Learning From Experience: Sam Ahuja On Leadership At Schillings

Sam Ahuja 20 Jul 2022

Partner Sam Ahuja discusses working in reputation and privacy law, the unique Schillings culture, and being a leader.

Sam Ahuja is an expert in reputation and privacy law. With a decade of experience in the field, he has built a niche specialising in reputation and privacy for tech and fintech companies, with his time in-house for a leading fintech giving him a unique perspective on the specific challenges in this sector. Following his recent promotion to Partner, we spoke to Sam about the path to Partnership in a reputation and privacy firm, what he enjoys about being a leader, and what advice he has for other aspiring leaders.

1. What made you want to specialise in reputation and privacy law?

When I was my doing training contract, I was fortunate enough to get exposure to a real mix of work. This ranged from M&A deals in the fashion sector to private client work for wealthy families. The common thread that I always found most engaging was advising on those knotty issues that really matter to businesses or individuals. This really came to a head when I did my reputation and privacy seat.

By its very nature reputation and privacy are at the heart of what an individual or business holds most dear. And by extension if your standing is being questioned or third parties are making inroads into your private life, each issue is going to be unique, complex and personal. It was because of this I chose to specialise in the area; a decision I have not regretted!

2. What do you think makes Schillings unique?

Schillings and its people have a slightly different way of thinking, fostered by the multidisciplinary approach of the firm. I think this pushes you to be better, not be afraid to challenge how things have been done before and opens you up to different perspectives. For example, often a lawyer might come to the end of the road if a legal course of action has hit a dead end. But while this is an obstacle, it need not mean you still can’t help a client with a problem. That is where having more solutions in house – whether that’s Intelligence & Investigations, Critical Risk or Digital Communications – allows you to unpick a problem in a way you might not be able to at a more traditional law firm.

3. What is the best advice you have received?

It’s ok to say no to a client. If you are sure about your advice, then stick to it even if it means a difficult conversation!

4. How did your time at Revolut enhance your skillset?

Working in industry was definitely an invaluable experience. One thing many lawyers miss in private practice is what it is actually like to be the client you are advising. The only real way to understand the way a business operates or how decisions are made is to have experienced it first hand. This is something that I certainly benefitted from at Revolut. Specifically, being at a rapidly growing tech firm I was able to experience how quickly decisions are made and the speed at which processes are implemented. It was an eye opener on how much can be done with the right motivation and it became clear often it is just inertia that gets in the way. Also, understanding board room dynamics definitely gave an insight into the tensions many clients face when it comes to reputational challenges and has given me a new perspective in the way I am able to offer advice.

5. What do you enjoy about being a leader at Schillings – and what advice to you have for other aspiring leaders?

First and foremost, it is a real privilege to be able to help shape what we do as a business and where we want to get to. I’ve been through the whole journey from a newly-qualified lawyer at the firm to Partner: this gives me the ability to be an effective coach or mentor, as I probably went through exactly what many of the team might be facing.  

In terms of advice to others, there can often be a pre-occupation to be promoted first or feel dejected if something doesn’t go your way. If you want to lead you need to be able to appreciate things don’t always go according to plan and when you are up against that is when you need to be at your best.