Jo Ruitenberg specialises in M&A and joint ventures with specific expertise advising clients on trade sales, dual tracks, ASX listings and takeover strategies. Jo has extensive expertise working with clients across a range of industry sectors including financial services, digital assets, agriculture, and healthcare. She has previously worked in Hong Kong, where she enhanced her international capability helping clients implement their acquisition and divestment strategies in the Asian market.
As Australia’s fastest-growing and top 40 law firm, Hamilton Locke is a full-service corporate and commercial firm, with offices across Australia. With a culture of high performance, collaboration, innovation and excellence, Hamilton Locke is focused on providing its people with the best possible experience, which in turn enables the best possible service to clients.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in law?
My graduate position at one of the top tier firms in Australia gave me the opportunity to rotate through three different areas of law. I was drawn to the variety of work and to be honest, to the fact that a career in law could provide a strong foundation to pivot to other industries if that was a path I wanted to pursue in the future.
I also saw that it could give rise to great opportunities to work overseas. Four years after graduating, I moved to Hong Kong and worked there for three years. My experience in working on acquisitions and divestments in the financial services sector in China, Thailand, Japan, and India while based in Hong Kong gave me wonderfully deep insights into how business is done in other parts of the world.
What are the top three words you’d use to describe the culture at Hamilton Locke?
Dynamic, engaging and collaborative.
In your experience, what has been the most significant change for women in the legal field over the last five years?
Law firms have come leaps and bounds in terms of the parental leave policies that they provide their employees. In Australia, over the last five or so years we’ve moved from a standard of 12 weeks of parental leave to gradually 18 weeks to 26 weeks to support flexibility in the workplace which is just phenomenal. The growing number of fathers making use of these policies is also a significant and positive change for women because it recognises that parents want parenting (and with it, the good, the bad and the ugly) to be a shared experience and works towards changing perceptions that it is primarily the woman’s responsibility.
The next step, and real test for the legal industry, is how law firms work to support and empower women once they’re back from maternity leave. The large numbers of senior female private practitioners who move to in-house roles or leave the legal industry altogether is evidence that we don’t yet have this right.
How important is it to have other women visible at management level?
It is extremely important for there to be role models for women at the management level, but it is also critical for there to be a diverse range of views and opinions where key decisions that impact the workforce are being made.
What difference have you seen to the way of working since COVID?
The separation between work and family has become more fluid. We’re more open and transparent with our clients and our colleagues about our lives outside work, and I think that’s a wonderful thing because, in the end, it’s the human interactions and connections that make life and work interesting.
What do your clients value and why?
Accessibility, responsiveness, and legal advice that helps the business come up with solutions.
What do you think the legal industry can do to get more women and other diverse candidates into leadership roles?
Every candidate list and panel should include at least one female candidate (if not more).
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in law?
Embrace the fact that you are the only Asian woman in the room and use people’s pre-conceptions of your weaknesses that come with certain stereotypes and turn them into your strengths. Find a workplace that allows you to be your authentic self and supports you on your journey to not just being a good lawyer but a good human being.