On 26 April, the American Bar Association (ABA) presented the Mayre Rasmussen Award for the Advancement of Women in International Law to Priti Suri, the founder partner of PSA.
The award is given to a lawyer who has achieved excellence in international law, encouraged women to engage in international law careers, enabled women lawyers to attain jobs in international law from which they were excluded historically, or advanced opportunities for women in international law. It was the first time the award went to an Asian in its 18-year history.
The ABA said Suri was “the perfect candidate” because of her “role as a mentor and in opening doors for women and women lawyers in India”.
Mayre Rasmussen was a pioneer in the field of international business law. She was one of the first women to break into the international business law practice at a major international law firm, Coudert Brothers. She was also one of the first women to achieve a major leadership position in the ABA’s Section of International Law and Practice and was a mentor to many leaders of the section, especially women.
Suri is a first-generation lawyer who established PSA in 2004. She has practised law for 30 years and is one among relatively few women managing a law firm in India. She has chaired the Women Business Lawyers’ Committee of the Inter-Pacific Bar Association (IPBA) for four years and also helped set up the Society of Women Lawyers – India (SOWL-India).
Suri believes law firms must address the issue of sustainability of women in the legal profession. While some women choose to prioritize family commitments over careers, those who return to practise law, she said, are often “relegated to mere execution and somehow unable to push the envelope further”.
“I have always tried to look at things positively and focused on what women lawyers can and should do to participate in their own success and the success of the women who follow them,” she told India Business Law Journal. “While progress has been made, the hard facts show women are still at a disadvantage with regard to elevation to equity partner, participation in key firm committees, recognition of their role in business development activities, and equality in pay.”
Suri said she has examined these issues often both in India and in her roles with the ABA and IPBA. “After three decades in this profession, I feel the legal world needs to be more open to change and it is my hope that forums like SOWL-India will offer a platform to share experiences and aid in finding solutions at a local, national and even cross-border level.”