Lida Khanverdi, EG Group

Fresh off a train from Blackburn, suitcase in tow, Lida Khanverdi arrives at the interview shortly after closing a new deal for EG Group. Having moved in-house just three years ago, the former Shoosmiths real estate associate is quickly making a name for herself, winning Rising Star In-House Counsel of the Year at the 2023 Legal Business Awards, and helping EG Group through a period of transformative growth.

Despite her rapid ascent, her route in-house has had its fair share of challenges and uncertainties. Khanverdi is not the type to claim she possessed a burning desire to enter the legal profession from an early age. Instead, her decision to study law came about after her family’s plans to emigrate to Canada fell through at the last moment, leaving her with only three weeks to make her university applications in the UK. Flummoxed on what subject to pick, her dad delivered the classic line: ‘Well, why don’t you do law? You can do anything with law.’

So, she embarked on a law degree at Lancaster University. However, as graduation drew nearer, she remained unconvinced by the prospect of pursing a legal career. A careers adviser suggested she widen her net and apply for some graduate schemes, but Khanverdi admits that she lacked the confidence to try something she did not have experience in, choosing instead to apply for the LPC.

Khanverdi landed a paralegal role, then a training contract, at DAC Beachcroft. As her training contract came to an end, doubt once again reared its head and she decided to move to an NQ job at Shoosmiths. Although, awkwardly, the two firms shared an office. ‘Shoosmiths was actually just across the corridor in the building that we were in. It was strange because I finished my training contract, went on holiday for two weeks then came back, and used exactly the same lift but took a different turn down the hall.’

At Shoosmiths she found a home in the real estate practice: ‘I really loved the team, and watched it grow from 15 people to 60-70 when I left. I got to the beating heart of a few of my clients and I really enjoyed working in the retail and leisure sectors. The people I worked with were vibrant and cool.’

Her move in-house came about unexpectedly. ‘During Covid, one of my clients called me just as I was about to have a cooked breakfast. We had nothing urgent on, so I wondered why my client was calling, and then started worrying that something urgent had come up, so I decided to pick up.’

Her fears were misplaced. The client was in fact calling to ask if he could put her forward for an in-house role at EG Group as he thought she would be a great fit.

‘I found that an in-house job was what I’d been searching for because it has the leadership and management side to it. There’s that ability to make an impact on people’s lives as well as doing the thing that I had studied for and qualified in, so there’s a nice balance.’

This approach is core to Khanverdi’s ethos. ‘My leadership style is very much people-centred and heart-led. I come from an honest basis because I’ve always found that, while sometimes the truth might be hard for people to hear, it’s necessary to maintain the trust between your team members and yourself. If I feel like I can 100% trust someone, then I’m more engaged and more motivated.’

Her biggest inspiration is Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, whose research specialism focuses on the link between vulnerability and leadership. ‘She’s really influenced how I harness my own emotional intelligence and turn it into a skill to be used for leadership,’ Khanverdi says.

Open and reflective, Khanverdi is as keen to discuss areas she needs to improve as she is her successes. Asked how her team would describe her, she says: ‘I’ve got people in the team that would say wonderful things about me, but one of the things that came out of my 360 feedback, is that when under stress conditions, I need to take a step back before taking action.’

Khanverdi works part time. ‘I feel very strongly about work life balance. I’m not a mother but when I took on this job, I knew I wanted to work part time,’ she explains. This decision came following the pandemic as she had gone down to 80% hours and was working a four-day week. ‘I loved the balance,’ she says. ‘Now I do nine days out of ten and I’m very strict with my day off. I think it’s kind of unusual for somebody who is not a carer of some description to work part time,’ she adds.

She cites winning the Rising Star In-House Counsel of the Year award as her biggest achievement to date. ‘I did not see it coming and I do struggle with imposter syndrome,’ she explains. ‘I was hugely surprised when I was nominated and then when I looked at the list of people that I was up against I thought that I hadn’t done anything spectacular.’ When she was later asked why she had won, she was unable to recall the reasons given on the voiceover as she took the stage, because she was ‘too busy thinking: What?!’

