Dr. Cornelia Marquardt, Head of Employment EMEA, Norton Rose
How long have you been working for your current company?
Briefly explain your career history and what led you to your current position.
Having started my career as a lawyer in a mid-sized German law firm, I moved to Norton Rose LLP as a senior associate when they opened their German offices. This offered me the opportunity (and challenge) to build an employment practice from scratch which I did. Having become a partner in 2005, I started to take on more management tasks and a few years later was called onto our panel for partnership promotions. In 2011, I became Head of Employment for the EMEA.
What is your proudest professional achievement and why?
My proudest moments are when someone from my team has real success in a matter and I notice that I managed to teach them that much. I really enjoy working with people and developing them.
What are the greatest challenges that you face in your current role and what do you do to overcome them?
Having two little children, my permanent challenge is to balance family and job in a satisfying way. You never really overcome that challenge, you just constantly work on it.
How difficult is it for you personally to attain work-life balance and how do you endeavour to do this?
Having a very talented and enthusiastic team working with me helps me keep the balance right.
Did you have a mentor or role model in your career or while you were studying law? Who were they and how did they help you?
Yes, one of the senior partners in our office mentored me throughout my career. He explained the firm, pushed me forwards and heavily supported me with finding the right balance when my children came.
How effective do you think corporate diversity initiatives are? What methods do you think are most effective and why?
The effectiveness of voluntary initiatives can be limited if non-minority members (e.g. men when it comes to female diversity) don’t take diversity seriously. The approach to diversity changes once the minority has a significant say in the decision-making boards. For a real effect in a shorter time period, initiatives need to be mandatory. This has been proven by the developments in various European countries regarding women on boards. Only countries that have adapted a mandatory approach have showen a notable development.
Were there any points in your career when you felt you were at a disadvantage or at an advantage because you were female?
What do you think have been the most significant changes for women in the legal industry over the past five years?
Law firms started to realize that they cannot afford to give up half of their talent pool by not promoting women. As a consequence, this allowed part-time arrangements to be discussed seriously. The female case was also supported by new tools, e.g. the replacement of real data rooms by virtual ones which reduced the need for time away, and obviously smart-phones which allow more flexibility with regard office hours.