Oh, I know it’s hard to feel sorry for Big Law partners during the coronavirus, but let’s cut Natasha Harrison, Boies Schiller Flexner’s new co-managing partner, some slack.
In the span of 10 days, Harrison uprooted her husband (also a lawyer) and two kids from their comfortable home near London to a series of hotels and rentals in Florida.
“On Saturday, the U.S. said flights would be locked up; by Sunday morning, we decided to leave London, and by 9:30 the next morning, we were on a plane to Miami,” Harrison says. “I discussed the decision with David [Boies], and we thought it was too difficult to do my job in the U.K. This is an American firm, and we’re going through the biggest economic crisis of our times. You need to be on the ground.” She adds that the decision to go to Florida was driven by the fact that it was the only location where the firm’s offices were still open. “We didn’t choose Florida. It chose us.”
As for the logistics of the move, there were none. “We literally had 18 hours to get it together,” Harrison says. “We took our clothes and toiletry—that’s it.” (Sadly, their puppies were sent to live with her aunt.) While her husband was game for the move—”he can work from anywhere”— the kids’ reaction was mixed: “My son thought it was the most exciting thing ever, while my 14-year-old had a harder time.”
As if leaving home and doggies behind wasn’t stressful enough, the Harrisons have been living like nomads. First, they were kicked out of their hotel in Miami, then another hotel in Fort Lauderdale as the hospitality industry quickly closed because of COVID-19. Now camped out in a temporary rental, they’ll be moving again to another house April 1.
Welcome to America, Natasha!
It hasn’t been an easy ride since Harrison was named co-managing partner of Boies Schiller in December. She and her New York-based cohort Nicholas Gravante have presided over a steady stream of partner departures—10 partners to date.
“There’s been no honeymoon at all with the pandemic and the various departures,” Harrison admits. That said, she puts a positive spin on the situation. “We anticipated there would be departures—partners leaving either because they have been asked to or because they do not share the leadership’s vision for the future of the firm,” she explains. “Departures are an inevitable part of change at this scale.”
She also emphasizes that there’s now a generational change in progress: “After years of contemplation and planning, the firm is transitioning day-to-day leadership from its founders to the next generation.” To do it “right,” she says, will entail “patience.”
She adds that “the disruption to business by the virus will trigger crisis litigation, so we expect to be in good place economically.”
As for the day-to-day, Harrison isn’t getting a break. “I’m up early to deal with London, speaking with partners and clients. I spend a huge amount of my day dealing with issues of people working from home and helping clients on matters like the impact of the virus on financial contracts.” She adds, “I’ve done crisis work before, and we will see more of that with this pandemic. But this is my sweet spot; it’s where the opportunities are.”
Then, of course, there’s the personal side. “In between, I’m always trying to get my 9-year-old off the iPad and my 14-year-old off the phone.” While her son is on school break, her daughter’s school in the U.K. has resumed sessions online, which entails getting her up by 4 a.m.
“Combining home and work has collapsed into one heap,” she sums up. “But it’s not overwhelming at the moment.”
Maybe not for her.
Contact Vivia Chen at [email protected]. On Twitter: @lawcareerist.