Name: Emily Lui
Born into a family of restaurateurs, my sister Annabel and I spent much of our childhood in our parents’ Hertfordshire-based restaurant, ‘The Victorian Room’. This served delicious European delicacies, and inspired our passion for creating exciting, playful tastes like no other.
I always wanted to work in law. After studying for a Master’s degree at KCL and completing a training contract, I joined Seddons as an assistant solicitor back in 2008. I’ve been here ever since and I’m proud to have worked my way to becoming an Equity Partner and the Co-Head of the Residential Property Team.
My sister also pursued a career away from food initially, but eventually Annabel realised that her creativity needed a more fulfilling outlet, and in 2013 she decided to leave a successful career in corporate finance to turn a hobby (which we both shared) into a life-long career. I soon joined my sister in her vision, balancing my legal work by working with Annabel to make our mark on London’s baking scene – and thus, Cutter & Squidge (C&S) was brought to life.
Over the years, it has been crucial to find the right balance between developing my business and successfully executing my full-time role as Partner and Co-Head of the Residential Property team at Seddons. The firm has been very supportive of my ambitions, and at the start of January 2023, I took a sabbatical to devote more time to my business. I look forward to sharing the milestones achieved with my colleagues when I return in the summer.
You’re a great example of how it is possible to have your cake and eat it? What’s your recipe for success?
No holidays. I cannot lie, my spare time from the firm has been taken up by C&S, mornings, evenings and weekend. However, when you are passionate about both things, you can make it work. You need to work effectively and really cut out the white noise. Indeed, there is a lot of time in the day if you avoid procrastination. I work better under pressure so that helps me be more productive.
A career in law can be all-consuming. How do you juggle legal practice with entrepreneurship?
When you are passionate about something that makes it easier. The creativity and freedom from being an entrepreneur balances out some of the more mundane elements of legal practice. By doing that, it has made it somewhat easier to focus and drive forward with both simultaneously.
What have been the biggest obstacles you’ve come up against in pursuit of your career ambitions and how did you overcome these?
I think this is common of many female professionals, the obstacles have been in myself rather than external. Questioning my self-belief and worth – am I really able to do this role? Am I really any good? Having people to talk to was important, letting them help me look at my achievements objectively and seeing the value and success I have achieved.
Imagine a time when you felt like quitting. What helped you bounce back?
Employing staff at C&S and knowing the company provides them and their families with their livelihoods is one thing. The second is the shared passion they have for the company, which meant quitting was never an option for me.
Of all the skills you’ve developed as a lawyer, which ones have helped you most as an entrepreneur and why?
Understanding the law, the legal process, and implications – particularly in contract law. This has enabled me to make commercial decisions knowing what the true and practical contract risks are. Our training to analyse a situation and to not make any decisions or start a negotiation without having full knowledge also means that I am always fully prepared for negotiation, or how to handle a difficult conversation. Also, the ability to have a clear reasoned discussion or conversation without emotions becoming involved.
What careers advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t be quite so hard on yourself.
And what about to anyone who is contemplating a change in career direction?
Do your research, the grass might seem greener, but it rarely is. I currently work more hours at C&S than I did at the law firm!
What do you think Mary Berry would say about your cakes?
I don’t think she will accuse them of having a soggy bottom.