My Weekend: May Looi

Times Online, March 30, 2007

May Looi, a solicitor with Cayton & Co, is looking forward to a quiet weekend. As if the 29-year-old’s workload as a London solicitor specialising in insurance work for the construction industry isn’t enough, her firm has also moved offices this week. The upheaval of files, telephones and PCs is never congenial to the practise of law and so Looi’s yearning for some time out is eminently comprehensible. But upon speaking to the Malaysian-born solicitor, it transpires that more than merely the rigours of her profession is animating her desire for peace and tranquillity.

Looi is the founder of www.lustrealitypromotions.co.uk, a music promotion company with a niche in indie music and electronic rock. She set up Lust Reality in late 2005, a year after qualifying as a solicitor, and finds herself occupied in its work on most weekends. For once, though, none of Lust Reality’s bands – including the up-and-coming Rapid Fiction - is playing this weekend, and so Looi might find time to catch her breath.

“I know the Lust Reality bands socially, and that’s how I came to be involved in managing and promoting them” says Looi, who is a might more sassy than most lawyers. Law is, after all, a profession with which words such as rigour, restraint and rectitude are more readily associated than rouge and risqu�, not to mention the black basque that, I venture, Looi does not wear – at least openly - to work.

“I dress conventionally for work because that’s the done thing in the law,” she agrees, though adds that “I don’t believe that what you look like is indicative of how you are as a lawyer.” Indeed Looi – who qualified first as a barrister in 2001 and worked for two years as a solicitor-advocate in her home country before settling in Britain – is adamant that “you don’t need to be a particular kind of person to be a lawyer. Obviously the law attracts its stereotypes, but I work as hard and as diligently as everyone else in the profession.”

Looi also plays hard, too. “I’m very passionate and very intense about everything that I do,” she says. She brings her passion to bear on her first love – music – and London’s alternative scene. If she is not arranging a gig for one of Lust Reality’s bands, she will be clubbing or at a gig herself for, as she says, “you meet a lot of people – bankers, for example – who, when you ask them what they do in their spare time, will say that they drink champagne in private members’ clubs. Well, that might suit them but it’s not my scene. Analogously, people might think ‘she’s a lawyer so she should do lawyer-things’ – whatever they’re supposed to be - but I don’t like conforming to preconceived ideas. I like non-mainstream culture and activities. I like to be true to myself.”

Looi is yet more unconventional – in lawyers’ terms - in having a Myspace page. On it, visitors will find that she loves Charlie Parker, Jeff Buckley, Nick Cave, The Killers and industrial music, that she has a rather quixotic weakness for Desperate Housewives, Top Gear and extreme sports television, and that one of her favourite books is Milan Kundera’s Immortality. “I love that book,” she says, “It has such a strong visual sense. Very few books are so full of colours and provide such a strong sense of imagery. It’s full of life, and, like listening to an interesting piece of music, can mean different things to different people.”

Perhaps May Looi will mean different things to different lawyers. Certainly there are very few in her profession who play the drums, manage alternative music bands and are happy to pose in so comely a fashion. I suspect that even as the law moves with the times, there will be some tut-tutting at so frank and confident a declaration of character. There will be others who will agree with Looi: it doesn’t matter what you look like or what you do in your private life – being able to work effectively as a lawyer is what counts. Meanwhile, as she looks forward to a peaceful weekend, Looi is sure of one thing: she won’t be returning to Malaysia. As she puts it: “It’s far too conservative. I couldn’t go back.”