Laura Durrant is the head of litigation and investigations at RBS Legal.
You're talking to a friend of a friend at a party. How do you describe what you do?
If I don’t mind people immediately making polite excuses and moving on to the bar or bathroom, I’d say I focus on a broad range of contentious regulatory financial services work.
What are you working on at the moment?
Newspapers will probably provide you with a good insight. Our team deals with a very broad mix of investigations and litigation across our business globally.
What was your first job?
One of the most memorable was working in a large pub/hotel in Oxford for a year whilst studying for the LPC. It taught me that long hours are not the preserve of the City, and there are definitely harder ways to earn a living than being a lawyer.
My proudest moment was probably getting a new training contract programme off the ground in RBS Legal, which promotes social mobility in the profession. Our application and interview process is as blind to difference as it can be, and we have had some fantastic candidates through the doors.
Share some great advice you've been given.
Someone once advised me to never take personally comments which are about some of your most personal characteristics. I think that translates into all areas of life and I’ve learnt to try to remember to approach things with good humour, empathy and kindness. I particularly enjoy smiling at drivers who shout at me when I’m riding my bike (admittedly I’m not the most proficient cyclist but it’s a wonderful adrenalin fuelled way to commute). I find that much more effective than fist waving.
What's in your desk drawers?
This question would imply I have a desk but, as is increasingly common in banking, we moved to hot desking over a year ago and drawers are a thing of the past. We now have small lockers and I have borrowed my daughter’s pencil case.
Can you recommend a local lunch or coffee spot?
I’ll put in a plug for a local place close to my home which is lovely – Boulangerie Jade in Blackheath and now also at the Blackheath Standard. Fantastic cakes and coffee.
How do you relax?
At the moment, it’s all about running for me. And reading a book with my five and three year olds. And sometimes having fun with friends.
What's your pet hate?
Management jargon and acronyms. I’m as guilty as anyone about using them, having asked my husband recently if something was BaU.
Sum up working as a solicitor in one word.
Favourite city apart from London?
I grew up in Sheffield and then Manchester, and I was lucky enough to live in Hong Kong and in Kingstown, St Vincent, for a while. London is my adopted home though and I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else long-term. It has everything.
What book is on your bedside table ?
Interesting Times – A Twentieth-Century Life by Eric Hobsbawm. It was given to me by someone who has worked with me through a lot of interesting times since the financial crisis. It also offers some timely context on current global social and political change.
What needs to happen to get more women into leadership roles?
I would like to see more targeted support, honest and open conversations from management asking about motivations and goals, and cheaper more varied childcare options. In a few decades we have stripped out a whole layer in society of unpaid workers with more women moving away from taking care of the home and family, and replaced it with very few support options, many of which are prohibitively expensive. It’s no wonder that things aren’t changing as quickly as they should. Most of my generation are knackered dealing with demanding jobs, kids, friends, homes and the curve balls that life inevitably throws. I’m hopeful that there is the will to effect change, but we need to keep pushing and calling out issues.
If you hadn't become a solicitor, what would you have done?
I have absolutely no idea. Does that indicate I’m in the right job or merely a lack of imagination?