Our latest 60 second interview features Norton Rose Fulbright’s global and US chair and US Head of employment and labor Shauna Clark. Shauna talks to The Lawyer about the different ways in which the pandemic has impacted clients, about partnering with clients on diversity and inclusion initiatives, and her advice for junior lawyers at the start of their career.
What are some of the major trends expected to impact corporations in 2021?
As Norton Rose Fulbright’s US Head of Employment and Labor, I have found that the pandemic has impacted different clients in different ways, with some facing unforeseen challenges and others evaluating new opportunities. Many organizations have been forced to downsize and require legal guidance through this process. Others have required legal advice as they respond to the demands of working from home and implement new state and local regulations related to COVID-19. I expect this need will continue for the next several months.
Aside from pandemic-related concerns, I also anticipate that clients will continue to place an emphasis on diversity and inclusion initiatives in 2021. Employers have realized that a diverse, empowered and connected workforce leads to improved performance, innovation and employee satisfaction. As an employment lawyer and as our firm’s Global Chair, I recognize that organizations must take into account the legal and regulatory environment in each region in which they operate when implementing and honing a diversity and inclusion program.
Has 2020 strengthened or strained relationships with clients?
Building client relationships has been a top priority throughout my career, and as a result, I have observed that my client relationships remained strong through 2020. With the benefit of digital connectivity through platforms like Zoom and Teams, we have had been able to find creative ways to connect with clients for work purposes and socially. For example, I have hosted a number of virtual client happy hours via Zoom. One event I hosted was a charcuterie board tutorial evening on Zoom. For this event, a local caterer delivered wine, a variety of cheeses and other accoutrements in advance and then walked us through how to design a curated charcuterie board on Zoom. I have found that providing a safe way to connect and have fun is always well received.
As my term as Norton Rose Fulbright’s Global Chair gets underway, I also look forward to engaging virtually and in person with a broad range of clients across all industries and practices to gain a better understanding of the issues they face and how our firm can best assist them.
How have relationships with clients changed as a result of remote working?
Remote working has not necessarily impacted how we serve our clients, as technology has allowed for a fairly seamless transition from an office to a home workplace. Additionally, most lawyers—myself included—were comfortable occasionally working from home prior to the pandemic. Of course, what has changed the client relationship dynamic is the social distancing and other health and safety precautions now in place.
These days, client interactions need to be more deliberate. I miss the experience of being in an office or at a restaurant with my clients because we genuinely like being in each other’s company. I appreciate how Zoom and Teams meetings have been an excellent tool for staying in touch, but there is no substitute for in-person contact.
Law firms are no longer just about law: they do training, coaching, developing IT tools, consultancies; what response are you seeing from clients on this?
Clients have shown an increased interest in tapping into law firms for expertise not generally associated with the traditional practice of law. One example of this at Norton Rose Fulbright is our risk advisory offering, which uses our in-depth knowledge of the global legal and regulatory landscape to help clients manage their risk around the world through robust governance and compliance strategies.
From a technology standpoint, our firm introduced a change and innovation program called NRF Transform, which provides clients with enhanced service, end-to-end delivery and maximum value through its investment strategy in emerging technologies as well as optimal resourcing and other efficiencies.
As I mentioned earlier, clients also look to partner with us on diversity and inclusion initiatives, which are a priority for law firms and corporations now more than ever. We collaborate with clients on a number of successful diversity efforts, including a speaker series, a program matching in-house lawyers with firm counsel, mentorship programs for law school students and unconscious bias training. We are also eager to engage with clients on our firm’s annual global charitable initiative, which I will lead in my Global Chair role. This year’s focus will be championing social justice and fighting racism.
What advice would you give to a junior lawyer at the start of his or her career?
I would advise junior lawyers to work hard and be intentional and authentic about their careers and their goals. As you develop your practice and as your personal lives grow and change, these goals may change too. We have an incredible learning and development team in our business services group committed to helping our up-and-coming lawyers realize their potential. Our firm leaders are eager to develop our junior talent, as there is great satisfaction to be found in sharing our wisdom and experience with the future of the firm as well as providing valuable advice about the practice of law and supporting clients. We are also growing our sponsorship program, as having a committed sponsor is incredibly important to a young lawyer’s development.
I also realize that not every lawyer’s idea of a successful career is the same. It is worthwhile to take the opportunity to define success for yourself and, with the benefit of a sponsor’s insight and support, develop a roadmap that will help you achieve that success.