This platform helps women in law network, bond, and guide each other
Based in Mumbai, Nehan’s passion project of building a community for women in law to support and mentor each other came to fruition during the pandemic with the Her Forum.
Women make up merely 30 percent of India’s top 30 law firms and only 25 percent of the top hundred corporate dealmakers, according to Legally India that tracks developments in the Indian legal world. In fact, most of the new firms that emerged in the 1990s and 2000s are headed by men.
Nehan Sethi observed this from close quarters, having interned at eight legal firms while pursuing a five-year bachelor’s of law from Symbiosis Law School, Pune.
While interning at a Delhi-based firm, her team was headed by a man and woman senior associate.
“When there was an oversight, the senior male partner reprimanding both the associates asked the woman associate if she was unable to perform because of a young child at home,” she recalls.
Nehan could not help but notice the biased mindsets and how it translated into fewer opportunities for women to rise up the ladder. She adds that in all the professional settings, lack of recognition and disparity in opportunities and key roles, be it as partners or senior counsels at court, was obvious.
She also noted the absence of a platform dedicated to women in law to discuss such inherent bias, seek and give guidance and mentorship. This led to official launch of Her Forum in July.
Making way for women in law
Nehan wanted to start off by profiling experienced women lawyers and began by interviewing an animal rights lawyer based in As luck would have it, renowned lawyers like Zia Mody and Geetha Luthra agreed to be interviewed for the portal.
She says the new normal where everybody works remotely has been a saving grace as getting to interview them otherwise would not have been easy.
“Fresh out of law school, I also felt very responsible to share their stories in the right manner because I have a lot to learn.”
As a young professional in the field, Nehan says these are also the mentorship and support she looked for in law school . She did a legal background of any kind and was ‘out on her own.’
“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.”
As part of the initiative, Nehan also hosted virtual networking events for women lawyers to connect for personal friendship, support, and professional guidance. Nehan says the participants feel happy about the unique professional collaborations it has fostered. Other women lawyers also come on board to conduct masterclasses and enable peer-to-peer learning.
One of the values that drive the forum is women supporting women. She recalls a class on gender and law during one of her semesters abroad at Columbia University and a particular discussion on how at times, practising women lawyers are not as supportive of young professionals entering the field. This kept bothering her.
“In a group of 20, there would be perhaps one female partner and the onus is on that woman to make sure there can be others after her. It is not just good enough to be the first person in the room,” she says.
The road ahead
Nehan is working full-time as an Associate and while Her Forum may have started as a side hustle, she says it has grown to require a lot of attention right now. “As I am personally funding the initiative, a stable job and salary is important.
Led by an all-women team of six, the platform hopes to strengthen mentorship aspects and make it more accessible while building the community.
“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,” Nehan says.
Speaking on the biggest lessons she has learnt during the journey, she says, “There is no ‘right time’ to start something you’re passionate about. There are many more people out there who are willing to help, mentor and collaborate- more than you would imagine.”
Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan