Bright Side of (Downtown) Business: Norton Rose Fulbright honours firm’s history, culture in new office

Pierre-Paul Henrie, managing partner at Norton Rose Fulbright
Pierre-Paul Henrie, managing partner at Norton Rose Fulbright. Photo by Margarita Menard | Union Eleven Photographers.
Editor's Note

The Bright Side of (Downtown) Business, presented by Star Motors, highlights business success stories in Ottawa.

Before he died of cancer in August 2021, John Naccarato was known as a model partner at global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright. 

Naccarato’s 25 years of success as a business lawyer were defined by his patience and generosity, which made him an excellent mentor, according to his colleagues. 

He also helped negotiate the lease for the firm’s new office in Ottawa during the pandemic.

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“He was just a bright man,” says Pierre-Paul Henrie, managing partner of the Ottawa office, who was a lawyer in training when he first worked with Naccarato. “Very kind, very generous in his time.”

Though Naccarato never got to work on the fifth floor of 99 Bank St. after the firm moved in November 2023, his smiling portrait watches over one of the office’s board rooms. The memorial is one of many additions Henrie made to honour the firm’s work culture and to make employees feel comfortable in the new environment.

The office features a memorial board room in honour of John Naccarato. Photo by Margarita Menard | Union Eleven Photographers..

Assistants work in a more open space than at the firm’s previous office and colourful landscape and abstract paintings line the walls. The new kitchen offers snacks and restaurant-style booth seating. A “nostalgia corner” displays keepsakes from when the firm was called Ogilvy Renault, founded in 1879 and merged with Norton Rose Fulbright in 2011. Memories include former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney’s time at Ogilvy Renault as a senior partner.

Henrie also planned the office around the emergence of hybrid work. Some partners have kept dedicated offices, but those who only work in person on the two required days a week have to book workspaces in advance.

The office’s “nostalgia corner”. Photo by Margarita Menard | Union Eleven Photographers..

“What we’ve tried to do is take the pulse of the employees and consult through the process,” Henrie says. “People tend to book different offices throughout the weeks … It’s been very beneficial in terms of the relationships that have been created – connections that people might not have otherwise had.”

Henrie says the new office has encouraged employees and clients to come to the office more often than in the past three years, though not at a pre-pandemic frequency.

The Ottawa firm has grown to approximately 50 partners, up from around 40, according to Henrie. This has helped the firm reinforce its areas of unique expertise in the nation’s capital, such as representing Canadian mining clients.

“The question is, ‘What are you going to do that’s different from a strategic perspective from other firms?’ … I haven’t done a full survey of what each firm does in Ottawa, but I’m not sure you’re going to find a lot doing mining work,” he says.

The office’s open space for assistants. Photo by Margarita Menard | Union Eleven Photographers.

Henrie, who is celebrating 21 years with Norton Rose Fulbright in June, says he has stayed because the firm’s social culture allowed him to build strong relationships with colleagues, including Naccarato. He says he hopes the changes in the new office will recreate that environment for his colleagues.

“Even if it sounds cliché, I enjoy coming to the office and I enjoy the colleagues I have. That makes a world of difference for me.”

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