Linda Addison
Linda Addison (Courtesy photo)

Q: What are some of your proudest recent achievements?

A: I am proud of the transformational change that occurred during my tenure as Norton Rose Fulbright’s U.S. managing partner, and before that, as global head of dispute resolution and litigation and head of our New York office. When we became Norton Rose Fulbright in 2013, we moved from being an international firm to a truly global firm capable of meeting the needs of clients anywhere in the world. I am proud of being one of the partners who led that change. I am proud of leading the integration of six regions (North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, South Africa and the Middle East) into the largest disputes/litigation department in the world. I am proud of growing our New York office and positioning it to become one of the 25 largest law firm offices in New York. I am proud of fulfilling a long-time goal of our firm during my term as U.S. managing partner by opening our San Francisco office.

Q: What does it mean to be a leader?

A: Leaders inspire people to see a greater vision and show them how to achieve it. Leaders make hard decisions and avoid kicking cans down the road. Leaders develop talent. I followed these principles while serving as the first woman managing partner in Norton Rose Fulbright and in my other positions of leadership during my career. As managing partner, I saw myself as the coxswain in rowing—the member of the crew responsible for steering the boat, coordinating the power and rhythm of the rowers, and making the tactical decisions necessary to optimize performance.

Q: Name a lawyer or mentor whose leadership inspired you.

A: Gibson Gayle Jr. and Blake Tartt inspired me from the earliest days of my career. Both were past presidents of the State Bar of Texas and revered, iconic leaders of the ABA. Gib was managing partner when the firm hired me, and his leadership made our firm more hospitable to women than most of our competitors were at the time. Blake was a great trial lawyer who sponsored me and gave me opportunities that rarely, if ever, came to women when I started practicing law. At a time when many people did not think women should be trying cases, both saw me as a first-chair, stand up trial lawyer and a future leader of our firm. They gave me opportunities to develop my legal and leadership skills.

Q: How are the business and profession of law changing, and how should lawyers adapt for the future?

A: Clients are becoming increasingly global, and global clients have global legal needs that change continuously. Firms that become global are well-positioned to benefit from this shift. Those that do not risk becoming irrelevant to their most valued clients.

Q: What is the best advice for someone considering a career in law, or someone already in the profession who is seeking to make a greater impact?

A: Clients need, expect and demand lawyers who understand their business and their industry. Clients do not think of themselves as litigation clients or M&A clients; they think of themselves by their industry—as financial services, health care, energy, infrastructure clients. Become a true, deep expert in at least one industry. Once you have sector expertise, you have an advantage in providing legal advice and proactive solutions that help clients deal with their existing and emerging issues. But having impact is about more than just developing and serving clients. Your legal skills can help not only your clients and your firms, but also a wide array of individuals and institutions in your own communities that need and would benefit from your advice and involvement.