Lessons I Learned in Law

Lara Oyesanya on always being curious

June 22, 2023 Heriot Brown Season 5 Episode 2
Lessons I Learned in Law
Lara Oyesanya on always being curious
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of Lessons I Learned in Law, Scott Brown speaks to Lara Oyesanya, Chief legal Officer, Group General Counsel and Company Secretary at Zepz which is a leading provider of cross-border payments and remittance services through its two brands, WorldRemit and Sendwave.

Lara shares the three lessons she has learned in law including:

·      Don’t be intimidated by the status of others or allow yourself to be overwhelmed by anything they try to say to you. Remain calm and fully focussed on your brief.

·      Be curious. You are always learning and your career will provide you with many opportunities to try something new. 

·      Seize all opportunities – you never know where they may lead!

Lara discusses her work on the privatisation of British Rail; a project which saw the privatisation of 93 separate businesses and the formation of Train Operating companies. She explains how her curiosity exposed her to a range of legal concepts and different ways of doing things.  

Lara also reveals how she became an independent non-executive director, and what the role involves. 


Presented by Scott Brown of Heriot Brown Legal Recruitment

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This episode of Lessons I Learned in Law is brought to you by Beamery.

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Scott Brown  (0:02) 

Hi, and welcome to Lessons I Learned in Law with me Scott Brown, founder of Heriot Brown In-House Legal Recruitment. We're into season five of Lessons I Learned in Law, which I'm really excited about. We've got some great guests lined up for this season who will be sharing their top three lessons that they've learned from working in their legal career. And I hope that after each episode that you'll be left inspired, and with a bit more knowledge and help you work along your career path. My guest today is Lara Oyesanya. Hi, Lara. 


Lara Oyesanya  (0:36)   

Hey, Scott, how you doing? 


Scott Brown  (0:38)   

I'm good, thanks. Thank you for joining me today. To give a brief introduction, Lara is Chief Legal Officer and group General Counsel at Zepz, which is a leading provider of cross border payments and remittance across two brands, WorldRemit and Sendwave. Lara's background, she started out as a barrister before working the majority of her career in-house, across financial services, and in both large banks and in smaller fintechs. So I'm delighted to be joined by Lara today. Now with each guest, we will love to strip back their lessons and also learn more about them as humans. But we'll start Lara, if you don't mind. If you could introduce us to your first lesson, please.  


Lara Oyesanya  (1:26)   

Yes, I said it goes back a little bit. When I first started in my journey as a lawyer during my pupillage as a barrister. I went with my principal on a very long running litigation, and he was with me throughout. And on the Day of Judgement. It said to me, why don't you go along and get the judgement, you know, I think went there so I can trust you to go along and just take the job bank? How's there any excited you don't think? Uh, yeah, you know, my opportunity to sit on the on my own. And, you know, go back, we'll get into good news. When I go to court. So I was searching the Contra bench. The lawyer on the other side was the senior law advocate, and a very renowned barrister. And, you know, I was still thrilled to know that I had the opportunity to sit next to him. And he was so short of compliments, you know, to me was making me laugh. And, you know, trying to make me feel comfortable on the campus is quite nice, you know? Oh, thank you very much. Well, you know, welcome me. So well, I did a randomised study had an agenda. Anyway, looking at me on the day, the judge was a woman, and this is justice done it. And as predicted, she gave her judgement, and judgmental is on my kind. And I was so thrilled. And so please, I was sat there the non smiling and being, you know, very pleased with myself. And, you know, then she said, does, you know, God saying, you know, do you have been applications, NEC, and I stood up? I'm Dustin No, yo, no, you know, handle no applications you make I sat down. And she asked me again, the second time you said no, you know, in the application. And then she looked at me straight in the eyes and said, I've just awarded you the document, are you not going to make an application for coats? And then it dawned on me that oh, you know, and that's it, you know, because it is the practice meeting, get I wanted the judgement, you know, to get the cost of the day. And I panicked, fantastic. And I spoke, you know, really quickly and regrouped and made the application for costs. You know, we've seen, you know, awarded to me, and I saw oh my goodness, that was my carrier, I did a really on time. And before I even started, you know, so then once you know I got judgement and you know, went back to chambers and told monthly support and his several images being played it just lucky you don't die your hands and understanding Georgia. So what do you mean that I don't just mean, so Well, you know, the synagogue was just bothering you all Peter to kind of sort of distract you, you know, so that you don't make the necessary application. Because he knew that we kind of had a good case. I learned a very, very, very important lesson on that day. And I think that's to this, you know, test of time for me in terms of not being overwhelmed by status, not you know, being overwhelmed, you know, buy too many components. And you know, frankly, you know, having my brain engaged all the time. And that's kind of sort of need helped me I'm very young age started. enzyme. It's understand what was important. 


