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Alexandra Gerungan: Integrity Beyond Identity

“The most valuable lessons in life cannot be taught; they must be experienced.”

A sensible statement that sums up Alexandra Gerungan‘s life journey. Her present accomplishments, including her role as a Senior Partner at the renowned Indonesian law firm, ADCO Law, as well as her roles as a wife, mother, and daughter, have taught Alex many valuable lessons.

Throughout the protracted interview, Alex excitedly described her journey.  “Are you ready to hear my story of young Alex, who believed in “free” souls?” Alex asked before the interview started.

We mistook this for humor, and it turned out that practically all of the significant developments in Alex’s life are the cumulative effects of her numerous adventures.

Young Alex and Her Pursuits 

Alex has lived in Jakarta since the day she was born despite the fact that her parents are natives of North Sulawesi. “My parents had already been working in Jakarta when I, the first of the three siblings,  was born,” she said. Her father served in the Indonesian National Armed Forces while her mother worked in a bank.

“Since I was a kid, I was quite active and a bit ‘boyish’. I loved to laugh, and enjoyed making friends and meeting people. During school years, we would usually stay with my aunt after school, and be picked up by my parents after work.  I think I didn’t really have any difficulties with any lessons. Being all ‘bright-eyed and bushy-tailed’, I was often eager to explore. I like reading and learning languages as much as doing sporty activities such as swimming, karate, camping and hiking,” explained Alex. 

“Like most teenagers, I frequently had clashes and disagreements with my parents, and rebelled against them. Later, I thought that it was just a matter of the vastly different mindsets of generations,” she remarked. “It was easy for them to raise three kids with both of them working full time,” she added. 

After high school, as she liked reading so much, especially about cultures and places all over the world, Alex had interests in international studies, and she enrolled in the international relations and law programs at the University of Indonesia. She was then admitted at the Faculty of Law and took the international private law program, studying, among other things, international business and commercial law, various business contracts, and international disputes.

“One word that describes how I felt at that time was: exciting. It did not take me long to join organizations, make new friends and get busy with events and activities. I was also active at church and in the Christian community at the university. Aside from studying of course,” she said with a smile. “It was even more interesting because not only did I start gaining insights from seniors on working in law firms, but I could also live on my own, away from home and have more time to explore nature, including a taste of semi-military-basic training when I joined the student regiment. All experiences were full of challenges. I felt free.

There was a time when she had to balance her desire to pursue knowledge and enjoy her time at university with the reality that her father went into early retirement. Alex recalled, “At that time, I was very enthusiastic, studied hard, and started to dream of becoming a lawyer,” she said. “On the other hand, I felt obliged to finish my study as quickly as possible or have a side job, so I could help my parents since my younger siblings were about to start college .”

Between a Distinguished Career and a Lonely Relationship

The early years of her law firm career after graduating opened up many opportunities for her to deal with foreign clients and international disputes. Besides work, she enjoyed learning new languages, from Mandarin to Dutch, being involved in the church’s organization and activities, traveling, and going out there to explore. “As a lawyer, I thought that I had to always improve my skill and knowledge, so I attended classes, training and conferences. But other than that, my interest in learning about other cultures and languages remained unwavering. Like many starters, I had so many passions, to get my bar license, to travel the world, to pursue further education, to reach Indonesia’s highest summits, just to name a few.” she said with a grin.

In addition to having a keen interest in understanding global concerns, Alex was also becoming more in tune with nature. “I spend most of my holidays and spare time traveling and admiring the landscape at the mountain peaks, exploring islands, underwater, and so on,” she said. 

The fact that her mother was severely ill and in need of intensive medical care and treatment forced her to also focus on her mother’s condition. “She struggled against the disease for about two years. I always knew her as a working woman, and getting weaker every day and needing help all the time was extremely hard for her.  Huge support and love given by all the family and friends helped us a lot in taking care of my mom and in dealing with our loss and grief when she passed away,” she said. “I am most grateful I could spend so much time with her and get close to her during her final years. Her love and commitment to her family inspire me to fight for mine,” Alex added.

