emili Souris has practised as a property law professional for more than 25 years. She joined Hogan Lovells at a time when the firm wanted to develop a strong property department. Emili believes that although the property sector has been dominated by men in the past, over the years women have become more prominent in all aspects of property. “It is wonderful to see how successful women have become in the property industry,” she says. She is passionate about skills transfer, and works with a team of juniors to whom she is transferring her vast skills and knowledge.

Penny Chenery has been part of the firm’s real estate department since she was admitted as an attorney, conveyancer and notary in 2004. She’s observed a change in the property industry over the years. “The mix in the industry has become more diverse, not just in relation to the male/female ratio but also in relation to colour, culture and creed,” she says. She believes organisations such as the Women’s Property Network, of which she is a member, are working to support the growth of women in the industry, to make the sector inclusive and to transform it.

And let’s not forget, Hogan Lovells was the first major law firm in South Africa to appoint a female CEO.


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