Best foot forward for 2017's Happiest Person in Legal
Meet Zara Okereafor, a Senior Paralegal working in the Commercial Litigation department of Stewart's Law and, in the process of crunching through the data for our 2017 Salary and Benefits Benchmarker, the legal professional we have identified as 2017's Happiest Person in Legal.
We interviewed London born Zara for Douglas Scott's monthly newsletter Touchpoint.
Tell us a bit about Stewarts Law LLP and what you do there?
Stewarts Law is the largest litigation-only law firm in the UK, operating from London and Leeds. It specialises in complex litigation in a variety of areas; from commercial litigation cases against banks, to high-net worth divorce settlements and life changing spinal injury claims amongst others. I work in the Commercial Litigation Department as a Senior Paralegal supporting a Partner and a Senior Associate in the day-to-day running of a number of cutting edge banking and financial markets disputes, as well as high profile investor protection litigation and cross-border insolvency matters.
It’s very busy here as usual. In Commercial Litigation, we are working on some huge cases at present, such as the group litigation against Tesco PLC. It’s great to be involved with such high-profile cases. Overall, the firm has just received record rankings in the legal directories with more departments noted for their expertise than ever before.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy the sheer variety of cases on which I get to work. Each case is different in terms of its size, value, and complexity. Whether it is a UK or international client, the varied nature of the work regularly demands my use of a wide range of skills and the different challenges that each case presents keeps things fresh and interesting. Consequently, no two days tend to be the same (unless I’m tasked with disclosure!), which is great.
Would you agree that you are in fact the Happiest Person in Legal?
I certainly wouldn’t disagree. I would say that I am quite lucky in terms of the people with whom I work, a very busy Partner and Senior Associate with whom I get on really well and socialise inside and outside of work. I think it makes an enormous difference in how you view and feel about your job, particularly as a junior, when you are well supported, your work is appreciated and your personal development matters to the people with whom you work.
Who has been your biggest influence in your career and why?
The biggest influence in my career has been my late father who was a teacher and a Doctor of Education. He encouraged me to follow my path into law not only because he wanted of his children a lawyer, a doctor, a scientist, an engineer (and all the esteemed professions under the sun!) but because he knew I was capable and well-suited to a career in law. Although he passed before I commenced my legal studies at university, his encouragement and support continues to have an influence on my career.
What made you decide to go into Law?
To supplement the early encouragement I received from my late father, upon my own research and early experience of what a career in law entails (I learnt from my uncle who is a barrister), I recognised that a lawyer is a professional that will always make a valuable contribution to society in one way or another (even with the rising levels of artificial intelligence in recent years). The available opportunities and experiences as a lawyer in the UK and the fact it is a well-respected profession, were also significant draws.
What has been your greatest achievement so far in life (personal or professional)?
Personally – recently joining the Anthony Nolan lifesavers and officially becoming a stem cell and bone marrow donor for people suffering from blood cancer (in spite of my fear of needles and operations).
Professionally – before moving into Commercial Litigation, working alongside a Knowledge Management Senior Associate at Stewarts Law in my capacity as a Knowledge Management & Compliance Paralegal, to develop the firm’s internal precedent and know-how document bank. This involved creating legal templates, producing legal guidance and setting out both legal and compliance processes and procedures for each of the firm’s fee earning departments.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I was born and bred in London (for the most part - my early years were spent attending a private boarding school in Berkshire before I returned to London to attend a state school and a grammar school). I studied Law at Keele University and completed my LPC at the University of London, Bloomsbury. I am quite a sociable person; in all of my friendship circles, I am usually the one organising and planning fun and new things to do. I love taking part in sports and regularly play tag and touch rugby, field hockey, and occasionally rowing. I also like to run and have participated in a number of 5k, 10k, and half-marathon races. Typically, any sports related opportunity or challenge involving some sort of adrenaline rush, I am the first person to say yes (except skydiving – that is, at present, a no no). Not many people know this about me but I am also an ice figure skater and a member of the GB National Ice Skating Association (NISA) programme. I love embarking on big and little adventures and trips within the UK and overseas which often involves some form of activity like camping, mountain hiking, water-based activities, etc. 2017 is a big year for me as I will be getting married and moving into a new property with my fiancé which is very exciting.
Thanks Zara and best of luck for 2017.
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