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Q&A with Lorna Nsoatabe

We are honoured to present you Ms. Lorna Nsoatabe, Partner at the renowned Slaughter and May. Her contribution to the legal fraternity is profound and commendable; her journey, replete with milestones, is a testament to tenacity and excellence.

Slaughter and May, the BCF23 main sponsor, is regarded as one of the most prestigious law firms in the world. In May 2021, two ambitious diversity and inclusion targets at partner level were announced:

  • A minimum of 40% of the firm’s equity partner promotions globally will be women (by the end of 2027);

  • At least 15% of equity partner promotions in London and Brussels will be from ethnic minority backgrounds (Between May 2020 and April 2025).

Find below a short Q&A where Ms. Nsoatabe is answering questions about her professional experience and her insights on her participation in the BCF23:

Can you share your journey and experiences in becoming a lawyer and any advice or lessons learned that may inspire other lawyers aspiring to reach similar heights in their careers? What inspired you to pursue a career in law, and what challenges did you face along the way??

My journey into law was not meticulously planned. Initially, I had no strong intention to become a lawyer. I was a good student and enjoyed school, but I didn't have a particular subject I felt passionate enough to study for three years. I initially considered medicine but soon realised I didn't have the time for the required preparation and work experience. A teacher suggested law, and I decided to try it, mainly because I loved arguing and was drawn to the intellectual challenge. Legal dramas like Judge John Deed also influenced my younger self.

My background was a bit of a hurdle, having come from a state grammar school in Manchester with no contacts in the legal field. My peers at Oxford were well-informed and ambitious, so I naturally followed suit when they began applying for vacation schemes. I never planned on living in London, yet here I am, practising at a London firm and begrudgingly admitting that it's a great place to live.

I also had some reservations about the legal industry due to my background, accent, and political views. The preconception that one needs to be a wealthy white male to succeed in law did cross my mind. However, my stubborn and contrary nature propelled me to push past these concerns.

If there's advice, I can offer to aspiring lawyers aiming for partnership or other high career goals, it would be this: Don't rule yourself out prematurely. Don't assume you're incapable or others don't want you to succeed. Give it a try and put yourself in the way of opportunities. Enjoy what you're doing and do it to the best of your ability. It's crucial to be yourself because it's important to be comfortable and genuine in your professional environment in a long-term commitment like this.

Build meaningful relationships with colleagues and industry peers. Find people who will genuinely support you and reciprocate that support. Not everyone will like you or champion your talent, but those who do are invaluable. Building relationships is key; everyone has a unique way to make those connections—find yours and refine it.

I took a somewhat serendipitous route into law and faced challenges tied to my background but have nonetheless found it fulfilling. If you aspire to similar heights, don't limit yourself or be defined by other people's expectations or assumptions. Always strive for what you want and build strong relationships along the way.

How do you envision your role as a partner in contributing to the growth and success of the firm? Are there any specific goals or initiatives you plan to pursue?

I want to be the best competition lawyer I can be and continue to achieve the best outcomes I can for my clients. Specifically, I do not see much difference in my role as a partner compared to when I was an associate. What I am doing on the matter daily will change, but ultimately, what we are trying to achieve remains the same.

However, where I see myself having an increased impact is supporting the firm's culture and initiatives relating to diversity and inclusion, retention, recruitment, and progression. I want to continue to foster strong relationships with my clients and strengthen the relationship between them and the firm, but I also think it important to strengthen the firm’s relationship with its people (and I am hoping that I will be heavily involved in the latter in my new role). I will continue to advocate for our networks and actively do more regarding my allyship with the networks I don’t personally identify with. I want us to reach our diversity targets, ensure that the work we do with our clients upholds the firms’ values, and continue to grow the work we do about pro-bono and community projects.

How do you think attending BCF23 will benefit attendees' career paths? What are you most excited about for BCF23?

For me, representation is so important. I am consistently in rooms filled with people who look like my mum (gender representation aside), sometimes a few people who look like me, but I rarely see a room full of people who look like my dad while at work. It is uplifting and motivating to see the black talent and community that exists in the legal industry. It is something I wish I could see when I was younger, and it is a community I want to help grow.

I think that the BCF is a great opportunity to connect and build relationships across the profession, and it is a unique opportunity to connect with others facing similar challenges, support each other and improve the industry for future generations.

I am delighted that Slaughter and May are headline sponsors of the conference; this is a testament to the firm. It’s commitment to supporting the development of black talent across the profession and the progress that has been made over the last few years. Several of our people attended last year, including myself, and it is fantastic to see even more people express an interest this year. I am looking forward to it.

Click to visit the website: Slaughter and May

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