Scott Brown  (4:46)   

My goodness, your panic, I can just imagine the panic setting in. That would have been a short one. Yeah, but good on your principle to have the understanding. 


Lara Oyesanya  (4:57)   

Oh, absolutely. Yeah. 


Scott Brown  (4:59)   

How did you approach it, what was your walk back to the chambers like, 


Lara Oyesanya  (5:02)   

I just I just told him the truth, you know, I just said, that's what's happened, I need to kind of also know, you know, is NDA, I know, he can also don't, you know, make that kind of thing, you know, so, but I'm pleased that, you know, the Mrs. Gandhi for cannot sort of went to the same university mood lighting and support, you know, so I can also don't see looked up to you know, fall in speaker as law said I was quite helpful. And I have to say, having that experience, you know, prepared to me, or when I came to the UK, and I cannot practice as a Common Law Barrister in LeKan, my first job was to in those days, you could start your articleship, you know, prior to getting your results. So, my principal and my boss and my didactical Park, and that turn, didn't pass a exam. So she was looking for a replacement, and I got the job and he was very, he does, you know, barely, you know, health puts me introduced me to, to the home sector to the district junkies, court judges Magistrates Court, you know, you literally wrote to have two buddies say that, but this fantastic lawyer, actually a common law. barrister is up here qualified in the UK, but I met with competence in he could appear in your courts, you know, for some of my no application, so in chambers, so that was mean, you know, appearing before a judge one of the original chords in the income. And this gesture is known, you know, so try to pry chain, the Latin lawyers. And in those days, you know, the judge gets given a sheet of paper down because the needs of the lawyers and preparing in the case, the by name was kind of written on the sheet of paper that was given to him. So they had my name before him. So anyway, got up, introduce myself. And before I could even finish the sentence, he looked at me and said, and who are you, you know, within most unpronounceable name, and I thought, Whoa, what did I just like, you know, like, so the World Cup. So I looked at him straight in the eyes, you know, and said, mate, please, Jana, you know, as you can see on the piece of paper in front of you, I have Mrs. Sonia and I'm representing, you know, near me, my client, and I think it was taken aback, you know, that I had the confidence, you know, to sort of look at it straight in and answer the question. And there's, oh, well, you know, we better get on with it, you know, and afterwards all the persons can just ignore it does that I don't worry. I've learned my lesson a long time ago. And now I'm not intimidated in a rabid dog. Yeah. The tip brands Virginia. You know, George's we can go you know, you had to according to get like I am. So as you know, it's just, you know, that is exactly like Yeah, and so that's kind of that first experience, has it changed to two year old as sent to me? Well, and he's still selling well, now, you know, 


Scott Brown  (8:13)   

just don't be no one. Yeah, don't be either impressed or intimidated by status. And that's the barrister route what was the route to pupilage there and sort of reasoning and obviously very different from where you find yourself today? 


Lara Oyesanya  (8:29)   

Yes, I cannot then spend quite a lot of my time practising as they come along, barrister, so from the Inca and, and then went on to British Airways board, where I had my own, you know, set of cases and downswing. A lot of personal injury claims, you know, Bucha, NDTV is cooperating in buttons, commercial matters, true trees or snow on tracks, you know, I mean, Britisher was on date. And I'm, I'm very grateful that I had that experience, you know, to be exposed to so much, you know, very early on there was whilst I was there, that I decided that look, you know, I'm gonna bite the bullet and take the exams. And it coincided with the time that law society was looking at different ways and different moods to quantification. And at the time, they introduced the idea that you could actually compress your trading contracts, because usually, is it GDN? You know, process? What if he'd been working in a nickel department and she could do 18 months training and also at the same time because of my qualification in a common law jurisdiction, I could actually take the exams by distance, learn insight into how to code that College of Law and understand in time, combine my training contract and studying for my exams. And the interesting route I took, you know, so I recalled and you know, I'm good into chops. to market and General Counsel at the time timer, NASPO, you know, chatting what I wanted to do. And he said to me, I'm sorry, I'm not quite sure you can accommodate you. And you know, back from my lesson that I learned not to be overwhelmed by status, you know, I can on the team and said, and why not? Then they weren't was getting, they did all the exotic celebrity. I don't think it was quite shocked. And needless to chat, a big one that then he said, Okay, we better speak to the Law Society, then. So he spoke to the Law Society. And whilst I was there, I picked up the phone, in those days, you could just get, you know, pick up the phone and speak to somebody at the most society. And they told him exactly when I'd say, you know, in terms of the time that would be required, and all that, and that connection dial and said, Okay, well, these are the rules, one, you have to resign from your current employment, took up your training contract. And if you want to be referred, in any single subject that sets you out, I was thinking, okay, you know, they dropped the ball, you know, bring it on, you know, so a great tool, the only condition as I signed up for my cleaning contract. And afterwards, he said to me that I'm not sure you really want to do this, because no one has managed to do this before. I said, Well, you know, I'm giving my best shots and and see what happens. And it kept his word I did online, you know, trading by Johnson, and everything. And on the day of the results, in those days, you don't have to go to Kings Cross, because the results are published in the tights, you can also know how to work on very early to get to Kings Cross get a copy of the times. And of course, cypass online, you know, some kids and everything on my name was that, and I went straight to work as I was going into work, I saw Simon had a copy of the times in his heart and see that I had about two people with it. And he promptly introduced me to two people that I just say, I didn't think she was going to do it. But she's done it. It's you know, and as soon as I quantified almost immediately, you know, was promoted to being a senior solicitor, which was quite incredible. And fast forward two years, I saw Simon and then lost his high tea, and I went up to him. And I said, Do you remember me? And he said, How can I get? I had the wonder in your carrier. Way, you know, you don't mean really proud. But God was still present and still in touch today. Yeah, 


