Nicola is director of risk management at Shearman & Sterling.
1. You're talking to a friend of a friend at a party. How do you describe what you do?
I say I'm an ex-finance lawyer who now works in risk management. I can make the answer as long or as short as I like!
In reality, I manage a range of risk management projects and initiatives for the firm. My role is incredibly broad and requires the ability to juggle a very diverse workload.
But at a party, risk management is probably enough detail!
2. What’s been your career path and what led you to become a risk management lawyer?
I was a trainee at Shearman & Sterling and qualified into the finance group. After my second maternity leave, a position came up in the firm's risk management department and I haven't looked back.
The role has changed considerably in the six years I have been doing it and I have been able to take on more responsibility and get stuck into a real variety of issues. The ability to work more flexibly has also been a real bonus for me.
3. What kind of problems do you tend to come across?
Every day is different! The regulatory compliance projects require horizon scanning and the ability to juggle resources so that you are still able to respond to day to day issues.
Queries from fee earners tend to require immediate attention and cover every topic imaginable.
My role gets me more involved in the business side of the firm as well, making it very different to my fee-earning days.
4. Do you have any advice for junior lawyers interested in this area?
For some people, the key draw to a risk or compliance role is the ability to work a little more flexibly.
Flexible working is undoubtedly a benefit for many people but gone are the days when a role in risk management gave you a 9-5 job and nothing to worry about.
Law firms face substantial and increasing business, regulatory and legal risks and a role in this area is challenging.
Previous time as a fee earner is undoubtedly a benefit as it gives you not only valuable legal knowledge but also an understanding of how lawyers work.
Risk management is a growth area and I have no doubt that it will be the career path of choice for a growing number of hard working, creative and ambitious junior lawyers.
5. Shearman & Sterling has a number of initiatives focused on developing women. What do you think needs to be done to get more women into City firms?
I think the challenges faced by City firms in this area mirror the challenges faced by businesses globally, and they are not straightforward to overcome.
There is the initial challenge of attracting top female talent in the first place, into an environment that has traditionally been seen as male-dominated.
Once that challenge is overcome, there is then the secondary challenge of retaining those women who take time out to have children.
In my experience, Shearman & Sterling is an excellent example of a City firm dedicating considerable resource in this area.
My own experience of the firm's attitude to maternity leave and flexible working requests has been overwhelmingly positive and I hope that those in other firms are having similar experiences.
6. How do you relax?
I have two boys who are eight and six, so there isn't much relaxing going on in my house!
Most of my spare time is spent facilitating their considerable social lives, coaxing them down from trees, confiscating sharp sticks, offering small cash rewards for vegetable eating, and similar.
In the rare quiet moments in between, I enjoy running, reading and vegan cooking.
7. What book is on your bedside table?
At the moment it is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. It could just as easily have been Little Wolf's Book of Badness or a David Walliam's classic – as I said, not much child-free time!