Norton Rose Fulbright: Creating Opportunities for Success at Every Level

February 8, 2018Below is a blog from our Catalyst CEO Champions For Change storytelling series, "Spotlight Stories."Over the next few weeks, we'll be sharing these stories to show what’s working at Catalyst Champion companies that help to advance women into leadership.

Norton Rose Fulbright is a sizeable global law firm, with more than 4,000 lawyers in 59 offices around the world and big ambitions when it comes to increasing women’s representation at the leadership level. Through its 2020 Global Gender Initiative, launched in 2014, the firm set an aspirational goal for women to constitute 30% of its partnership, management committees, and board by 2020. While Norton Rose Fulbright has already come close to meeting the US Management Committee target of approximately 30% women and minorities, the firm is still sharply focused on its global goal. To that end, Norton Rose Fulbright has implemented a number of long-term initiatives meant to drive sustainable results. Says Peter Martyr, Global Chief Executive:

"These targets are more than just statistics. They are a way of engaging our people with the importance of gender diversity and creating a supportive, inclusive work environment. Our global diversity and inclusion initiatives play a pivotal role in retaining and developing people within Norton Rose Fulbright, and we have a clear goal on which to focus our efforts."

To Immediate Past US Managing Partner Linda Addison, cultivating gender diversity at Norton Rose Fulbright is particularly important. Addison initially joined the firm because, at the time, it was the only major firm in Texas that would allow a woman to try cases. Since then, she has accomplished much; in addition to being one of few women to lead a large US firm, Addison is an acclaimed litigation lawyer, has been recognized three times by Crain’s New York Business as one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in New York, and was named one of the 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America by the National Law Journal. However, even she has experienced the disheartening impact of having to constantly self-advocate so as not to be excluded from opportunities. As she puts it, “These micro-inequities accumulate over time,” and often lead to talented women leaving organizations when they feel “they are not getting out of a job what they are putting into it.”  

About Norton Rose Fulbright’s pursuit of gender parity, Addison says: 

"Norton Rose Fulbright is setting the standard for diversity and inclusion. We are changing not only ourselves, but the entire legal profession, and helping it become one where all talent will thrive and rise."

Another of Norton Rose Fulbright’s accomplished women leaders, Shauna Clark, Head of Employment and Labor in the United States, cites the firm’s legacy of standing up for diversity and inclusion as one of the reasons she initially chose to work there more than 20 years ago:  

"In 1962, Coronel Leon Jaworski was asked to assist in the prosecution of the then Governor of Mississippi, Ross Barnett, for being in contempt for refusing to allow an African American student to enroll in the University of Mississippi. Coronel Jaworksi's decision was not a popular one. He received hate mail and the firm lost clients, but he saw it through because it was the right thing to do. This culture of following your principles and having a commitment to diversity and inclusion continues to be a part of the firm’s culture today."

Among its current efforts to increase gender diversity, Norton Rose Fulbright has mandated inclusive leadership and unconscious bias training, continued supporting the Women in Norton Rose Fulbright (WiN) Network, and developed the award-winning Career Strategies Program (CSP). A first-of-its-kind initiative in the legal field, CSP provides support, training, and opportunities for high-potential women on the firm’s leadership track. CSP has run for several years in Australia, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, and recently launched in the United States. By all measures the US launch has been a resounding success. In fact, 42% of US partners promoted in 2017 were women, and of those women, 100% were participants in the program. 

One of those new partners is CSP alumna Cori Annapolen Goldberg, who recently celebrated her 10th year with Norton Rose Fulbright. Goldberg credits the firm’s focus on gender diversity and flexible work accommodations with helping her reach both milestones. With regard to CSP, she says unequivocally, “It’s one of the best things we do at the firm.” 

Goldberg has successfully employed techniques she learned through CSP to manage otherwise uncomfortable interactions with male colleagues, and has adapted her communication style to be more assertive, ensuring she doesn’t use language that can serve to undermine her own authority. But it is the opportunity to network with other women leaders through CSP that stands out. She says:

"CSP introduced me to so many female colleagues from different practices who I wouldn’t have otherwise met. Not only is it great on a personal level to be able to pick up the phone and get support from someone who understands you, but it makes it that much easier for us to cross-sell our practices and help build each other’s businesses."

For Goldberg, as invaluable as the myriad benefits from CSP have been, she could not have gotten where she is today without Norton Rose Fulbright’s unwavering commitment to her: 

"I have asked for many accommodations from the firm over the last 10 years, and they’ve granted each one. That includes two extended maternity leaves, a flexible schedule so I could spend more time with my children, and a move from D.C. to New York—where there wasn’t even a healthcare practice—so I could be closer to my family. They have consistently said ‘yes’ without hesitation. I told my boss I was surprised at how easy it was for me to relocate, and he said, ‘We want you to be happy and we want you to stay.’ They definitely have the right attitude."

Many Norton Rose Fulbright employees can relate to this sentiment and appreciate the myriad ways the firm has deliberately worked to retain and advance the talented women in its ranks. In return, those women are giving back in equal measure, by acting as a support network for their colleagues, and as mentors and sponsors to the next generation of women leaders seeking the guidance and opportunity that will help them advance their careers. It is this kind of steady support and commitment to the elevation of women at Norton Rose Fulbright—both from the firm and from one another—that will pave the path to success, through 2020 and beyond.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of Catalyst. Catalyst does not endorse any political candidates. The post and the comments are presented only for the purpose of informing the public.