Louise Higginbottom, Global Practice Leader - Tax, Norton Rose Group
How long have you been working for your current company?
I joined Norton Rose LLP in 1981, qualified in 1983 and became a partner in 1991.
Briefly explain your career history and what led you to your current position.
I studied law at Southampton University and choose to study tax as part of my degree. I met Norton Rose at the milk round and one of the partners was a tax partner at the firm who wanted to hear more about my interest in tax law. I was offered a place as a trainee and given the opportunity of a seat in the tax team. I qualified into the tax practice and have remained a tax lawyer there for almost thirty years, and as global head of tax for the past six years.
Tax always held a lot of appeal for me because it is such a varied practice area - it requires you to have an in depth understanding of every transaction you advise on and an intricate knowledge of tax law. It also enables you to advise on both finance and corporate transactions.
What is your proudest professional achievement and why?
Being elected to the Group Supervisory Board and the Partnership Council, because I was selected by my fellow partners.
What are the greatest challenges that you face in your current role and what do you do to overcome them?
My greatest challenge is trying to balance all of my varying responsibilities - my management role, my relationships with our key clients and remaining up to date with current tax law so that I’m able to undertake my own fee-earning work effectively. Being able to identify the things that are really important and avoiding becoming distracted by the things that are not so crucial helps keep me focused.
How difficult is it for you personally to attain work-life balance and how do you endeavour to do this?
When you’ve spent your whole career in one organisation your work almost inevitably becomes a big part of your life and so I try to be relaxed about how I balance work, home and socialising. It also helps to have a good back-up system to help you to organise your home life and remain focused.
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?
No, but when I was 16 a friend of my older sister, who was a lawyer, recommended law and said that I would make a good tax lawyer. I’ve worked with a number of people who have acted as mentors in the work place but when I was at university you didn’t tend to think about role models in the softer sense.
How effective do you think corporate diversity initiatives are? What methods do you think are most effective and why?
Corporate diversity initiatives can be very successful but they do need to be structured in the right way. Our careers strategy programme has been very effective in giving our female associated a sense of working together as a team and in giving them confidence in their abilities.
Educational diversity is more difficult to address as a law firm because traditionally we have not had contact with young people until they have passed through the education system. This is an area we are looking at currently and we have launched an insight programme for students offering skills development, mentoring and work shadowing at our offices in order to help give young people aspirations.
Were there any points in your career when you felt you were at a disadvantage or at an advantage because you were female?
No, it’s either been neutral or sometimes even an advantage although in some cultures there can be issues. It’s never been something I’ve stressed about.
What do you think have been the most significant changes for women in the legal industry over the past five years?
Two things have changed significantly - the number of women within management positions within law firms is increasing, and the number of clients in senior positions who are women is also on the rise.