‘I’ve got my trophy on my desk at work, so when I’m having one of those moments of self-doubt, I can look at it and remember someone thought I was worthy of achieving that. I should remember I am actually enough as I am.’

On memorable matters, acting on deals with high street stalwarts spring to mind for Khanverdi. She cites the acquisition of Leon as a turning point: ‘It was the first time I had really been involved in all aspects of an M&A deal, having come from a property background.’ The recent Asda acquisition of part of the EG business also stands out. ‘It was very interesting, seeing how people within our business come together,’ she explains.

It had been expected that Asda would acquire the majority of the business, but this was not the case. Managing how the team dealt with this change was an informative experience. ‘It was a good example of seeing your role as in-house counsel as being more than just the legal side. It was about helping people when they get really emotional and are under so much pressure,’ she elaborates.

These soft skills are critical to success, Khanverdi asserts. ‘You need an ability to connect with people, and to be able to take a helicopter view, not getting so caught up in the detail that the advice you give is not communicated in a way that the receiver needs it.’

Khanverdi recommends following the principle set out in Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: ‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood.’ The temptation when coming from a high performing background is to assume that, as you know the law, you know the best route for the company. However, the best legal route is not always the best commercial route.

‘When you go into a meeting with your internal client, wait, listen fully, then work with them to find a solution together,’ she advises.

A sense of humour is also important. Khanverdi recounts a recent call during a deal with KFC. ‘One of the external lawyers said, “I think it’s a little bit of a chicken and egg situation”. To which I burst out laughing. Thankfully I was on mute!

‘I literally could not control myself, to the point I had to switch my camera off. I received a WhatsApp message from my GC saying, “come on, share the joke.”’

As with private practice, the rapid development of AI is an ongoing concern for in-house lawyers. Khanverdi sees it as both an opportunity and a challenge: ‘We need to be open to new technology and AI, not fearing it but not just jumping in feet first without really understanding what it is that you want to get from it.’

In many ways she believes it will sit well with the expertise in-house lawyers have to offer. ‘I don’t think it means that lawyers are going to be out of a job, but I think lawyers will have to work harder to dig into different skillsets, which can’t be replaced, like emotional intelligence, and building connections with other departments. AI can’t do that for you. A lot of the skills which make a good in-house lawyer are not something that can be replicated by AI,’ she says.

Another evolution the industry faces is the wave of Gen Z lawyers joining the ranks. ‘We need to see more up-management, harnessing the skills of the generations that are coming after us,’ she says.

‘There’s a little bit too much judgement of the younger generation, because people think they work in a different way. Actually, we can all work very harmoniously together, but we have to understand each other.’

Outside of work, Khanverdi is a keen dancer. ‘I’m obsessed right now with salsa and bachata to the point that by Thursday this week, I’ll have done it five days in a row.’ A day trip to London proves no obstacle to her streak. ‘I’ve been researching places I can go in London, so I’m going somewhere tonight to do some classes and then go dancing!’

Other hobbies include trail running and a recent return to art. ‘I have started to try and get into the more creative parts of my life. So, I’ve picked up where I left off from at school and I’ve started drawing and painting again.’

She is also a keen traveller. ‘I recently did a solo backpacking trip to Montenegro, Albania, and Croatia.’ Extolling the virtues of her time abroad, she adds: ‘It was brilliant. I went with zero plans and no return flight. It was exhilarating, just a reminder to myself that I don’t need to be in control all the time for things to work out.’

When asked for book recommendations, she suggests Confessions of a Forty-Something F**k Up by Alexandra Potter. ‘It is really funny – also given where I am in my life very relatable, so I’m enjoying that.’

She concludes: ‘My music taste is very indie and classic rock focused, so for me Taylor Swift is a guilty pleasure. When I’m not doing sporty stuff, you’ll find me listening to live music.’

At a glance – Lida Khanverdi


2011-13 Trainee solicitor, DAC Beachcroft
2013-20 Solicitor, then senior associate, Shoosmiths
2020-now Senior legal counsel, then head of legal UK and ROI, EG Group

EG Group – key facts

Size of team Eight
Preferred advisers Latham & Watkins, Eversheds Sutherland, Shoosmiths, Gunnercooke, HGF and Freeths