July 12, 2023
Nabanita Chaterjee Nag
Executive Vice President & Chief Legal Officer,
Norfolk Southern Corporation
Hailing from a family of lawyers, Nabanita Chaterjee Nag ’00 (Derivatives, 2000–2005, New York City) joined Shearman & Sterling’s New York City office after earning a Bachelor of Arts from Georgetown University and a Juris Doctor from New York University School of Law. She later worked as an Associate General Counsel at Goldman Sachs and Vice President and Corporate Counsel at Prudential Financial. She joined railway company Norfolk Southern Corporation in 2020, where she currently holds the position of Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer.
There are so many. I remember my time as a summer associate very fondly, as I spent half of the summer in the London Office. I was surrounded by so many bright, hardworking associates and partners who provided insights into their careers, backgrounds and how their practices worked. It was so formative as a young lawyer, both as a summer associate and even for the first few years.
I was exposed to a lot of different clients from different countries and backgrounds. My first project as a first-year associate was with a Japanese bank. I also worked on a diligence project in Munich. I loved the exposure and the ability to interact with people from different cultures and business backgrounds.
I’m a strong believer in the training that big law firms like Shearman offer. You cannot get that quality of training and level of resources anywhere else. I worked on many different types of transactions and was exposed to aspects of regulatory work. This combination was really important for me.
I remember doing accounting classes at Shearman that came in handy for my career as an in-house attorney. Shearman offered a culture of learning and teaching that made the experience as a young associate so enriching. Partners also took the time to step back and explain something, let you ask questions and dig into a topic which speaks volumes about the firm and how it molds young lawyers. The other thing I got, which is a softer skill, is attention to detail; learning to get it right and producing the best possible work for your client.
What I needed to learn to be successful was laid out well and has served me at every company I’ve worked at. I’m very grateful for that.
I went in-house to Goldman immediately after my time at Shearman. I worked in the Finance and Corporate Legal group, where we did a lot of securities transactions and disclosure work. It exposed me to another high-caliber organization, and I worked on a variety of different transactions with some great people. It emphasized and reinforced to me the importance of a good work ethic and the need to deliver a high-quality work product.
I moved on to Prudential after about nine years and worked in a similar legal group for another six years. I got more exposure to governance work and the board, as well as to more regulatory, lobbying and advocacy work with some of the financial services agencies in Washington. The role broadened my horizons, and I had some really good colleagues there.
I moved into my current role as I was looking for a company that was headquartered in Atlanta. I grew up in Tennessee so I was eager to move back to the southeast to be closer to family. I started with Norfolk as the Chief Corporate Counsel and things went quickly. I was here for about a year before my predecessor departed and I was elevated into my current role.
I never thought I’d be working for a rail company after having spent most of my career in financial services, but it’s been fascinating. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, despite having some significant challenges within my first year as CLO. I am responsible for the law department, our government relations function and our audit department. I spend significant amounts of time on governance and the board and have learned a lot about crisis management. It’s proven to me the importance of the role of GC or CLO; how critical it is for a public company and what that means in all its different capacities.
Be open to new experiences and challenges in your career. Always believe in your ability to tackle that next challenge. The more exposure you can get to different types of questions and problems, the more effective you’re going to be in the next job that you might want. Have confidence in the foundation that a place like Shearman & Sterling gives you because, ultimately, it’s about the set of skills you’re taught as a young lawyer. It’s about critical thinking, being detail-oriented, asking the right questions and being intellectually curious.
Being around other people who are successful and good at their jobs will help you pick up good judgment, too. The more you can be around people who you respect and admire, the more successful you will be. The foundations I learned at Shearman are even helping me right now as I navigate challenging times in my current company.