August Debouzy appointed Mahasti Razavi as the new Managing Partner on 1 January 2018. On this occasion, the Women’s Forum conducted an interview with her as the next inspiring female leader.
- What are you most proud of about your career? About August Debouzy?
I am proud of a number of things: proud of having chosen this firm when it was a small and in in a start-up mode feeling this was the right decision for me. Proud of having participated in the remarkable growth of the firm for 20 years through passion for my job and the people I work with. Proud of having become a business partner of French and multinational companies for so many years. Proud of the teams I work with every day to make this firm very special to me, to our clients and to all of us.
I am also so proud of AD that managed from day 1 to bring in talents from everywhere and from various backgrounds. Proud of the founders’ of the firm’s vision to create an innovative law firm that was always focused on empowering all talents irrespective of age, gender or experience.
- What are the biggest challenges you have encountered in your industry as a woman? How have you overcome them?
I believe my experiences have allowed me to be part of a lucky group of individuals. I have been practising for 23 years and have always been in places where being a woman was well considered in professional experiences, both today and 20 years ago.
However, I acknowledge the struggles faced by women in environments that disregard them. Being part of a lucky group has been a learning experience, and I have always ensured that my work environment would be a healthy environment for individuals.
- What are the greatest changes you have noted in the August Debouzy of today as compared to the AD of 1997? (Do you see shifting trends in terms of gender equality, diversity and inclusion in your workplace?)? Can you share with us part of your agenda as the new Managing Partner to improve diversity at work?
My firm has always been a special place. August Debouzy was created by Gilles August & Olivier Debouzy, two men that are in my opinion, rare in spirit and action. They trusted talent irrespective of gender or origin or background. When I joined the firm, our group of people comprised many women so is the case today. Actually, there are more women than men in the firm in 2018. The first two partners appointed by the founding partners were women, one of which was Emmanuelle Barbara, the leading French employment and labour lawyer in France, who also became the managing partner of the firm and to whom I am succeeding as the new MP.
Here, we consider people’s talent, dedication, energy. The firm is an incredible melting pot of individuals. The only difference is that 20 years ago, this pot had 20 people and now it has 240 people
We have always been diverse as well, something that has remained unchanged despite the change in the firm’s size. With my Iranian origins and experience in France and the USA, I can say this place is unusual because the elements of inclusion have always been a part of our DNA, not as a reaction or in response to a lack of inclusion.
What is interesting is that a majority of the students attending the Bar Schools in France are female students. This is not a new shift. But law firms that have been fairly traditional about the agency of women are now reconsidering the representation of men and women in firms. A lot has also happened at the initiative of our clients that are sensitive to their firms representing fairly the reality of the work environment.
At August Debouzy, the agenda of improving diversity is not pertinent as we already have more female lawyers than male lawyers and are so diverse. We hope to keep a balance between talented individuals, whether they are men or women.
- What is your definition of a “successful leader”? What would be your advice to women aspiring to be leaders in law?
Be yourself! It is so important to be consistent with yourself to be a successful leader even if some people may not like this!