Reflecting on luck - and growing up with Rouse
Edward is General Counsel to the Rouse Network and a member of its global Trade Mark Group leadership team
Ed joined Rouse in October 1992, not long after it had opened for business in a serviced office in London’s Docklands area. At the time, the firm comprised its founder, Ed’s cousin Peter Rouse; Rupert Ross-Macdonald, now Chairman of Rouse; and Stuart Adams, Russia Country Manager. It may have been in its very early days, but it was already working on large-scale anti-counterfeiting cases for some of the world’s leading brand owners and excitement was in the air. For Ed, the timing was perfect - in a way he and the firm have grown up together.
Looking back on both his professional and personal life, he says he’s been incredibly lucky – if he had to choose three words to describe his life, they would probably be ‘luck’, ‘fun’ and ‘adventure’. It’s likely that someone looking at his early years would not have predicted the course his life has taken, but to what extent luck has been involved is an interesting question - and one he thinks about often in the context of what he acknowledges was a privileged upbringing. Some years ago, after a 10-year investigation into the concept of luck, Richard Wiseman, Professor of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire in England, concluded in a best-selling book, The Luck Factor, that people make their own luck: it’s a skill that can be learned. According to Wiseman, key attributes of the ‘lucky’ person are sociability, optimism and the ability to maximise opportunities. Whether they were learned, or just came naturally, Ed has them in abundance.
At the age of 10, he was sent to a traditional British boarding school. It wasn’t a particularly happy experience and he didn’t apply himself to schoolwork, but at prep school he excelled at athletics (which he puts down to running being part of regular detentions) and then at public school he found scuba diving and qualified as an instructor.
One thing he hadn’t done was to give any thought to what he might do when he left school. When the time came, his father suggested law and he went along with the idea, but without any particular enthusiasm. That began to change when, while still a student, he worked each summer with a long-established law firm, Edwin Coe, in Lincoln’s Inn. The opportunity to do that arose because his grandfather had been a partner there, so there was an element of luck or good fortune involved – but Ed certainly made the most of it. He was offered articles at the firm, and later a job there. And it was while working there that he met his future wife, Lydia, who at the time was working as an employment lawyer at Speechly Bircham, now Charles Russell Speechlys. That, after more than 25 years, he still regards as one of his greatest strokes of luck or good fortune.
Before starting articles, he spent eight months working in Australia, which turned out to be one wonderful adventure after another. Again, luck might have been on his side, but he was giving it a helping hand. In his first job, helping a PHD student track rock wallabies, he spent time camping in the outback; in his second, helping another PHD student researching the effect of sugar cane run-off sediment on the Great Barrier Reef, he found himself scuba diving in the Whitsunday Islands; his third job was working on a research station that was breeding giant clams to restock the reefs of the Pacific Islands; and his fourth, working for four months at the Green Island Resort (run by the aptly named Great Adventures) on the Great Barrier Reef. There, as he regularly paddled round the island before breakfast, he felt he was being paid to live on an island paradise. By the end, he had saved enough money to go on an expensive, but unforgettable, live aboard scuba diving excursion in the Coral Sea, beyond the Reef, where the tops of volcanoes just break the surface and you dive beside steep cliffs in crystal clear water surrounded by amazing marine life.
Back in London he was working his articles at Edwin Coe, and getting ready to accept the offer to stay on, when he received a call from Peter Rouse, telling him about the new firm he had started and asking if he’d be interested in joining. Ed knew nothing about IP - in fact, at the time he hadn’t even heard of it - but Peter was so excited and persuasive, he wanted to hear more and duly set off to Docklands for a lunch with Peter, Rupert and Stuart. By the end of the lunch, he was as excited about the opportunities as they were and couldn’t wait to get started.
Almost immediately he was thrown into large scale anti-counterfeiting cases in Indonesia, Eastern Europe and India and found himself travelling all over the place. He clearly remembers doing his first raid, not long after he started, with Stuart in Turkey in a case involving counterfeit tractor parts. It was all one big adventure – and over the years the adventure has continued, with a huge range of varied and interesting work, lots of travel, and the chance to live for some years in both Hong Kong and Dubai. Living abroad has been an enjoyable and invaluable experience not only for Ed but also for the whole family: they are all, including the children, unusually socially responsible and international in outlook.
After years of living abroad they are now enjoying being back in the UK. Lydia, who started out as a lawyer, subsequently re-trained to be a teacher and is now working as a Forest School Leader, involved in outdoor nature-based learning programmes for children - much more interesting than class-based activities. Their son Luke, now 23, a Maths and Statistics graduate, has already worked for charities in India and Uganda and is currently working for the Meningitis Research Foundation; their daughter Saskia, 22, is currently studying for a Master of Law degree at the University of Exeter with a special interest in International Law and Human Rights and Katya, 19, is studying Sociology and International Development at the University of Sussex, after nearly six months working with Bec Ordish at the Mitrataa Foundation in Nepal.
Now that their children are grown up, Lydia and Ed have started thinking about their next adventure. Watch this space....