Posted in Interviews on 2 Jun 2014
We grabbed a few moments with Rehan Akram; Senior Legal Counsel for the Global Strategies Group's Middle East and Asia-Pacific based companies. Rehan was a Solicitor with Pinsent Masons and an Associate with Eversheds for the best part of eight years before becoming a Partner at Shakespeares in November 2009. In November 2011 he joined Global Strategies Group.
1. Tell us about your employer
We’re a leading international defence and national security company. We’ve been supporting defence programs in challenging environments for a long time. Over the years we’ve built a capability in integrating high-end technologies to address threats to national security and infrastructure.
2. Tell us about your role at Global Strategies Group?
I’m General Counsel for the Middle East and Asia-Pacific divisions so I cover a range of legal work to support our businesses in these regions.
3. What do you enjoy most about your job?
Working with like-minded people to pursue a common commercial outcome. Getting the result the team wants having helped manage the process.
4. What is the most challenging element of your job?
In a fast-paced business, being satisfied that colleagues have understood and reflected on risks before acting.
5. How is business?
It’s a dynamic business; it’s solid but it never stands still. We’re in a growth phase in Asia-Pacific at the moment as we’re finding increasing interest there in technology-led security solutions.
6. Why Law and why your particular area of expertise?
It’s cheesy but Law was respected, traditional and appealed to the ‘aspirational’ in me. Or to paraphrase Walter White: “I did it for me, I liked it, I was good at it and it made me feel alive”. In UK private practice I was an Employment law specialist – it was the mix of advising and advocacy that kept it interesting. Once abroad and In-House, I became more of a commercial generalist and the variety worked for me.
7. What does the future hold for the Legal profession?
In the UK, more of the same I suspect: e.g. more commoditisation of low–end work with non-qualified practitioners and traditionally non-legal organisations doing it, pushing the high end complex work up the food chain and making it even more competitive to get hold of. But there will of course always be space for Lawyers in the traditional sense albeit the space will shift.
8. You are currently ‘In House’ but previously you have worked in Private Practice - what are the key differences, if any?
In private practice you give advice and recommendations, get paid for it, and tend to leave it largely to the client whether they follow the advice. In-house, as a more integral part of the team, accountability is greater for the ramifications of business decisions overall and therefore the need for influencing skills is greater. Once a solution is provided, persuading colleagues to implement it is key.
9. Who is the biggest influence on your career/life and why?
My late father as a motivator because no-one was ever as outwardly enthused as he was about the idea of me being successful.
10. Who's in your 'network'?
An organic and not very deliberate grouping of the great and the good and the others.
11. What's the best advice you can give to a young and ambitious Solicitor at the start of their legal career?
Aim high and only compromise as you need to. In other words, don’t set yourself limits at the outset but learn when it’s right to accept them if they’re imposed on you.
More prosaically, do stop to consider if there’s a possibility of wanting to work/live abroad at some point then assess to what extent the area you choose to specialise in will lend itself to that.
12. Tell us about you.
Sticking with the present, I’m married with school-age children who are all on this international adventure with me. I leave the rest for the ghost-penned autobiography…
13. What has been your greatest achievement so far in life?
Education/profession-wise; probably getting into Cambridge University because at the time coming from a nondescript state school I thought it would be easier to skate uphill. Nowadays, it’s the little victories that count.
14. What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
Dispensing discipline to my children (half-joke) and achieving guilt-free unproductive downtime.
15. You’ve lived and worked abroad now for over two years; how does your life now compare with the UK?
Better. There are the usual pros and cons but in Dubai there’s a relaxed and safe family environment and sunshine is sunshine.
16. You are an Alumni of Cambridge University. Go on, spill the beans - who did you rub shoulders with?!
Not much shoulder-rubbing but Naomi Harris (Moneypenny from Skyfall) and Tom Hiddleston (Loki from Avengers) went to my particular college.
17. Where did you last holiday and where is next on your list?
I used to holiday quite a bit in Dubai when I was in the UK – now it’s the other way around. I’m a creature of habit.