Rouse Africa in Profile: Maura Canavan
A natural negotiator - and Rouse team member from the very early days.
Before moving to South Africa in 2011, Maura was a Partner in Rouse’s London office. She is now a Director of Rouse Africa.
Maura says she has been negotiating all her life. As the youngest of nine children, 15 years younger than her oldest sibling, and with seven brothers and sisters in between, she probably began negotiating even before she could speak. “It was hard to be heard in the wonderful chaos of a big family. Sometimes you had to be forceful, but above all you had to be creative and adaptable – I think I learned very early on the art of negotiation and the value of compromise”.
Maura grew up in Derry, Northern Ireland’s second largest city, during the political conflict known as The Troubles. But despite the troubled political backdrop, her life there was normal and very happy. When she was ten, however, her family relocated to Geneva, Switzerland, and she was catapulted into a completely different arena: cosmopolitan and sophisticated. A world away from Northern Ireland of the early eighties! It was a formative experience, and one that she describes as “absolutely frightening at the beginning”. Up until then, she had never been out of Ireland or met anyone from a different background, let alone anyone whose first language wasn’t English. In order to survive and flourish, she had to adapt – and quickly; not something that would ordinarily be easy for a ten-year old. But Maura’s social and survival skills had already been finely honed and it wasn’t long before she was well established and enjoying life in Geneva.
Family life, in both Northern Ireland and Switzerland, was very important for Maura. Her parents, she says, were extremely nurturing and ambitious for all their children and, as often happens in large families, the siblings got on well together and looked out for each other. Maura’s mother, in particular, placed enormous importance on both formal education and the development of social skills. She was a very strong influence within the family and would have been extremely proud to see that all her children have not only achieved professional success, but also retained a highly developed sense of family and capacity for loyalty.
In 1994, after finishing law school, Maura worked briefly with the investment bank, Credit Suisse, which brought her to Canary Wharf. She hadn’t been there long when two life-changing events occurred: she she joined Rouse and she met her husband, Rob, with whom she now has two wonderful children, Finbar (11) and Clodagh (9).
Being keen to work with a law firm, Maura had applied for a job with a boutique, Docklands-based, IP law firm called Rouse & Co, to help implement its newly created document management system. Maura remembers being interviewed by Peter Rouse: “He was so charismatic, so inspirational, so driven. I’d never met anyone like him”. She got the job, but within three months had been signed on as Rouse’s first trainee lawyer – which says a lot about both Maura’s negotiating skills and Peter’s ability to recognise and foster potential.
Later that year, Tony Willoughby joined Rouse, and this too turned out to be a very important event for Maura. For the next 15 years, Tony was her mentor as she moved from trainee to assistant to Partner in the London office, and as the business grew from 20 to 500 people. Maura was lucky to be learning the law from someone widely regarded as not only London’s leading trade mark lawyer at the time, but also one of the city’s most ethical and gentlemanly practitioners. “In Tony’s eyes” says Maura, “the client was always King – and he was rewarded with profound and enduring client loyalty. He taught me to always do my best for the client. It’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten”.
In 2011, after 16 years in London, Maura and her family relocated to Cape Town. Rob, being a Capetonian, had had enough of English winters and was keen to return to sunnier climes. Maura was ready for the adventure, but not quite ready to give up her ties with Rouse. Typically, she found a happy solution, and was able to continue working with Rouse as a Consultant.
Then, towards the end of 2013, Rouse decided to extend its 'global footprint' to Africa – and Maura already on the ground in South Africa was perfectly placed to champion it. Now, two years later, Rouse Africa, a joint venture with South African IP specialists Von Seidels, is up and running. “Very exciting times” says Maura.
Rouse has been a huge part of Maura’s life over the years. In many ways, she has grown up there. Her loyalty to the firm and the firm’s clients is unwavering. “Rouse is a fantastic firm to be part of”, she says, “I admire its philosophy, particularly its focus on client service. I have great friends and dynamic colleagues there and I deal with super clients on interesting and challenging work - what more could anyone ask for?”