Rouse in Profile: Elena Kulakova

An idealist in Moscow

Elena is an Associate in our Moscow office, specialising in trade mark protection.

A recent survey carried out in the UK led to the rather depressing conclusion that most people regret their career choice.  Perhaps things are different in Russia; certainly, Elena is refreshingly free of regrets of this sort.  She is quite sure that she would choose Law a second time round, and that her motivation for doing so would be the same as it was the first time: a desire to help build a system where everyone has access to justice.

Not that she always wanted to be a lawyer. As a young girl she was a real tomboy, choosing to play war games with boys at the local school rather than follow pursuits usually considered more appropriate for girls.  At that stage, her ambitions were to follow her father and other members of the family into the Police force, or to be an astronaut.  Things started to change when she was about 11 and her parents decided that she should change schools.

Elena had learned to read when she was about four and soon developed into a passionate reader.  She was an only child and books became her closest companions.  “It was normal to be with a book”.   It still is, she says, even though her time is now limited and reading often restricted to legal material.  Whenever she can, however, she likes to indulge her passion for science fiction and fantasy, reading authors such as Ivan Yefremov, the Strugatsky brothers, Arkady and Boris, and Ray Bradbury.

It was obvious to Elena’s parents that she should be in a more academic environment and the new school proved to be a good choice.  It was hard work – classes from 8.30 in the morning to 4.30 in the afternoon, six days a week and lots of homework.  But Elena worked hard and did well. 

In Year 8, students were required to make a choice between Law, Economics and Education and to undertake special courses in their chosen stream.  Given her early interest in police work, and her desire to help people achieve justice, the Law stream seemed the obvious choice.  From that point on she attended special history and legal classes and had to pass special exams.

When the time came to think about University, Elena’s aunt suggested she should consider the prestigious National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow.  It had an impressive teaching staff and high reputation and was very hard to get into.  Nevertheless, Elena decided to give it a try; she worked hard and, much to the delight of her family, was ultimately successful.  It was a five year course and, particularly for the first three years, very intensive.  She decided to focus on International Public Law and European Law, partly because it interested her and partly because the professors teaching the course were inspiring.   She wasn’t at that stage thinking about where the course might lead; in fact, she knew it was very difficult to find a job in this field.

While still a student, she started working part-time with a small law firm, doing mostly company registration work, and continued there for two years after she graduated.  At that point, she felt she wanted something more interesting: she wanted to learn more, to extend her horizons.  When she received a very good offer from a firm that specialised in Intellectual Property, she decided to accept it, even though she didn’t know much about Intellectual Property at the time.  It seemed interesting – and, in fact, turned out to be just what she had been looking for.  She found it fascinating.

During her time there, the firm was acting as local agent for Rouse and she got to know a lot of Rouse people.  In 2012 she spent some time in Rouse’s London office, met a lot of interesting people, and felt she learned an enormous amount. When Rouse decided to open an office in Moscow in 2013, she couldn’t wait to join.  She says that almost all her correspondence is now in English and that, as a result, her English has improved enormously.  The next challenge is to teach Russian to Stuart Adams, who spends a lot of time in the Moscow office.  Members of the staff have decided to act as informal local tutors, labelling everything in the office with stickers showing both the Russian name and English translation.  “It’s great fun”, she says, “Stu is proving to be a very good student!”

Life is busy these days, but Elena and her husband have a country house, or dacha, about 100km from Moscow and like to spend weekends there, away from the stresses of city life.  They enjoy gardening, walking in the forests and, when the weather is good, swimming in the nearby lake.  They also both enjoy travelling to other countries whenever they can.  Elena’s husband is from Latvia, so they visit it regularly, but they’ve also visited lots of other countries - including the USA, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and many European countries - and they have lots of travel plans for the future.  

Still, at this stage Elena doesn’t see them living anywhere other than Russia.  She says she doesn’t like talking about politics, but she loves Russia – it’s a vast country with beautiful and varied landscapes, a rich history and wonderful people: altogether, a very interesting and unique place.

She is also very happy in her chosen field: Intellectual Property. One of the reasons for studying Law in the first place was to help people obtain justice; she thinks it is perhaps easier to do that in this area of the Law than it would be in some others.