Melissa Schwartz, Emma Simmonds Picked As ‘Women Worth Watching in Leadership’

(Washington, D.C.) – Akin Gump corporate partner and firmwide professional development partner Melissa Schwartz and financial restructuring partner Emma Simmonds have been selected by Profiles in Diversity Journal for its Women Worth Watching in Leadership 2022.

Both lawyers were spotlighted in profiles published in tandem with their selection, and both contributed a narrative for their profile.

Ms. Schwartz’s “A Seat at the Table” discusses a moment nearly 20 years when she walked into her first management meeting “and saw a sea of men.” She asked herself for a moment if there was a seat at that table for her. A senior woman partner, she writes, crossed the room, welcomed her and found her a seat. Ms. Schwartz notes, “And from that day forward, I was determined to emulate her each day of my professional life.”

She then shares a recent story about a young woman lawyer for whom she had served a similar role; notes that the most vivid and valuable memories for herself are those in which someone extended a hand to her, or she did the same for someone else; and closes with the thought, “So take a moment and look around the room; ensure that everyone has a seat at the table and if you can’t find your own seat look for someone who can help make room for you.”

In her narrative “How COVID Changed the World of Work,” Ms. Simmonds writes, “The pandemic has radically changed the world of work for the legal profession,” noting that the shift toward hybrid work rapidly provided people with previously unimagined flexibility toward their work, with the shift having to take effect “almost overnight and…by all generations.”

She notes as well “unprecedented challenges,” both in balancing work and life during lockdown and in finding a viable hybrid approach that “maintains flexibility, while providing meaningful connectivity between staff.” Ms. Simmonds writes of employee retention challenges and of the “natural tension between those drivers…that can be overcome with intentionality.”

She closes by noting that she believes “the changes to the world of work heralded by the pandemic are permanent, and it is incumbent on employers to embrace that change.” If so, she writes, “it can provide a change that will help employers accelerate their businesses and gain a competitive advantage.”

The recognitions were announced in June (learn more here).

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP is a leading international law firm with more than 900 lawyers in offices throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

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