Inspirational Woman: Kathleen Harris | Managing Partner, Arnold & Porter (London)

Kathleen Harris

Kathleen Harris is the head of global law firm Arnold & Porter‘s London office and co-chair of the firm’s Anti-Corruption practice.

Kathleen is recognised internationally as a leader in her practice area. She has represented GSK, Hewlett Packard, News UK and individuals in relation to investigations into Barclays, Rolls Royce, and Tesco. She is regularly instructed by companies and individuals in a range of other high-profile criminal matters. Kathleen is a highly respected practitioner in all areas of crime and her pro bono work includes acting for vulnerable individuals within the criminal justice system.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am Kathleen and I am the Managing Partner of the London Office of the Global Law Firm, Arnold and Porter. I sit on the firms Global Management Board and Co-Chair the firm’s Global Anti-Corruption Practice. Prior to my work with Arnold and Porter, I was a Senior Civil Servant. When not working, I can usually be found in the company of my wonderful husband and beautiful dogs. I am also doing my very best to transition to the role of a mother of amazing adult children who I adore.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I was fortunate as I knew from a young age that I wanted a career in Law. I originally thought I could join the police as I liked the idea of having to function under pressure and helping others. However, my driving instructor was the retired Police Sergeant from my local station and whilst teaching me to drive, he encouraged me to pursue my other ambition, which was to become a Barrister. So, I guess by the time I was 18, I knew the direction I wanted to follow. As with many people that start a career in criminal law, it was to fulfil a desire to help people and to help others navigate challenging situations.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

The working world has changed a lot from the late 1980’s and continues to progress today. I faced some hostility at the beginning but even at that time, I was extremely fortunate to have some wonderful mentors along the way and meet some fantastic people. I have seen some of the best ‘lawyering’ that exists the UK and the US in my practice area.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I sometimes think the older you get, the harder it is to pick out achievements! I know being positive, happy and healthy always feels like a big achievement when you see some of the very sad things that happen in life. However, being recognised as a good practitioner was something I always aspired to and feel that I have achieved. It has been a real achievement to represent some fantastic people and to work in leadership where you can help/ inspire others.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

Finding good mentors whilst learning from my own mistakes.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I thoroughly enjoy mentoring as it is an opportunity to help others. I have been fortunate to mentor a number of people throughout my career. It is great to listen to people’s experiences and try to signpost them to a successful future. I also think mentoring is a two-way process and the mentor can often benefit and learn from the whole process as well as the mentee.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

For me it would be that people understand it is merit first and not a numbers game. There are so many wonderful, talented people in law and other sectors. I would like to see a day where gender is irrelevant and we focus solely on merit so everyone has the same opportunities.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?

To keep in mind there are people that might have agendas that are not in your best interests, but whatever you face never let someone take away from who you are and remain positive.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

My immediate challenge is completing a successful year end! In the longer term it is to keep abreast of challenges to the legal sector and to make a positive contribution for change where change is needed. In the future I hope to achieve a long life filled with memories created by all the people that are very important to me.

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