Law Firms

Mayer Brown partner who dealt with personal tragedies backs a flexible path to partnership

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A Mayer Brown equity partner who advocates for a flexible path to partnership cites her own experience as the reason why it is needed.

Joanna Horsnail has dealt with her mother’s Parkinson’s diagnosis, her father’s terminal cancer, her son’s rare genetic disease and a divorce, (sub. req.) reports.

Horsnail became an income partner while on maternity leave, and worked a 70 percent schedule for five years. Now she is an equity partner in construction and government relations work, and she advises associates about career choices as part of the law firm’s advancement committee, according to the article.

Horsnail believes law firms need to create a flexible path to partnership. Toward that end, she says, Mayer Brown now views the role of counsel as a point that can be used as a springboard for equity partnership.

“I benefited from people trying to take a personal view of someone’s situation and I’m really encouraging us to do that,” Horsnail told “To really look at people as individuals and to look at typical policies in a BigLaw firm and think about how those may be disadvantageous or holding us back in terms of diversity.”

Horsnail told her personal story at a TEDx talk late last year. As a result of a rare developmental disorder called Pura syndrome, her son William does not walk or talk. He wasn’t diagnosed until he was 11 years old.

“Those 11 years changed me profoundly,” Horsnail said at the TEDx talk. “What I learned from grief, resilience, slowing down, the warmth of a community, the joy in small miracles. … I had come so far merely by the passage of time.”

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