Rouse in Profile: Stuart Adams

The ultimate team player who loves a challenge

Stuart’s story is closely linked to Rouse’s story: he was there in the early, heady days with Peter Rouse, the firm’s founder, and Rupert Ross Macdonald, now Chairman, taking risks, accepting challenges, and helping build the business. And he’s been there ever since, an important and valued member of the team.  He’s always loved a challenge – and, despite his drive and personal ambition, he’s always seen himself as, first and foremost, a team player.   

From an early age he was attracted to the Law because he’d been inspired by TV lawyers like Perry Mason.  His aim was to be a trial lawyer, getting the good guy off and generally saving the world. Although the Perry Mason dream persisted, at university reality set in. He realised he would need money to go to bar school; even getting a training contract at a law firm had its difficulties.  He saw friends with well-connected fathers getting training contracts at the big firms and doing interesting work; and others getting training contracts with High Street firms, doing wills and conveyancing.  The latter was definitely not for him, so he decided to use his Law degree as an opening to something else.  With good results, and people with law degrees in demand, he basically had the pick of jobs and chose a position at NatWest Bank, partly because it sounded interesting, but mostly because it was in London.  He had been brought up in sleepy Norfolk and was keen to be in the big city.

After a couple of years there, however, he realised it wasn‘t for him. The work was not sufficiently stimulating or challenging - and he was still dreaming of the Bar.  He decided to take the plunge and borrow the money necessary to qualify as a barrister, attending bar school for a year followed by a year of pupilage, working evenings and weekends at a petrol station to help make ends meet.  Then one day, three months into his pupilage year, when, he says, things were not as exciting as he’d hoped, Geoffrey Hobbs, (now the eminent intellectual property QC), walked into his office looking for someone to take notes in a copyright case involving Alan Sugar’s company, Amstrad. Stuart knew nothing about IP at this stage, but quickly learned enough from Hobbs to be able to take a coherent note ... and loved it. The excitement continued as Hobbs was approaching the trial in the Jif Lemons case – which proved to be one of the leading cases on passing off.  Stu was now hooked on IP!

Although hooked on IP, it turned out he wasn’t hooked on the Bar. He felt he didn’t fit.  He wanted to work as part of a team and the bar is much more like being a sole practitioner.  So he began to think about working in-house as an IP lawyer.  In February 1987, he saw an advertisement in The Times for a “Trade Mark Executive” with pharmaceuticals company, Wellcome. It sounded just the thing – even though he didn’t really feel qualified for the job.  He now says he thinks he got an interview for two reasons: first, he had Geoffrey Hobbs’ name on his CV; secondly, he was, at the time, living in the town in which his future boss had lived when first married. 

Whatever the reason, he got the job and soon after found himself sharing an office with Rupert, doing a range of interesting trade mark and anti-counterfeiting work, particularly in developing countries like Nigeria, Indonesia and India.  The anti-counterfeiting work was particularly exciting and in Asia he was working with Peter Rouse, then a partner in the region with Baker McKenzie. In 1990 Peter returned to London to start Rouse & Co, an anti-counterfeiting business, and as soon as the practice started to grow, he turned to Rupert and Stuart.  They were just the sort of people he wanted to join the firm: young, energetic, up for a challenge, and with lots of hands-on anti-counterfeiting experience.  Stuart says “Peter was inspirational.  We both wanted to join him, but Peter only needed one of us. Moving from the security of Wellcome to a one man start up in Docklands was a huge risk. I had a wife and child to support and needed to be cautious.  Rupert, on the other hand, was foot loose and fancy free.  So we made a pact that he would go and if it worked out (and Peter would still have me) I would join later”.

It did work out and just over a year later Stuart made the switch from Wellcome to Rouse.   He loved it from day one, and 23 years later his enthusiasm is undiminished.

Because of his on-the-ground experience in India, Stuart was introduced to Castrol who were having problems in India and thought Stuart might be able to help.  It was agreed that he should accompany the head of Trade Marks on a visit to India to discuss a number of issues with the Indian subsidiary.  During a meeting with the CEO and Marketing Manager of Castrol India, the extent of their counterfeiting problem emerged for the first time: counterfeit product accounted for 25% of their market.  A quick calculation, literally done on the back of a cigarette packet, revealed that this was depriving Castrol of tens of millions of pounds of profit each year. Before the meeting ended, a regional anti-counterfeiting programme had been drafted and Rouse had been appointed to manage it.   

In 1997, Stuart was the obvious choice  to set up Rouse’s office in Dubai – not to do Middle East work at the outset, but to be closer to India, where, by this time, he was busy helping a number of multinational clients.  When he got to Dubai, however, he quickly saw that it was establishing itself as a regional trading hub and was really beginning to take off.  It was the perfect place to establish a Middle Eastern practice and soon he was working for clients throughout the region.

And now, Stuart has a new challenge.  Based on his Dubai experience, he has set up, and now manages, Rouse’s office in Moscow.  Not surprisingly, he’s loving the experience.  The work is interesting, he says, and it’s a great bunch of people.  He currently spends half his time there – it’s only a four hour Easyjet flight from London.  In a way it’s similar to Dubai in 1997 – a challenging, bureaucratic, place in which to get things done.  But there’s a big difference.  Although challenging, the Russian market is well developed.  In Dubai in the 90s there was little competition for Rouse’s anti-counterfeiting proposition.  In Russia, there are a lot well established and highly reputable firms, with many rights holders already having someone looking after their IP.  But Stuart relishes the challenge. “One of our great strengths is the massive number of clients we work for around the world who have come to trust us. They take comfort from knowing they can come to a difficult market like Russia and have confidence that they will be taken care of here as well as they have been taken care of elsewhere.  Dealing with Rouse anywhere in the world feels the same.  We are a known proposition”. 

When not working, Stuart spends time running.  Running is generally thought of as an individualistic sport, but not the way Stu does it.  He and his wife, Jules, belong to a running club and spend part of most week-ends running with a bunch of club members.  They’ve also recently completed two half marathons, one in Lanzarote as part of International Running Week and one in Cambridge.

Finally, one of Stuart’s greatest and most enduring passions is football and Norwich City football club, a club he has supported through thick and thin (“lots of thin”) since he was eight.  He and Jules are season ticket holders.  With Norwich City’s recent return to the Premier League things are looking good, but whether or not they stay there, there’s no doubt that Stu will be sticking with them.  Being a Norwich City supporter is a constant challenge – clearly, Norwich City is the perfect team for Stuart!