Jill Gauntlett, Partner, Corporate Department, Norton Rose LLP
How long have you been working for your current company?
Since 1986- 26 years
Briefly explain your career history and what led you to your current position.
I was educated at Oxford University and joined Norton Rose after Law School in 1986
What is your proudest professional achievement and why?
Aside from particular transactions which provided their challenges and rewards, my proudest professional achievement was spending time in the Norton Rose Group’s Asian network where I headed the corporate team in Singapore, a role I greatly enjoyed.
What are the greatest challenges that you face in your current role and what do you do to overcome them?
Ensuring a good flow of quality work which requires a combination of skills- interpersonal skills to build relationships both with clients and colleagues, creativity and adaptability to spot opportunities and ensure we put ourselves in the best place to realise them, and collaborative abilities to ensure projects and transactions are executed seamlessly.
How difficult is it for you personally to attain work-life balance and how do you endeavour to do this?
By the very nature of the M&A and transaction work I undertake, there are phases when it is difficult to have any sort of balance between work and home- if a project is on a tight timeline, its demands will dictate this. Normally you just have to take this in your stride, but sometimes it can be trying.
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?
There hasn’t really been one specific individual, but I have been lucky to work with some very able and supportive colleagues whom I admire a great deal, so I guess they would be my role models.
How effective do you think corporate diversity initiatives are? What methods do you think are most effective and why?
I think they are good to raise the profile of the issue and to give some impetus to change. Those initiatives that seek to include the whole of an organisation are most effective in terms of influencing and changing culture. The Norton Rose WiN initiative is a great example of this.
Were there any points in your career when you felt you were at a disadvantage or at an advantage because you were female?
I think I have been lucky to have worked in an environment where this has not been a particular issue for me. Returning to work after maternity leave was a challenging time as it is for all women- you face the double challenge of being apart from your child and pushing yourself back into corporate life to pick up where you left off. I have been fortunate to have had great help at home and at work to make this easier.
I was the first female partner in our Singapore office (although two more have now joined us). This proved to be an advantage as we have a large number of female associates in our Singapore office so I think they were pleased to see a female partner joining them. Whilst I was there we even had the first celebration of International Women’s Day to take place outside our London office.
What do you think have been the most significant changes for women in the legal industry over the past five years?
There are two obvious significant changes. The first is the number of women in the law. Over the last 5 years (and certainly over the last 10) we have seen increasing numbers of women joining our profession and making it to partnership. The same is true of our colleagues who work in corporate roles and so increasing numbers of the buyers of legal services are women.
The second significant change is, of course, technology- this is both liberating in the sense that you can work without being rooted in your office but has its downside in the sense that there is never really a time of day (except when you are asleep!) that you are not on duty.