Scott Brown  (12:35)   

that's really nice. Amazing. Yeah. Yeah. Brilliant. So what would that was, was that the particular route to qualification? What was that called? 


Lara Oyesanya  (12:45)   

It was the last society finals before the solicitors Regulation Authority was created. Probably one of the dinosaurs that I'm you know, quantified in 1983. So that's some 30 years ago, you know, is actually many years this this month. Yeah. So that was before the creation of the SRA was not society finals. 


Scott Brown  (13:04)   

Do you have the copy of the times? Oh, 


Lara Oyesanya  (13:06)   

absolutely. Totally. Ready to copy Yeah. 


Scott Brown  (13:20)   

delighted to hear that. 


Lara Oyesanya  (13:22)   

So the second lesson for me is that I have learned a lot that being curious, and learning, having the knowledge, I think has been quite huge for me in my journey in my class, you know, to where I am today. If I go back to when I started, Lincoln, my boss at the time was a CPS prosecute chop, that the Crown Prosecution Service prosecutor, so he's proxies. I was very much, you know, crime, primary client, and there were a lot of farmers in Lincoln. So we did a model funding arbitration. So that's kind of how I started you know, my carrier journey in the UK then moved to the railways, it had to do person injury, vibration, wide seeing, necessarily unnecessarily. I exposure to asbestos. So a lot of my practice has been non commercial. But I've found that every time I've had you know, the opportunity, I've been curious about different areas. So starting on, whilst I was at Bucha, shrilled, I had got into employment and all gone into commercial law. I did more commercial type litigation. And so when I qualified and became a senior solicitor I did, like a few landmark cases that went on, you know, the way to the Court of Appeal and was before the natives suggested being that it was also Archie by alpha to me. I found that you know, being curious, you know, wanting to know I'm being fair much involved in the privatisation on British Railways board. You know where we privatised 93 businesses, and you know, created train by train or British companies. I was right in the middle of that, as well as all the property leases Liverpool Street station when were first built. So I was involved in all of that. So by curiosity and you know, wanting to be engaged in different ways, exposed me to broad legal concepts and, you know, legal way of different ways of doing things. So that kind of been the torch like me, in terms of what am I conviction at times myself. So when you search on google doc nos, and I went back into private proxies, I went into private practice sec, Hammonds, as an employment lawyer advising the load stock personnel and pm development. So I did that for a while. And then from that, you know, I went eighth house to the content on the creation and next surveys, which was, you know, quite an interesting move to Alexa. This at the time was a joint venture between lumbered services, you know, and legs. And then, you know, a few months starting into their role, long guide sold the shareholding to Halifax, they became a joint venture between Lexa nits and Anthrax, and the following year had fired some Bank of Scotland merged to become h was, and Lexa Andy's board started CPLC. So, in his place of, you know, 12 to 24 months, I find myself being coming head of nickel, you know, tool, you know, RDC PLC and divisional Cancel for a CPL since well, and in that time, I never came and bought, you know, out of CPLC. So, divided became a joint venture, we take us, and then it was bought out and the by PLC, so I was on, you know, legs rec, you know, he was for, like, about eight years. And I found that I was because of that curiosity, and the ability to want to extend my knowledge, actually, you know, take me took me to the height of my career, that's group handled legal, and then you actually, you know, down sub sick, and you know, so it's what could be a system. And he was just Gress of knowledge. And within Tom, in a big head of litigation to group head of legal to having that conventional exposure, you know, that took me to the top defence procurement in our company, you know, sometimes be systems, you know, what can fulfil your goal, which was quite an amazing experience. And I spent about three years to then go, and we'll call pathways to set up the business banking, and practice. So when I kind of learned along the way is curiosity has allowed me to enhance my knowledge. And every time I've done that, I've built on the competence to know that I could approach and solve quite a lot of problems in a pragmatic way. And Optune, actually, I found that become quite busy. And, you know, as I'm, you know, getting through my legal career. So that's kind of the big lesson for me to really, really focus on BP areas, focus on enhancing your knowledge, because at the end of the day, it's on the status of something, namely, something great, that is going to get you that job, is that experience and the ability to be able to have a pragmatic approach to solving problems. Yeah, 


