Women, you can get to the top in law

Nabarro Nathan man­ag­ing part­ner tells how she strikes a bal­ance be­tween work and fam­ily life


NABARRO NATHAN law-firm man­ag­ing part­ner Ni­cole Par­adise makes a con­vinc­ing case for women bal­anc­ing a ca­reer and fam­ily life.

The 48-year-old mother-of-two re­calls that when she started out in the 1980s, “I used to be the only wo­man in meet­ings. But it is very dif­fer­ent to­day. Thirty per cent of the part­ners at Nabarro Nathanson are women and a num­ber of th­ese hold man­age­ment po­si­tions.”

Ms Par­adise has been at the firm for get­ting on for 20 years. She was ap­pointed to her present role in 1999 and has re­spon­si­bil­ity for im­ple­ment­ing de­vel­op­ment strat­egy.

She tells JC Busi­ness that she has “never felt ob­li­gated” to give up work to spend more time with her chil­dren Lucy, six, and Jack, 12. “It was never a dilemma for me and I would en­cour­age other women to work if they want to. There are so many dif­fer­ent routes peo­ple can take to­day.

“Nabarro has no prob­lem if a part­ner needs to spend time with their fam­ily.”

Two or three times a week, she tries to leave work “early” at 7pm to have din­ner with the fam­ily at home in Chiswick. But she ad­mits to find­ing it dif­fi­cult when she has to go abroad or at­tend week­end con­fer­ences. “I have a very good sup­port net­work. It is down to you to make to make it work and be ob­li­gated to spend money on child­care. When I do have the week off, my fa­ther al­ways says: ‘Oh, so you are be­ing a proper mum now.’”

Raised in Edg­ware, Mid­dle­sex, she qual­i­fied at Her­bert Smith in 1986 and worked in Hong Kong for two years be­fore re­turn­ing to Lon­don to spe­cialise in in­sur­ance. “There are some great op­por­tu­ni­ties for young pro­fes­sion­als in Hong Kong, but I did not want stay out there.” She re­calls that get­ting visas from Bangkok was “tricky, as I had Is­rael on my pass­port”.

In 1988, she joined Nabarro’s com­mer­cial lit­i­ga­tion and dis­pute- res­o­lu­tion de­part­ment. Her ca­reer high­lights in­clude vic­tory in a lengthy en­vi­ron­men­tal-pol­lu­tion case in 1996, de­fend­ing the op­er­a­tor of a high-tem­per­a­ture waste in­cin­er­a­tor against a claim by a farmer that his cows had been poi­soned.

She ac­knowl­edges that the le­gal pro­fes­sion is “a lot more lu­cra­tive to­day and has be­come in­creas­ingly recog­nised as a busi­ness”. But she con­tends that the “main op­por­tu­ni­ties” for young en­trepreneurs to­day lie in the City. “Trad­ing is good, as are hedge funds — not that I re­ally know what they in­volve.”

Dis­cussing the “cul­tural push” among Jews into law and the City pro­fes­sions, Ms Par­adise re­flects: “There was a feel­ing passed down from my par­ents’ gen­er­a­tion that a pro­fes­sion equals a se­cure in­come and re­spect in the com­mu­nity.”

As for as­pir­ing lawyers, she ad­vises against fol­low­ing the herd when job­hunt­ing. “It is so frus­trat­ing when we in­ter­view prospec­tive trainees and they give the stan­dard an­swers,” she re­veals.

“For in­stance, when asked, ‘What are your faults?’ do not re­ply: ‘I am a per­fec­tion­ist.’ It is im­por­tant not to be too stan­dard. Try to be your­self.”

Away from the of­fice, her main in­ter­est is spend­ing time with her chil­dren and hus­band John Lennard, who runs an in­de­pen­dent record la­bel.

They are plan­ning Jack’s bar­mitz­vah next year.

Ni­cole Par­adise: “When I do have the week off, my fa­ther says: ‘So you are be­ing a proper mum now’”

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