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Sushila works as a principal associate in our London office and joined the Mills & Reeve real estate team in 2018.
I am a principal associate in the real estate team specialising in commercial property. I manage the real estate elements of transactions from complex acquisitions and disposals, substantive lettings, restructuring and refinancing of property portfolios. My clients include private investors, property management companies and family offices.
My interest in the law dates back to when I chose to study law as one of my A Level subjects. I went on to study law at undergraduate level and then took the conventional route to qualify as a solicitor in 1998.
The road to qualification as a solicitor came with its challenges! I grew up in London in a traditional Indian family where my parents had a strong emphasis on educational ethics which is common amongst Indian families. Although females were expected to go onto to higher education, this came with certain constraints. For example, university choice was often limited to those which were local to home and there was a stigma attached to females leaving home to study for their higher education. For me this meant trying to secure a place at one of the London universities which wasn’t an easy feat especially coming from a less privileged socio-economic background. There was also an expectation that marriage (usually arranged) would follow immediately after completing my studies. With a lot of hard work and determination, I was successful in securing a place to study law at The London School of Economics. Luckily, I escaped the arranged marriage bit as I met my husband at university so “I killed two birds with one stone”!
Being your whole and best self - as a junior lawyer, I remember trying hard to be “someone else” so I could be accepted as “one of them” and “fit in”. Three decades ago, where the legal profession was overwhelmingly white, male and middle class, this wasn’t going to be easy given my background. Unsurprisingly, this was wearing and affected my self-esteem. Over time, I’ve learnt to both embrace and appreciate my cultural, ethnic and economic differences.
So, my advice is to be your best self and bring your whole self to the profession. We all have our individual strengths and everyone can offer something unique to our workplaces.
Be clear about your sense of purpose and goals - these will change as you reach career milestones so be sure to reassess them. Be willing to step outside your comfort zone, have a positive mindset and explore opportunities. Afterall, there is no such thing as failure, rather, it is an experience which we learn from.
Work-life balance – this will mean something different for us all. For me, it was making sure I had a balance between my family and career. Many working parents experience a feeling of being “guilty at home and guilty at work” and therefore not being the best in either place. These feelings are natural and you can let them be. Do your best whichever place you are in and accept that your best is “good enough”.
We will all have a different vision of career success depending on our values, experiences and stage of life. Defining one’s own success isn’t always straightforward. For me success is being happy by doing meaningful work, and feeling fulfilled and valued for my contribution by clients and colleagues.
Financial stability, good health and quality relationships are also very important to me. Power and position are less so and I strongly believe that if you are happy in what you do at work, success and happiness will follow.
I’ve worked in three law firms over my legal career. The first to train, the second I joined as NQ and spent 20 years working for, and the current (and I hope my last!) Mills & Reeve.
I joined Mills & Reeve in November 2018 after a long-standing client of my previous firm appointed Mills & Reeve to act on all its legal matters. The decision to move was a difficult one especially given my long service and the strong professional ties I had developed during that time. The prospect of re-establishing myself in a new firm was daunting, but I followed my instincts and took on the challenge even though it felt like I was falling off the edge of a cliff not knowing where I would land! I’d like to think I’ve had a safe landing and I’m pleased to say I have no regrets!
At Mills & Reeve, I’ve had the space and opportunity to develop my skills and work with many highly skilled and talented lawyers. The firm has a fantastic collaborative and supportive culture. I’ve also really enjoyed being able to work with cross-office teams and as a result, I’ve developed a strong network with my colleagues. One of the highlights of my career was completing an international secondment with our best friend firm in India a year after joining Mills & Reeve. I’m grateful for the opportunity and support provided by the partners. I was able to enhance my business development skills and deepen ties with the firm.
Mills & Reeve has also been very supportive in my decision to work part-time to enable me to teach law as a visiting lecturer at the University of Law. Teaching is my way of giving something back to a profession, which I’m very proud to be part of, and to help a new young cohort make their way in an interesting and challenging profession. I’ve not reached a stage where I am willing to sacrifice the thrills (well most of the time it is a thrill!) of being a transactional lawyer and developing strong professional relationships. I think I have the best of both worlds now!
I mention above that one should always reassess their career goals as they reach milestones. This comes timely as I fast approach my half century and reflect on areas I’d like to pursue. I’ve really enjoyed the learning and developing aspects of my role at Mills & Reeve, whether that be delivering training workshops on various aspects of property asset management matters, mentoring junior members of my team and other colleagues or being part of the firm’s REACH network. Seeing colleagues develop and progress in their respective careers is immensely rewarding. I’m currently exploring opportunities in completing a mentoring/coaching qualification which I hope will enable me to provide an enhanced service to my colleagues.
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