Her career as a lawyer skyrocketed and she made it to the point of becoming a partner at one of the big 5 law firms in Indonesia. At a relatively young age with extraordinary career achievements, Alex had increasingly taken strong ownership of her life. “I was blessed with so many opportunities and challenges to improve and enhance my skills. I obtained my LL.M., learned to speak and present before an international audience, and participated in the firm’s various training and workshops,” she recalled. “In addition, I gained my sworn translator license and passed the international arbitration membership exam. I got my diving licenses, too,” she giggled.

Amidst all the accomplishments, however, she struggled with her personal life. “I am thankful for the job. With it, I can earn my own living and support the family, and also help other people. I was not really close to my father, though. With all the schedules and activities, I had never seriously thought of getting married and having a family of my own,” she explained. December 2014 was apparently a major turning point in her life. “It was a rare family holiday. We went to Manado to celebrate Christmas and New Year with some of the family there, and for me to take my advanced dive certification course. It so happened that it was the first time I met my (then future) husband, Rivo, there, right at the end of December during the dive course in Bunaken. He was my diving instructor,” she chuckled. “God has indeed been making things happen,” she reflected. A couple of years later, they tied the knot.

Alex ADCO Law

Family: A God-Given Blessing

Getting married and starting a family with her husband was not something Alex could have imagined before. “I thought I just loved feeling ‘free’, busy with work, pursuing my passions and interests,” she said. At that time, it seemed that supporting the family and helping others were her only ‘calling.’ “However, it felt like God wanted me to take it further, to go to the next phase of my life, and learn new things,” she said.

“I usually adapt quickly. However, it turned out that adjusting to an LDM (long distance marriage), and then having a son, was not that easy,” Alex explained. “I was working (often long hours) in Jakarta while my husband was in Raja Ampat operating his dive center as a diving instructor. We were concerned because we did not really spend enough time with our boy. I vividly remember the dilemma I felt when our baby was at home only with his nanny and a house maid (and our thirteen pet dogs),” she recalled.

God, however, has different plans. The COVID-19 pandemic, which started in early 2020, transformed their life (like many other people). Her husband had to leave Raja Ampat because of the lockdown, which was followed by the collapse of the tourism industry. Alex, in common with many others, started to work from home (WFH). “At that time, my husband, I, and our kid were finally united. Later in the year we took my father in with us because he was critically ill and needed close supervision after he was released from ICU. Then, we had a nurse looking after him, and my father’s younger brother stayed with us to accompany him.  Suddenly warmed and filled with jokes and laughter, the house had become so lively,” she said.

For her, that moment was a blessing. The time she could spend with her father was precious to her. “I was most thankful for the opportunity God had given me to be with him until he passed away peacefully at the end of 2020. He did not make it to Christmas and new year, but he was with us celebrating our boy’s first birthday. A miracle,” she continued. Love and dedication are among the values that she saw in her father. “His love and dedication to God and his family serves as an inspiration to me,” she added.

Balancing Multiples Roles  

As a Senior Partner at ADCO Law and the head of the Practice Group for Litigation and Alternative Dispute Resolution, for Alex, maintaining strong work-life balance is crucial. “I believe managing my professional and personal roles and responsibilities is essential to perform my best,” she said.

For her, commitment, dedication, and love are the three qualities she should possess and use in all her endeavors. “Commitment is important because it helps me to be more responsible, reliable, and trustworthy. Once I make commitments, I dedicate myself to keep them. I love my work, family, friends and everything entrusted to me because my life is a precious gift from God, and I am forever thankful for it. I think when we love what we do and do what we love, we will give our best,” said Alex.

Years of experience in dealing with various transactions and disputes, including in mining companies, display her achievements during her lawyering career. Some of the highlighted dispute settlement cases she has dealt with include representing a multinational company in arbitration involving investment in a coal project, assisting a well known company in police investigation relating to disputed plots of land on the mining site, assisting in providing expert statements in investment arbitrations involving reputable coal mining companies, as well as providing advice on relevant investment agreements and issues requiring permits/licenses; assisting and advising executives of large granite producers and suppliers in initial investigations by the local police regarding incidents that occurred in the mining areas of those companies; providing assistance and advice to foreign executives of an Indonesian subsidiary of one of the world’s largest gold producers in relation to criminal charges of contamination; assisting and representing major Asian mining equipment manufacturers in bankruptcy/deferred payment procedures; and much more.

