Name: Rob Booth
Organisation: The Crown Estate
Trained at: Herbert Smith Freehills
In Hot 100 for: Leading his legal team through a raft of major deals. Read his full Hot 100 profile.
What’s your most vivid memory from being a trainee?
While steeped in sadness, I would have to look to being in the City as a trainee on the day of the 7 July bombings in 2005. As is often the way with events of such magnitude, we often see the best of people, communities and businesses – and I was proud to be part of a firm and a city that would not be derailed by an act of such utter cowardice. Being huddled in the central core of a building, with security screens descending around you, is a pretty stark reminder of why the rule of law and societal inclusion are so utterly fundamental.
Who has been the most influential person in your career? Why, and how have they helped you?
Narrowing this down to one is incredibly tricky – as I have had the privilege of working with some fantastic people; whether that be Alison Nimmo, my CEO; my own team at The Crown Estate; or some of the superb lawyers and business people that I have worked with on our legal panel.
But if I were to give a special mention to three – it would be Nicholas Cheffings at Hogan Lovells for being a real role model on leadership and advocacy for diversity and inclusivity; Alex Peeke at LandSec for being one of the most decent, intelligent and insightful people I have met (and my first in-house boss!) and Srin Madipalli at Airbnb for showing us all how to go beyond the law and laugh in the face of the hurdles put in front of us.
What was the best career decision you ever made, and why?
As a three year qualified lawyer, I was offered the opportunity to go on secondment “for a couple of months” with EDF Energy. Initially I was pretty unenthusiastic; things were going great as an associate at Herbert Smith and I didn’t want to be away from the action within the mothership.
A far wiser person than me (who is now my wife!) pointed out that I would develop more in-house in that period than I would in the office. I took the secondment, ended up at EDF for nine months during a whirlwind of change in the sector; and there started a learning curve and a diversity of thinking that has defined my subsequent career. You should always take the opportunity to gain a different perspective – even if it feels risky and uncomfortable.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get to where you are/do the job you do?
Modern orthodoxy tells us that learning is 70 per cent experience, 20 per cent exposure and 10 per cent education. If I look at points where I feel my development toward being a GC has really accelerated, it has been where I’ve reaped the benefit of experience with people outside of my profession, my sector or my culture. Getting as much diverse input into the “70” as possible is fundamental to defining you, what you “bring” and how you create a competitive advantage for your firm or your company.
That sounds simple, but it requires you to constantly challenge your own perceptions and unconscious biases – which in turn usually needs somebody with wisdom (a mentor, a coach or your partner) to bring some open and honest objectivity.
What work or career-related project or activity would you really like to do, but don’t have time for?
Experience tells me that if you see something that is really important, you can always find an innovation that enables it or the time to do it.