19 April 1999
As one of only three female managing partners in the top 20 law firms, Nicole Paradise is a member of a small but growing sisterhood.
But gender is not an issue that she wants to emphasise about her appointment. Ironically, her senior partner David Bramson described her as "very much her own man", but added "woman" quickly afterwards.
Nabarro Nathanson's new managing partner says of the gender issue: "It's not that relevant here to be honest. I have never been involved in any of the women's groups. I don't have anything against them at all. It's not something I've ever felt that strongly about. I don't know whether people view me as feminine or not."
However, she is not sure how to react to the comparison Nabarros' communications head Chris Hinze made between her and a panther.
"A black panther. Can I live with that?" she asks herself. But in keeping with the predatory image,
Paradise admits to having a litigator's personality. And she admits to enjoying the hunt - the mental gymnastics, tactics and manoeuvring that litigation entails.
Bramson suggests this makes her a good manager, saying she is a "good resolver of differences".
However, she says that her move into the legal profession was not motivated by any long-term ambition. "At school a friend filled in my UCCA form and put me down for law," she says. "It's all one huge mistake."
"I wasn't inclined to go to university," Paradise says, "But we were all issued with these UCCA forms. I didn't really have a plan at all - I'm not sure how many 16 or 17 year olds do have plans. I didn't have any. So a friend of mine thought I needed a plan and filled it in."
She chose a marginally less glamorous profession than her husband who runs his own independent record label.
Paradise's passion for litigation began in the Hong Kong and London offices of Herbert Smith where she worked for four years before joining Oppenheimers at the end of 1987, leaving before its merger with Denton Hall in 1988. She has been at Nabarros for a decade.
Two years ago, Nabarros had a re-think of strategy and management structure. Three groups were formed from a dozen disparate groups. Paradise claims that this improved financial control and reduced bureaucracy.
Although a fair proportion of the firm's income comes from international commercial work, Paradise says the firm's global strategy does not involve new offices or mergers. Nabarros had its fingers burnt in the early 1990s with the closure of its overseas office.
And now Paradise claims the advantage of her firm's strategy is in its flexibility. Nabarros has a Brussels office and informal associations with other firms in Europe and in the US.
Paradise says: "They are non-exclusive arrangements which we have found work better for us." Three partners and a finance director form the executive, and Paradise's role is to bridge the executive and the board. The executive manages the firm, while the partnership board, comprising group heads and the senior partner, is responsible for strategy.
Unlike Denton Hall's new managing partner Virginia Glastonbury, who is planning massive changes, Paradise does not plan wide-ranging reform, "There is no need for radical surgery," she says.