The things I know

Karen Cooksley, Partner and head of planning and regeneration, Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP

- Where did you study planning?

I started as an articled clerk and a property solicitor. I took a masters in planning and environmental law at the University of London.

- What skills did you have when you graduated?

Apart from law, I was a keen student politician, which gave me confidence in public speaking.

- What attracted you to planning?

It is intellectually stretching and of huge practical importance.

- What did you learn in your first job?

When I worked in a clothes shop I got to know the regulars, which had a direct effect on sales.

- What skills have you had to learn over your career?

I picked up management skills as I went along. Partners have to be rainmakers, develop their teams and attend to the finances.

- What or who have been the biggest influences on your career?

My father showed me that working at something you love is rewarding. My mentor Robert Larard at Winckworth & Pemberton got me interested in planning law and Paul Watchman at Freshfields supervised my work on a range of demanding projects. Colette McCormack and Lindsay Garratt joined me as trainees and are now my partner and senior associate. Our business success is reflected in the way we progress together.

- What is your career highlight?

My small sons are most impressed that I did the planning legal work for Wembley Stadium.

- What have you learnt outside work that has influenced your career?

It is important to know how people will react in crises, under pressure or in difficult times.

- What further skills do you aim to attain or develop?

I am hoping to complete my training as a mediator.

- How important is it to keep abreast of developments in allied professions?

You need to understand how other professionals' expertise complements your own and to support each other in tough times.

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