Women make up just 30% of India’s top 30 law firms and just 25% of the top 100 corporate dealmakers - according to Legally India. It tracks developments in Indian legal community. Moreover, most of the new firms that have started in the 1990s & in the 2000s are headed by just men. Nehan Sethi had seen this up close – she has interned at 8 different legal firms, all while pursuing a 5 year bachelor’s of law from Symbiosis Law School in Pune.
When she was interning at a Delhi-based firm, her team was headed by a man and woman senior associate. During these times Nehan could not help but notice the utterly biased mindsets & how it meant fewer opportunities for women to rise up the ladder. She said that, in all the professional settings, lack of recognition & disparity in opportunities & key roles, be it as partners or senior counsels at court, was obvious. She also observed the absence of a platform dedicated to women in law discussing such blatant bias, where one can seek & give guidance & mentorship. All of these factors led to official launch of Her Forum in July.
Nehan wanted to start off by profiling experienced women lawyers. She began by interviewing an animal rights lawyer. Fortunately, renowned lawyers like Zia Mody & Geetha Luthra got on board to be interviewed for Her Forum. She says the new normal where everybody works remotely has been a saving grace as getting to interview them otherwise would definitely not have been easy.
As a young professional in law, Nehan says these are also the mentorship & support she looked for in law school.
She says, “I also don't think everything is gender-based but when it comes to your personal journey, there is definitely a difference in what you face as a woman.” Nehan has hosted several virtual networking events for women lawyers all over the country, to connect with personal friendship, support, & professional guidance. Nehan said these women feel happy about the unique professional collabs it has been able to foster. Other women lawyers have also come on board to conduct master-classes & to peer-to-peer learning happen. The driving force of the platform has to be women supporting women.
Nehan is currently working full-time as an Associate. Her Forum started off as being a side hustle, it has grown a lot and now requires a lot more attention now. Nehan is personally funding this platform and thus a stable job & salary is essential. It is led by an all-women team of 6. It hopes to strengthen mentorship aspects & make it more accessible, while simultaneously building the community.
Nehan says, “I want to grow it by focussing on learning, networking, and connecting by fostering unique conversations. My mission is to make it a one-stop-shop for any woman lawyer in India where if you think of law and women in India, Her Forum should come to mind.”
One of the key lessons she learnt during her journey is that – “There’s no ‘right time’ to start something you’re truly passionate about. There are many more people out there who are willing to help, mentor and collaborate - more than you would imagine.”