Gillian Carmichael Lemaire FCIArb, is an independent international disputes practitioner at Carmichael Lemaire Limited. She is a member of the Paris Bar and a Solicitor (Scotland), and acts as counsel, arbitrator and mediator.
Why have you decided to specialise in ADR and what attracted you to this area of law?
I lasted a day in the conveyancing department when I started out as a trainee solicitor in my home city of Glasgow and asked to spend the whole two years in litigation.
Getting out of the office, meeting clients, and appearing in court attracted me to contentious work. I moved to France after my traineeship - working in arbitration in a Paris law firm seemed a natural move for me, given my litigation experience and being bilingual English/French.
What was the trajectory of your career that led you to your current position/post?
I have spent most of my career in arbitration, working in international law firms in Paris as an associate and then senior counsel and partner. I have had my own firm since 2014, first in Paris and now in London, where I practice as a member of the Paris Bar as counsel, arbitrator and mediator. I am very pleased to serve on the Advisory Council to the Board of ArbitralWomen and to have been appointed to the Board of the Scottish Arbitration Centre recently.
What are the challenges/obstacles women in ADR face in the early stages of their career?
One potential obstacle for women in ADR in the early stages of their career is the relatively low number of senior women who can serve as role models or mentors. Although the situation has improved dramatically in recent years, it can be hard to envisage your own career in certain areas, such as construction, if you can’t see a good number of women at the top. More visibility for more senior women, such as arbitrators and mediators, would help address this.
A key challenge for women is finding a professional environment where they can be themselves, develop innovative ways of working, and not have to conform to outdated, sometimes traditionally male ways, of organising case work and business development. Women who have families whilst working (and indeed anyone who has family or other commitments that may require some time out) need to be confident that they will be valued and rewarded in the longer term for the contribution and impact they make.
What keeps you motivated in your career?
The variety in my cases and the range of people I work with from all over the world. No two days or cases are the same.
What do you consider to be your biggest achievement in the field thus far?
Somehow managing to keep a balance between work and home – at least most of the time.
What is it like to work in a predominantly male profession?
I don’t think the ADR profession in general is predominantly male any longer. Over the years I have worked with men who have treated me as an equal and never given me cause to feel that I was working in a predominantly male environment. There are however exceptions for some ADR activities such as arbitrator and mediator appointments where, although statistics have become markedly better in recent years, appointments of women are still unacceptably low. Much work still remains to be done in this regard.
How has CIArb influenced your career progression and CIArb’s membership benefited your career?
Being a Fellow is certainly an internationally recognised hallmark and I hope that becoming a Chartered Arbitrator will also be a plus. I have made many friends and gained new professional contacts through CIArb. Serving on the London Branch Committee, apart from being a real privilege and hugely enjoyable, is an excellent way of keeping up to date on legal and social developments in ADR.
What do you think the future for women in ADR will be like and what do you consider as the biggest challenge for a female professional in ADR in the future?
The Covid-19 pandemic has made it clear that the future will involve far more flexible working. One challenge will be balancing this new flexibility with the need for face-to-face contact (some women new to the profession have told me that they are concerned by the lack of in-person networking in which they have been able to participate recently).
Increasing the visibility of women in senior roles continues to be a challenge. It is promising that greater numbers of senior women are steadily becoming more prominent and this is helping women who are starting out, as well as encouraging school pupils and university students into the field.
Challenges for female professionals in ADR may of course be different depending on which countries women are working in, so I think this makes it all the more important to be a part of respected international networks like CIArb.
Are there any interesting developments in the field of ADR in the jurisdiction you are based in?
The aftermath of Brexit is bringing all kinds of developments in the field of ADR in the UK and possibly in different ways in the separate jurisdictions of England & Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Among other areas, I will be keeping my eye on the future of the UK’s bilateral and multilateral investment treaties.
If you could practice ADR in any other country where will that be and why?
If I were to practice ADR in any other country, it would be Scotland, as I would love to take home my international experience and networks. I would not be averse to returning to Paris either!
Tell us about your interests, hobbies or any out of work activities.
My main interest is my family and friends, and like everyone, I am looking forward to the easing of lockdown restrictions so that I can see them in person in London, Glasgow and Paris for some serious walks, a conversation that has nothing to do with work, and good food and drink. Otherwise, I am happiest when immersed in a book, preferably a biography.