Name: Lara Oyesanya
Organisation: Contis Group
Role: Group General Counsel and Chief Risk Officer
Trained at: British Rail
Year qualified: 1993
What’s your most vivid memory from being a trainee/pupil?
In October 1990, the Government gave the go-ahead to British Rail and London Transport to develop the east-west Crossrail scheme. The excitement was huge and being part of the team that prepared for the submission of a private bill (the method of getting big infrastructure projects approved at the time) to Parliament in November 1991, was a career milestone that remained etched in my memory. Parliament rejected the Bill in May 1994 due to the perceived heavy constraints on the public finances caused by the recession at the time. Watching the Canary Wharf station being built in 2010 from the Barclays headquarters where I worked, brought back happy memories from my early legal career. The station was a major part of Crossrail so watching the construction admittedly made me feel quite proud. I also still have fond memories of the great colleagues I worked with and the huge support I received from my training principal and The Solicitor of the British Railways Board that comprised 93 businesses and 25 train operating companies that were later privatised. I am of the firm view that my training at British Rail made me the business lawyer that I am.
What is the wisest thing anyone ever said to you (and who said it)?
Live in the present moment – “The present moment is the only thing where there is no time. It is the point between past and future. It is always there, and it is the only point we can access in time. Everything that happens, happens in the present moment. Everything that ever happened and will ever happen can only happen in the present moment. It is impossible for anything to exist outside of it.” – Myrko Thum. This allows me to adapt to the varied and challenging circumstances in the various legal sectors I have worked in.
Who (for better or worse) has been the most influential person in your career? Why?
My father for making education, strong work ethic, discipline, and independent thinking my universe. My mother for positivity, dignity, identity, compassion, grace, respect, and gratitude for all things. These are the values that have guided me and pushed me to continue to be the best that I can be.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get to where you are/do the job you do?
Knowledge is everything, it gives you confidence that fosters resilience, in the face of inevitable career challenges. It is therefore important to be curious, informed, and relatable. Always present yourself in the way you would like people to take you. A strong legal education is a solid educational foundation and an opportunity to learn broadly applicable critical thinking and reasoning skills. Challenges usually turn out to be great opportunities!
What’s your best friend from law school doing now?
She is the owner of and senior partner at a law practice company that is still thriving despite the challenges of the pandemic.