Scott Brown  (18:37)   

I think it's a great skill to have, like just that curiosity and just shows a level of interest, doesn't it? Like ability to learn and let learn new things? How do you look for that? When you're hiring? Is there a skill set that you look for when you're hiring and to your teams? 


Lara Oyesanya  (18:52)   

Oh, absolutely. You know, I'm always interested, you don't see how much research a person has gotten. Because that tells me one, the democratic engagement, and secondly, either if they're curious enough to get as much as they possibly could get about the role that tells me you know, that try to play that barricade, you know, to, you know, to sort of be curious about the various challenges they may face in the role that they're, you know, trying to be considered for. So, that's always a big thing for me, and also either catch the patients where they've worked, you know, how been approached dadoes issues and problems, you know, that you have encountered, and also how they see the role. I cannot find anything interesting in the past, you know, that some new lawyers or I should say new lawyers, lawyers that can also know that in very early stages and stages, so that can be a mistake statements like, Oh, I didn't get commercial declines, and it's like, well, you did in house if you're gonna get regular dries out And he doesn't mean that, you know, you're kind of an expert to that area. But the whole point of it being an in house lawyer is to understand of the various drivers, the dynamics, you know, that the business need, you know, to survive their competitiveness, why their competitors? How do they work in the business? How do they design their product, you know, to what audience are they catering for? So you've got an understanding, all in basic, you know, commercial need as they need to pull to be successful. And if you're going to be in very significant, you know, stakeholder, you do need that very important thing. Yeah, the side of things like cannot tend to look for 


Scott Brown  (20:43)   

and outside of your role as chief legal officer, you're an independent, non Executive Director. Yes. How did that come around? Because it's something that is something that there's a big interesting, I guess, curiosity, and people that we speak with the who, who are looking for that type of opportunity? How did it presented itself to you? Yeah, 


Lara Oyesanya  (21:01)   

I think that's my third lesson, either, which is seizing opportunities, where you don't even know where they're going to need, you know, and just, you know, answer choice. I mean, I started first of all, as being a pro bono Ward trustee for planning International. And frankly, somebody does say that it's very rare to see a job ad that is asking for somebody that they need gold background, so it couldn't just shoot it out. You know, I think you'd be good. So I did, okay, you know, so I went along and went for the interview and said, you know, competitive job interview, and I got the role I was board chair, state Hall Plan International, UK for each year. And, you know, I finished my term last month at GE. And then that was kind of sort of exposed me to the sort of way of thinking, and then so not too bad. I was also coached to be a contributing editor for LexisNexis. And we don't, you know, find Kindle. I didn't, I hadn't kind of apart from the articles and journals that I've reviewed and breaching in I've never done anything like that. But I saw it as a challenge and an opportunity, when I didn't realise it was actually that the editor was the former Justice of the commercial courts is to just as me and that retired couple years ago. And as panelled, lied, being confirmed in as a contributing editor at two grand mix with them. And it was just like, I didn't see that company. And it was just so great. It was such a great guy, innately feel very comfortable that I'm German, he was kind of became me as to finally be looking, you know, to have somebody you know, who does it from an in house perspective. And I'm being a contributing editor since 2014. Still go eat. And that was just an hedron revolutional an end of each medical trend. You know, when I lent Barclays, I just thought, well, I'll ASCII, and in terms of economics on my live in Greece, or whatever, and he showed up, he showed on 10th Street, you know, there was like, I need to explain that at all. And also is x day. And one of my Cheadle daughters Eniola, pinch from paleo. And May she was in Oxford, she was the president of the yoga society. And we were looking for that day after dinner speaker. And he came to us and model but you know, Mr. Justice bang, you know, would like to convey, you know, is she said, everyone has been trying to get into come to give out to dinner speech. But nobody's been able to do the work for me. I said, Okay, I'm tried. And so I sent, I sent him an email. And honestly, then the Arwa he responded, and he said, Yes, of course, I'd be delighted to, you know, and I call him Bill, you will let me address emergency justice with it and put that and my daughter in your life, the naming of Latuda that he was, he was the one that brought this to justice, you know, as the de la speaker. So yeah, you know, that's why sometimes opportunities you don't know when it doesn't need. So goodbye to your question. So I haven't done a couple also became about it was trustee for short trust. And I was also a co opted man for the mercy of Cambridge Superba, which is a committee on infractions and acts as the as the legal Committee, which is a committee of the University of Cambridge Council, which asked still remember, so I had all these, you know, counsel, that communions, you know, and so, being an independent non executive director of swar, it prompted me to come He, like pension B just came out of the blue I just got to meet No, you know, call the chief exec team wrote a that can be political carrier, I'd like to, you know, have a chat with you, as you just said, I'd like you to come and become an independent Nigeria. And I went through all the interviews and met with a chair and meet with all the data dependent nets. And yeah, we I got to the only Kim deck on the board, 


