The Hot 100 Career Quiz: Suzanne Rab
Last name: Professor Suzanne Rab
Organization: Court of Serle
Role: Lawyer (competition, EU and regulation)
Trained in: Slaughter and May
Qualification year: 1999 (admitted as a barrister, England and Wales); 2013 (called to the Bar, Lincoln’s Inn)
Read his Hot 100 profile
What is your most memorable memory as an intern?
It was 1997 before SatNavs and Google Maps. One of the introductory 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 AZ of London. I wondered what was the point of all this after years of studying law?
In the intern duties that were to follow, including countless visits to deliver documents to Companies House, I am grateful that my employers had the foresight to give me the practical tools for the job.
What is the thing in your professional career that terrified you the most or pushed you out of your comfort zone?
My work is increasingly international and in more normal times I travel abroad frequently. I shudder at the thought of being lost in an unfamiliar place with no connection to the outside world (there is a developing theme…). While on a business trip to Grand Cayman, my colleagues and I were grounded in Nassau, Bahamas due to 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-seat Cessna 208. I sat in the cockpit and watched the pilot communicate with air traffic control on his iPad. I still feel pretty sick thinking about it!
These and other experiences have taught me resilience, tenacity and (literally!) the ability to bounce back – qualities valued in the legal profession and in life.
What is the wisest thing anyone has ever said to you (and who said it)?
Sometimes “perfect enough” is good enough. I must admit my perfectionist tendencies (I am told that it is a trait of a lawyer). The advice was given to me by Jenny Connolly, a partner at Freshfields (among many other great tips she gave me that have stuck with me to this day). The advice paraphrases the title of the book “Perfect Enough” which documents the experiences of former Hewlett-Packard CEO and customer Carly Fiorina as she grapples with Silicon Valley’s macho culture. Whether it’s a printer, laptop, or pleading, whether it’s business or law, practicality can trump perfection if that’s what wants the customer.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get to where you are/do the work you do?
My advice comes from my experience working in very different legal environments at different stages of my own career:
1) accept that you may not be able to “have it all” at once and that you will have to make choices about what combination of work and home is right for you at any given time,
2) start networking early,
3) be kind to others and to yourself, as building resilience will be needed 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 business environment and is essential for keeping your options open as it creates professional, social and economic mobility.
What’s your best friend from law school doing now?
Fabian Raymond Picardo QC was my tutoring 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.