Life as an associate at Norton Rose Fulbright

Financial services lawyer Chris White tells Hannah Langworth about working at this leading global law firm
Where to work

*Chris joined Norton Rose Fulbright's financial services team as a newly-qualified lawyer (NQ) in 2010 after training at another major commercial law firm. *

Here he talks about why he chose Norton Rose Fulbright, what he works on here, and how he finds his job.

"I knew that I wanted to be at Norton Rose Fulbright as soon as I'd researched the firm and met some of the partners I now work with, who were extremely welcoming.

Since then, I've acted on one of the biggest regulatory investigations the City has ever seen, taken part in a coast to coast bike ride across North America, and have had all kinds of other opportunities.

Joining the firm

I took a keen interest in financial services throughout my training contract as, with the onset of the financial crisis, there were lots of new, exciting and sometimes worrying developments for the industry. So I spent the majority of my seats working in this area.

Norton Rose Fulbright's financial services team, unlike those of many comparable law firms, has its own clients and we generate the majority of our own matters rather than solely working on ones referred to us by other departments. And, from when I first me them, I found the people here extremely professional and friendly.

So I decided Norton Rose Fulbright was where I wanted to work as a qualified financial services lawyer, and moved here after finishing my training contract.

My work

At the heart of the work I do is understanding the regulatory financial obligations on financial services organisations and how they're developing - for instance, around forty new EU regulatory legislative provisions have come out over the past two years.

We often get very specific urgent regulation-related questions from clients and have to quickly provide them with expert advice. Sometimes our advice can take half an hour, but can save them millions.

I also review transaction documents from a regulatory perspective and deal with potential disputes with regulatory authorities that clients face - for example, when someone at a client organisation is accused of breaching a regulatory obligation. As part of this side of my work here, I've been involved in a very large and high-profile regulatory investigation involving a major investment bank.

Another part of my work is helping clients when they want to become authorised as a regulated entity - for example, to become, say, an alternative investment fund manager an entity may need to go through a set process that we can advise on and assist with.

We also run training sessions for clients on regulatory matters.

Working life

I feel I can always go into a partner's office to ask a question or just for a chat, which is great for my development.

There's also the flexibility to work the hours that suit you. For instance, I tend to start work earlier than other people and then leave earlier, and also work from home regularly.

I'm still relatively junior but am responsible, with some supervision, for my own matters and am the main point of contact for a number of clients. The fact that I've been given these opportunities is very encouraging and satisfying.

The knowledge infrastructure and support networks we have here are extremely advanced. You always feel you have back-up, whether from other lawyers, training, or know-how resources.

If you ever have a question that you don't initially know the answer to, you can always find it, whether that's through a function on our intranet or a colleague.

There's a big emphasis on mentoring - there's a formal scheme in place that works very well alongside the ongoing informal mentoring that takes place throughout the firm.

More than just a job

All lawyers here, including junior ones, are encouraged to develop our own networks and client relationships. Meeting clients has been a real positive for my career, and I've even made some good friends from doing so as well.

We're also encouraged to take part in pro bono, charity and other firm activities. I've volunteered at Barretstown (a camp for children with serious illnesses and their families), one of the many charities the firm supports.

I also took part in a firm-organised bike ride across the US in my first year here, and at the moment I captain Norton Rose Fulbright's golf team - we have four or five competitions each year against other law firms and clients.

There's a big emphasis at the firm on supporting diversity, so there are lots of groups for particular communities here - for example, Women at Norton Rose Fulbright and our LGBT society.

The future

Last year's merger has been like a shot of adrenaline for the firm. We're now able to service clients on every continent to a very high standard, and combining what was a strong existing culture with that new capability has created a very powerful and driven law firm.

In terms of my personal future, I'd like to go on secondment to a financial services regulator during the next year or so to get more experience. Most trainees here now do a six-month secondment to a client or international office, and partners and associates are also able to do one.

The firm is always looking to increase the availability of secondments as there's a strong feeling that these opportunities are beneficial for the client, the firm's employees, and the firm as a whole.

As I progress, I hope I'll be able to continue working with as much flexibility and support as I currently have. I think if I make it as a partner anywhere, it'll be at Norton Rose Fulbright.