“I believe it is crucial to really understand the clients’ interests and concerns, and to be sensitive to what the clients want and to know how to communicate with them in a way that they can grasp. This is significant since there will be strong and weak parts in every case down the line. As a litigator, you need to be sensitive in order to communicate well in terms that the clients can understand. It is not just the matter of defending the client, but also setting reasonable expectations based on the client’s situation,” she clarified.

When asked about changes to coal and mining regulations, Alex responded, “I believe all stakeholders will have to adapt to the government’s policy towards greener energy. Law firms must also be observant of the client’s concerns such as environmental aspects and the importance of renewable energy, and must be vigilant about any updated policy on relevant issues”

Leader: Setting an Example, Not an Order

Being part of the leaders of ADCO Law, Alex admits that she enjoys the learning process.

“Never stop learning, because there is always something new to learn every day. As a Senior Partner, excellent communication and leadership skills are essential. I think a good leader should not just give orders, but instead, set an example, give direction, guidance and support, and actively demonstrate the excellence that he/she wants to see in the team members,” she said. “More tiring, of course, because it would take up more time. But, I believe we could actually save more time because we are getting the next leader of the firm prepared for future challenges,” she continued.

As a team leader, Alex also highlighted the value of effective communication. “The firm has an open work space and environment, and I always keep my door wide open, even on weekends. I hope this could clearly convey the message that I am sharing my life with the team so that they can easily engage and collaborate, for the firm’s growth and development” she said.

Alex’s presence in ADCO Law gives the firm a fresh perspective. Alex is actively involved in both legal and non-legal activities as the first female Senior Partner at this firm, including taking part in the firm’s various growth and development tactics.

“ADCO Law is a very energetic and dynamic firm, and it has a dedicated business development team. It is remarkable and an invaluable added value,” she said.

Alexandra’s Message for Female Litigators

Alex left us with a message for all aspiring young female lawyers at the end of our interview.

“To all female litigators, it’s not really an issue of what your sex is. It’s a matter of dedication to our profession as lawyers and it is important to maintain integrity. A good litigator must understand the client’s point of view, comprehend not only the legal consequences of the case or dispute but also the overall non-legal aspects of the client’s needs, and anticipate the opponent’s next move. On top of that, as a woman, we have roles and responsibilities as someone’s daughter, sister, wife, mother, and so on, which are as important as being a dedicated litigation lawyer. Simply put, setting a healthy balance between our professional and personal life and demands is crucial,” she commanded with a smile.

This article has been published in the February 2023 issue of CoalMetal Asia Magazine, on pages 70-73.

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About ADCO Law:

ADCO Law is a firm that offers clients a wide range of integrated legal services, including in commercial transactions and corporate disputes in a variety of industry sectors. Over the course of more than a decade, we have grown to understand our client’s industry and business as well as the regulatory aspect. In dealing with business dynamics, we provide comprehensive solid legal advice and solutions to minimize legal and business risks.

From Upstream to Downstream, We Understand Your Industry. In complex transactions as well as in certain cases, we are actively engaged with financial, tax, and environmental specialists, accountants, and law firms from various jurisdictions to give added value to our clients. Having strong relationships with Government agencies, regulators, associations, and industry stakeholders ensures that our firm has a holistic view of legal matters.

ADCO Law is a Proud Member of the Alliott Global Alliance (AGA) in Indonesia. Founded in 1979, AGA is one of the largest and fastest-growing global multidisciplinary alliances, with 215 member firms in 95 countries.

As a law firm, we also believe in regeneration. To stay abreast of business changes and stay relevant, our formation of lawyers is comprised of the top graduates from Indonesian and international law schools.

For further details, please contact: 

Alvin Mediadi, Business Development Manager, Indonesia

+628 57 234 89625, alvin@adcolaw.com

Maulidza Oemar, Public Relations, Indonesia

+62 877-7528-1922, lidza.oemar@adcolaw.com