Noor Meurling is a Senior Foreign Legal Consultant at Oentoeng Suria & Partners/Ashursts. She is international both in her background and in her expertise. In a recent interview, she tells us how she deals with her demanding legal role while maintaining a work-life balance.
Tell us about your legal background.
I initially practised law in Singapore moving to Stockholm, Auckland and finally to Jakarta with my husband’s job transfers. I kept up with the law during this period, working in legal consultancy in Stockholm and in a law firm in Auckland. In Jakarta, I first joined Makarim & Taira (then in association with Freehills) for 5 years moving on to start MWSA Law Offices for and in conjuction with, a senior Indonesian practitioner, Minang Warman. The firm grew into an active Jakarta legal practice. When Minang Warman passed away I moved with the firm to Soebagjo Jatim Djarot (then in association with Blake Dawson) as a partner of Blake Dawson. Oentoeng Suria and Partners (OSP) is an offshoot of that firm. Blake Dawson merged in March 2012 with Ashurst. I am now a partner of Ashurst.
What is your proudest professional achievement so far?
Moving all my team to a Blake Dawson associated firm six years ago. The move brought the team into an integrated Indonesian /common law / international environment which has been professionally rewarding for all parties. As an Ashurst associated office today, our lawyers and staff continue to thrive and grow in this environment.
What are the greatest challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
Practising in Jakarta, my greatest challenge continues to be understanding each new Indonesian regulation issued and the finer aspects in the implementation of these regulations in order to provide legally accurate advice. This requires working closely with my Indonesian colleagues and keeping an ongoing dialogue between the firm and the regulators.
How difficult is it for you to attain work-life balance?
I have settled for some time now into a rhythm that somehow provides that balance. Much of my work is part of my life; meeting new people, keeping up with world business, enjoying my colleagues, working with my clients. So work-life balance is not difficult now (save when everything at work happens at the same time!) although I do wish I had understood much earlier on that embracing life as a whole is one solution to the work-life balance issue.
Do you have a mentor/role model?
I have had a few mentors in my working life – all women (I suspect this was because I naturally gravitated toward female role models). Most were lawyers and many I still consider as my mentors. They helped me to understand that I was not alone in the issues I faced, not just working mother related issues but, as a young lawyer, also ethical and client management issues, amongst others. As my mentors became colleagues in the profession, a sort of unofficial “club” evolved combining personal and professional friendships. The issues they helped me with before are still relevant except experiences and solutions are now shared. We women naturally support other women and are proud of the professional achievement of our female colleagues. In the profession, this support extends also to client referrals.
How effective do you think corporate diversity initiatives are?
Honestly I do not believe in corporate diversity initiatives – more precisely, I do not think they should be necessary. I am in favour of judging the individual.
What do you think have been the most significant changes for women in the legal industry over the past five years?
The high percentage of top women practitioners and those managing international firms. I am confident that five years down the road and five years afterwards gender diversification in law firms will be (almost) a non- issue!