Vice president, legal counsel, Barclays
Following my law degree at the University of Lagos, I went to law school and qualified as a barrister. I practised at the commercial bar for four years and then qualified as a solicitor in the UK.
The hardest types of client are usually those with entrenched views that you have to work really hard to influence. They are generally won over with a clear legal analysis that avoids legalese, thus making it relevant to their circumstances – which may be different to their preconceived views.
A good lawyer needs to be an active listener with an enquiring mind, and have a pragmatic approach to problem-solving. The ability to influence at all levels is also a necessary skill.
My least favourite area of practice is tax. It is such a complex area of law, almost too complex, and the question is how to make it simpler.
In some cases specialisation has been a good thing for clients as they benefit from the enhanced focus. However, the benefits for lawyers are debatable, especially early on in their careers. Specialising too soon may limit knowledge in other interesting areas of law. I’ve had a huge exposure to various areas of law.
The rigidity as to the interpretation and application of the law has evolved over time and the practice of law is very much client-centric. Doing what is best for the client is now paramount.
The legal landscape is changing and with so many regulatory changes afoot in various parts of our legal system, lawyers will still be in demand for some time to come. In future, the traditional structure of legal practices may well change as it is likely to be driven by how the client chooses to interact with their legal providers.
There are many women who I admire in life for their resilience and enthusiasm, but in our own way we have all made sacrifices to achieve a work/life balance. I have a family that I am proud of, a career which continues to challenge me and good friends. And I am engaging in interesting non-work related activities now that my children are all grown. So I consider myself very lucky. It is not a matter of ‘having it all’.
Interview: Monidipa Fouzder