The life of a City law firm Partner

Written by: Ethan Cumming
Published on: 8 Jan 2020

Rupa Lakha talks us through her role as a Partner in the Construction law department of Charles Russell Speechlys LLP.

Rupa Lakha

We recently had the pleasure of sitting down and conducting an interview with Rupa Lakha, Construction Partner at Charles Russell Speechlys LLP in London.

In our conversation, Rupa discussed her career path to date and the challenges she has faced along the way, before offering some expert advice she has for law graduates and aspiring Partners.

Can you talk us through your career journey to your current role?

I said at the age of 7 that I wanted to be a judge, so I think it was a foregone conclusion that I was headed for a career in law. Notwithstanding this, I read English Language and Literature at UCL to enjoy my passion for English before “buckling down” and then did the law conversion course followed by the LPC. I applied for training contracts after completing my LPC and was successful in securing one at Speechly Bircham LLP (now Charles Russell Speechlys LLP) following the 3-week summer scheme selection process. I have been exceptionally fortunate with my career progression; I have evolved from a trainee through to associate, senior associate and then partnership within one law firm. However, it is important to note that the firm has evolved massively over the years and neither it nor I are anywhere near the same as that first day I appeared as a fresh faced and eager summer scheme student!

What is the biggest challenge you faced on your route to becoming a Partner?

This is a difficult question to answer. I really enjoy my job and there is no doubt that it has been tough going to get to partnership; the hours have been long at times; the tasks can be gruelling and sometimes there are difficult choices to make. This is especially the case given I have had two children along the way. The challenge at times was to stay focused on my aspirations and keep motivated. However, this was made easier for me because the work has been varied and stimulating, and I have benefited from having fantastic working relationships with both clients and colleagues alike. There have been undoubted low spots, but I am glad I kept going – it is definitely worth it!

Why did you specialise in construction law?

The construction industry is fascinating; the types of projects I have worked on are very diverse in nature, ranging from commercial offices, hotels and large residential schemes to bridges, tunnels and stadia. I enjoy the variety offered and the opportunity to learn about complex technical issues which inevitably arise on such projects. The construction industry is also an industry that has faced and continues to face a number of challenges. I saw this as an opportunity where sound legal advice plus commercial acumen would always be a required skill set.

How do you ensure you strike a work/life balance?

There is no doubt that this is difficult to ensure given the nature of the job. However, in recent years law firms are recognising the criticality of allowing people to have some sort of work/life balance. Charles Russell Speechlys LLP has an agile working policy for its lawyers; the policy normalises the ability to be more flexible with your working method which in turn assists in promoting work/life balance. Utilising this and generally being a bit smarter with the way in which I use my time has enabled me to improve my work/like balance.

What do you consider the three most important attributes for aspiring Partners?

I think it would be the following:

  • Have a passion for what you do; this job requires you to work very hard but if you love it, you will do so willingly;
  • Be human; whilst you must always give the correct legal advice, you will undoubtedly go further with both clients and colleagues if you form those key human relationships which enables you to gain their trust; and
  • Motivation; stay focused on your own objectives, your own standards and do not “sweat the small stuff.”

What advice would you give to law students and graduates looking to kick start their career in law?

Firstly, get as much exposure to the industry as possible to make sure this is the right career choice for you. Attend law fairs, recruitment fairs, do some shadowing and see if this ignites a genuine interest. Secondly, try to get any general sort of work experience or employment. This helps to build up a skill set that should transferrable to law and will be seen favourably by law firms when you interview for training contracts.

Would you like to take part in an interview about your experience as a Partner at a law firm? If so, we would love to hear from you. Get in touch on marketing@reachwork.com to find out more.