When his family decided to move from Bogota, Colombia, to Houston amidst an escalating drug war and cartel violence, sixteen-year-old Nicolas Lombo assumed he had the transition covered. He’d taken English classes in school and was looking forward to pursuing a collegiate swimming career.
It was hard enough moving mid-semester, but the stress of his first day of school in Texas increased exponentially when a classmate turned around to speak to him. “I couldn’t understand a word he was saying,” Lombo recalls. “I had to tell him that I didn’t speak English, even though I thought I did, and I just remember thinking, ‘What have I gotten myself into? I don’t think I belong here.’”
And yet, as vice president and managing legal counsel at T. Rowe Price, where Lombo has spent the bulk of his professional career supporting T. Rowe Price Trust Company, the natural introvert has still managed to thrive as a leader, communicator, and attorney. Throw in a fulfilling marriage and two young daughters, and the swimmer-turned-lawyer’s journey reads as a best-case scenario for immigrants in a new country, working to adapt and overcome in every way possible.
There Is Such a Thing as Free Lunch
Lombo’s pursuit of the law, he admits, would have shocked his younger self. His father was a lawyer, and while he enjoyed visiting his office as a child and chatting with his father’s colleagues, he assumed he would wind up a swim coach or possibly a businessman. But eventually, his genes took hold.
“It wasn’t something I was looking for and certainly not something I always had my heart set on, but the more classes I took on the subject, the more interested I became,” Lombo remembers.
Fortunately, Philadelphia legal community (Lombo attended Widener Law School in the city) recognized the incredible disparity in representation for minority attorneys and had assembled a diversity initiative—the Philadelphia Diversity Law Group—to help address the issue. That wasn’t to say internships were being handed out.
“It’s so important to understand that these initiatives aren’t free rides in order to meet a quota,” Lombo says. “The process was not easy, and the application process was extensive. The interviews were challenging, but I was able to make a good impression.” Lombo earned an internship with Sunoco as a first-year law student—but as it turns out, his future was determined less by the internship and more by a free lunch.
While at Widener, Lombo learned an incredible lesson about making himself open to opportunities. In this case, the cash-strapped student was engaged in the eternal collegiate pursuit of tracking down some free grub. He signed up for a free law event at the Wilmington Convention Center and prepared to fill his plate.
While he was eating, Lombo engaged in conversation with several attorneys from the firm Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young LLP who eventually got in contact with one of his law school professors to discuss a potential summer associate position. He already had his internship locked up at Sunoco, but Lombo landed at the firm the following summer and built out his early career there.
“I went for food and to learn, but ended up with a job offer,” Lombo remembers of the event at the convention center. “It motivated me to go against my introverted ways and continue getting out there while still being myself. You never know what’s going to come from just opening yourself up to possibilities.”
T. Rowe Price: A Collaborative and Diverse Culture
Coming in-house at T. Rowe Price contributed, in many ways, to a feeling of déjà vu for Lombo. He was still incredibly early in his law career, and coming in-house to work for a well-established global investment management firm required learning a whole new language and institutional culture.
As his responsibilities have increased, Lombo has had to learn to be more comfortable with speaking up. “I was always someone who liked to put my head down and let my work speak for itself,” he admits. “But you just cannot be that person all of the time. I’m still usually the quiet person in the room [laughs], but that doesn’t mean that I’m not involved.”
Eleven years with any organization is a serious commitment, and Lombo says his managers—as well as the firm’s culture—are the reason he’s stayed. “T. Rowe Price has a very collaborative culture. It welcomes diversity of thought and encourages associates to share their point of view, to the point where introverts like me are comfortable sharing our perspectives.”
While he may be reserved, Lombo’s hard work and leadership, especially in helping build out T. Rowe’s collective investment trust business, led to his promotion to managing legal counsel in 2018 and vice president in 2021. The lawyer was also able to recently reengage his love of swimming after realizing that he didn’t have to commit to the grueling training of his youth.
“I used to think that if I wasn’t going to put in five or six hours a day, that I shouldn’t do it at all,” Lombo says. “But getting back to the pool has been very therapeutic.” Lombo may have had to spend his teens feeling like a fish out of water, but he’s found his way, now with a family of his own in tow and a successful legal career.