Past is ever-present for BLP man

Law firms are forever looking for ways to entertain and impress clients.

What this usually amounts to is a nice meal and a night out to some sort of event – the more obscure, the better. But surely few firms can offer clients a guided tour of the British Museum by one of their own lawyers.

Berwin Leighton Paisner, however, can, thanks to Tariq Rasheed. Rasheed is a senior associate in the firm’s banking and capital ­markets team, specialising in derivatives. He is also a volunteer tour guide at the British Museum.

“I have given tours to clients – senior people at financial ­institutions – and they’ve loved it,” says Rasheed, speaking in the cafe in the museum. “It’s quite a ­different type of entertainment from taking people to sporting events as firms usually do and I think we’ll do it again.”

Rasheed has just finished ­giving a brief tour – known as an ‘eyeOpener’ tour – of the ­Museum’s Assyrian collection. It is ­probably one of the museum’s more obscure tours. Not as many people are familiar with the ­Assyrians – a Semitic civilisation that existed until around 600BC in what is now northern Iraq – as with the ancient Romans or Greeks.

A varied bunch of around six or seven tourists showed up for the tour – not bad for a sweltering hot bank holiday – and Rasheed led them through the collections, speaking in-depth about two huge, winged, human-headed lions before moving on to a section of stone panels depicting military victories.

“There are usually around five or six people in a tour,” says Rasheed, “although I’ve had as many as 25. One time, just a single guy showed up. He was pretty polite to begin with and stayed and listened, but after a while he just said he’d had enough and left.”

Rasheed started giving tours for the museum five years ago when he was training to become a lawyer with Linklaters, although at first he found it difficult to convince the museum that a practising lawyer could make the commitment expected from a guide.

“I used to come to the museum to take free tours. One day I turned up a little early and got into a ­conversation with a guide,” recalls Rasheed. “The guide said the museum wanted people who were serious about it to give tours.

“So I sent an email enquiring about becoming a tour guide but they weren’t keen at first. It took me six months to get them to take me on. I think, historically, ­volunteers have usually been ­people who are already retired.”

Unperturbed, Rasheed, who had no background in history, began the six-month training required to become a tour guide while completing his training ­contract. He has since found a crossover between the skill sets required for both jobs.

“Lawyers are good at ­accumulating information and moving from one area to another,” he says. “What was most difficult was making a proper script that kept people engaged. Doing these tours keeps your public speaking well-honed. I’ve been doing this for a while now and can see if ­people’s eyes have glazed over. If that happens I try to change tack and raise my game.”

Although Rasheed had never studied history his father’s job as diplomat meant he had something of an itinerant childhood, ­growing up in eight countries and getting a taste for soaking up new cultures. That said, he is firmly committed to lawyering, and does not see working at the museum as ­anything more than a sideline.

“I’ve always had a passion for ­history and would have liked to have studied it at university but as I was quite practically minded, I decided to study law,” says Rasheed. “It’s probably the same for a lot of lawyers.

“I love private practice and see myself staying in it indefinitely – I have no desire to leave the law. But doing these tours is the perfect outlet for me.”