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"Woman in jurisprudence". Interview with Alina Manina in Russian Business Guide.
23 ноября 2020 г.

Alina Manina was nominated for an award - "Business-Women.Live.Family - Women in Business" for achievements in professional activity. For a long time, her profession was considered predominantly male. Today, law is among the top five most popular professions in Russia. Alina Manina, Counsellor, Deputy Managing Partner, Head of Bankruptcy Support Practice at Alliance Legal CG, told us about the current situation in the profession for women, especially in management positions.

– Alina, in your opinion, despite the fact that many women work as lawyers in Russia, is there gender inequality in this profession?

– The discussion about gender discrimination in jurisprudence began long before I entered the Institute of Justice of the Ural State Law Academy (now USLU). Despite the fact that the ratio of young men and women there was approximately the same, it was obvious that not always and not all girls are welcomed in the profession.

In the process of studying criminal law disciplines at the Institute of Justice (formerly investigative and forensic), we were often told that it is difficult for women to work in the field related to this industry, “after all, not everyone can handle constant psychological stress, human troubles, and cruel crimes.” And if a girl decides to become an investigator, she cannot have a “normal life” due to night calls, shifts, murders and other “romantic aspects” of work in the investigative committee. Despite the fact that the criminal law disciplines were close to me, the attitude about the undesirability of the presence of female representatives in criminal law worked out. And I decided to follow the path of a civil lawyer dealing with dispute resolution in a commercial court. 

After 10 years of work, together with experience, I understood that it is not at all easier for women-civilists in the legal field. Largely due to the fact that we are still not welcome in this branch of law. Among colleagues of the opposite sex, there is an opinion that women lawyers are incompetent, do not have systemic thinking, and are not able to make quick decisions under stress. Male lawyers are often convinced that a young female opponent will not be able to fight back in difficult litigation, including bankruptcy. Here I tend to agree with the wisdom of the philosopher Lao Tzu: “There is no greater danger than underestimating your opponent!”

I regularly encounter the latter stereotype in practice. So, if a man acts as a representative of the opponent in a trial, before the hearing, I often catch on myself evaluating glances, listen to mocking or inappropriate remarks regarding my gender and age. For example, recently, while waiting for the court session, a representative of the opponent tried to start a conversation with me, calling me “Alinochka” and “an inexperienced young girl.” Some male representatives often confuse a courtroom with a dating site in an attempt to strike up a non-business conversation. 

Such behavior is unacceptable in relation to colleagues!.. We are talking about basic respect, business and legal ethics. Of course, when during the trial I start to defend my

position, such ignorant colleagues look stupid, because their expectations were not met: the “girl” turned out to be not so “inexperienced.” As a result, they lose and Alliance Legal CG wins.

– Why did you choose to deal with bankruptcy?

– In the second year of study at the academy, I was accepted for an internship, and then for a job in a mining holding as a lawyer serving the economic activities of the company. Among the holding’s assets there were also troubled companies with debts, thus I faced bankruptcy procedures and realized that this was “mine”. In bankruptcy cases, disputes arising from various legal relationships are considered: family, supply, storage, construction contracts and others.

At the same time, the court in bankruptcy cases walks along a thin rope like equilibrist, balancing between the interests of the debtor and creditors. And we, lawyers, need to pull the rope to our side, in favor of our clients.

I think it was the complexity and unpredictability of such cases that fascinated me. However, I am engaged not only in bankruptcies, but also in supporting transactions, resolving other disputes in commercial courts. 

– Everyone knows the problems of purely female and purely male teams. What is the situation with this in Alliance Legal CG?

– There are gender balance and equality in our company. I think we have achieved the perfect mix of male and female team members. For example, all partners are representatives of the “stronger” sex, and all deputy managing partners are “fair”.

The management has no prejudices on this issue: in personnel policy, they proceed from common sense and the achievements of each particular specialist. Our company does not have and cannot have any conflicts caused by gender discrimination.

The partners pay great attention to discussing the individual development plan for each specialist. Management supports any development initiative, from conference attendance, training to sport activities. Apart from numerous advanced training courses in Russia, my partners sent me to London to study English law, and to Rome – to study the principles of UNIDROIT. Students who took a paid internship with us left to take sessions and listen to lectures freely.

As a specialist who, from a university bench, was instilled in a stereotype about the absolute superiority of the opposite sex in the profession, I can note that it is very important to work in a team where there is no place for prejudices, where the values and priorities of partners coincide with yours: work on yourself, striving for high results , love of work and victory! Such an approach to business, like that of Alliance Legal CG, alas, today is a rarity in the Russian legal market.

– What role do you assign to yourself in the company? What are you striving for?

– To be honest, I have never assigned myself any role, I have never set goals to achieve this or that position. I just did what I like, and I continue to do it, because jurisprudence is my calling.

The work of a lawyer is based on knowledge, perseverance, discipline, creativity, intuition, public speaking, literate writing and, of course, luck. Therefore, there is always something to work on. Alliance Legal CG annually holds a unique competition in the legal market, Russian and international, the Legal Battle, including for the development of oratory skills of employees. This is not a game court session, but a real team competition, in which you need to show knowledge of the law and always be creative!

– One can immediately see how passionate you are about your work! Do you have time for hobbies?

– I would like to have 78 hours in a day so that I can do everything and not forget about my personal life! In the meantime, there are only 24 of them, so I strive to... get enough sleep. And do what I love with renewed vigor every day! 

Alina Manina, Advisor, Deputy Managing Partner, Head of Bankruptcy Support Practice.
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