A view from the top: Insight from our EMEA chair, Farmida Bi

Visible role models. An inclusive business model. We talk about what makes our firm great, with someone who’s something of an authority on the subject: Farmida Bi, Norton Rose Fulbright’s chair for Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and partner in Islamic Finance and Debt Capital Markets.

I remember the moment that I decided I wanted to be a lawyer. It was a single bright ‘Eureka!’ moment, when I was thirteen and waiting to go into a history class at my girls-only comprehensive school in Oxford. I realised I liked debating and wanted to make sure people were treated fairly.

I thought being a lawyer meant being a criminal lawyer, so I assumed that’s what I would practise, until I did some work experience at a City law firm in my second year at university. I hadn’t heard of the City though when I made my decision to be a lawyer and could never have imagined that I would become a debt capital markets and Islamic finance lawyer.

There are many different kinds of law and everyone finds an area that interests them, whether it’s working on financing solar projects or advising on tax law. We also operate in a highly international environment, with offices in more than 50 cities worldwide and clients all over the world.

We encourage people to be themselves at the firm: we don’t have a particular mould that we expect you to fit into. We insist that everyone in the firm is treated with respect and dignity.

The fact that there are visible role models helps. I’m the first female partner to be Chair for this region, and we have women as our r/Australian Chair (Tricia Hobson) as well as our South Africa Chair (Marelise van der Westhuizen).

Looking to the future, we’re committed to diversity in many ways and have a number of employee networks such as WiN (the women’s network), Pride (the LGBTA network), Origins (the BAMEnetwork) and Shine (the disability network). We believe in promoting diversity because it’s about achieving fairness and because it makes business sense. The firm is aiming for women to make up at least 30% of our partners by 2020.

As a firm, we support the wider community too. We worked with the International Red Cross last year on their first ever humanitarian impact bond. We also have a very active charity committee that supports charities focused on children, health and disadvantaged people in Southwark, where our London office is located.

You’ve got to be curious, clever, and willing to work hard, but if you are, you can be part of a great firm and do some fascinating work in a supportive, collegiate environment.

And that work is constantly changing. The way we deliver legal services to our clients is increasingly affected by technology, whilst areas like FinTech and Cyber Risk are constantly growing, making this an exciting time to enter the industry. You can also help to form the future of the City as it prepares for a post-Brexit world.

City law firms now aim to be open, global and meritocratic, looking for talent wherever it is. The days of men with bowler hats and umbrellas are long gone. Whether you come from generations of lawyers or have never been to a law firm before, come and do some work experience with us and see for yourself. 

 “You’ve got to be curious, clever, and willing to work hard, but if you are, you can be part of a great firm and do some fascinating work in a supportive, collegiate environment.”