Scott Brown  (25:28)   

I say all those roads that you've you've sort of travelled down and the conversations that you've had, and putting yourself out there for opportunity leads to lead to other opportunities. And if you don't ask, you don't get but people also like, like to help right with, with that story on the after dinner speaker as well. It is 


Lara Oyesanya  (25:46)   

I think another lesson is to make sure you'll have that pedigree and you build you know, you had the substance you need going back to my you know, kind of sort of one of the nicest gardener and is well worth you know, spending time building up your experience your non age, more than then in time, you know, chasing stuck titles and status. Because I think it's the experience and the knowledge gets you to the trolley 


Scott Brown  (26:13)   

is your daughter at university still at the moment or she graduated. 


Lara Oyesanya  (26:17)   

Oh my god, the old dawn I am so I am so totally godly that she is an associate at law Tammy. Excellent. 


Scott Brown  (26:25)   

How she enjoying that? Yeah, 


Lara Oyesanya  (26:27)   

he's been dead for years now. Oh, yeah. He trained to that. And it's been like two years coming to three sp Kelly, she's still there. She's, she's London, it's very good. 


Scott Brown  (26:38)   

How much in terms of your route to qualifying and the challenges you faced of qualifying as a solicitor in the UK? How much of that hard graph Do you feel shaped your career, the rest of your career from that point? 


Lara Oyesanya  (26:53)   

I think all of the to actually teach. I've gone through what I've gone through and the way I've qualified, went jurisdictions, you know, and cancelled on you know, qualifying here again, it takes a lot of resilience, it takes a lot of determination. But one thing that I was very complimented about was that I'd had a good grounding in trading went to one of the best universities in the in Nigeria invest in Lagos, I was taught, you know, by very highest calibre professors, who then sells trains and when she invested in Bob zugrunde, Cambridge, and then went to the law school, so I didn't really renewal bosques background in my training that I think that can also give me the confidence in terms of what I could achieve. And I felt when I decided to quantify here that let you know, if I think I'm as good as I thought I was, you know, then I should put my money where my mouth says, you know, do the exam, see what happens. And that's what I did. And that's kind of the my way of thinking, you know, I never saw any obstacle in going for a job that I worked at, you know, what's the worst that can happen? I know, then I regroup and read again. Yeah, exactly. 


Scott Brown  (28:07)   

That's their loss. That's that. Should you have to have this visa. Well, it's a really interesting career path and background and yeah, full of challenges along the way. So it's been good to hear some of those. Thank you for sharing. Yeah, most welcome. been excellent. having you. Thank you so much for joining me, Lara. It's been been great to hear your lessons today. I really look forward to seeing what the next 30 years or the next part of your career holds as well and tracking, tracking that progress. 


Lara Oyesanya  (28:36)   

Inside and by Hamby having fun now and studying by hand in fun. I've done all the hadn't grabbed, 


Scott Brown  (28:42)   

rewards or followed your daughter's career that it slaughters, that she'll have an exciting career ahead of her as well. Thank you for joining me. Thank you. And thank you for listening to lessons learned in law. For more info on all my guests. We've got some great, great episodes in our locker, you head over to heriotbrown.com/podcast. I'm Scott Brown. See you next time.