The Hot 100 career quiz: Suzanne Rab – The Lawyer

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“Accept that you may not be able to ‘have it all’ at one time and you will need to make choices about what blend of work and home works for you at any particular time.”
Name: Professor Suzanne Rab
Organisation: Serle Court
Role: Barrister (Competition, EU and Regulatory)
Trained at: Slaughter and May
Year qualified: 1999 (admitted as a solicitor, England and Wales); 2013 (called to the Bar, Lincoln’s Inn)
Read her Hot 100 profile
What’s your most vivid memory from being a trainee?
It was back in 1997 before SatNavs and Google Maps.  One of the induction exercises during the first week of my training contract as a solicitor was to find my way around the Square Mile using only a hard copy of the A-Z of London.  I did wonder what was the point of all of this after years of studying law?
In the trainee tasks that were to follow, including countless visits to deliver documents to Companies House, I am thankful that my employers had the foresight to give me the practical tools for the job.
What is the thing in your professional career that has terrified you or taken you out of your comfort zone the most?
My work is increasingly international and, in more normalised times, I frequently travel overseas.  I quake at the thought of being lost in an unfamiliar location and without a connection to the outside world (there is a theme developing…). On a business trip to Grand Cayman, my colleagues and I were grounded in Nassau, Bahamas following an emergency.  Time was short to get to our final destination and we chartered a private plane with a few hours to spare.  It was a nine-seater Cessna 208. I sat in the cockpit watching the pilot communicate with air traffic control on his iPad. I still feel quite sick thinking about it!
These and other experiences have taught me resilience, tenacity and (literally!) bounceability – qualities that are appreciated in the legal profession and in life.
What is the wisest thing anyone ever said to you (and who said it)?
Sometimes ‘perfect enough’ is good enough. I have to confess my perfectionist tendencies (I am told it is a lawyer trait). The advice was given to me by Jenny Connolly, a partner at Freshfields (among many other pieces of sound advice which she gave me and which have stayed with me to this day). The advice paraphrases the title of the book ‘Perfect Enough’ which documents the experiences of Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and client as she grappled with the macho culture of Silicon Valley. Whether you are talking about a printer, laptop or an oral argument, whether it is business or law, practicality can have a premium over perfection if that is what the customer wants.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get to where you are/do the job you do?
My advice comes from experience of working in very different legal environments over different stages in my own career:
1) accept that you may not be able to ‘have it all’ at one time and you will need to make choices about what blend of work and home works for you at any particular time,
2) start networking early on,
3) be kind to others and yourself as building resilience will be necessary to get you through the tough times,
4) don’t be afraid to promote yourself, and
5) remember what got you to where you are today and try to make things better for the next generation.  Finally, manage your finances.  Good financial management shows that you can be trusted in a commercial environment and it is key to keeping your options open because it creates professional as well as social and economic mobility.
What’s your best friend from law school doing now?
Fabian Raymond Picardo QC was my tutorial partner at Oriel College, Oxford where we studied law for three years in the early 1990s.  Born just 10 days before me, he is now Chief Minister of Gibraltar.
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