It was always going to be a career in law for ULaw alumnus Trevor James. He made UK legal history when he became the first Black managing partner at the London office of Morrison Foerster in 2008. Now a partner with Morrison Foerster’s Global Tax Group, Trevor spoke to us about his career and offered some advice for potential students hoping to move into the legal sector.
Having studied law at A Level, I had no doubt about what I would study at degree level. Mr. Small, who taught me both A Level Law and Economics, was the most inspiring teacher I have ever met. He always demanded excellence but gave you the tools to achieve it. He recently celebrated his 85th birthday and I am still in contact with him. Also, the ability of the law to shape public policy and society generally, and the analytical skills you can develop studying law, made my decision to study an LLB an easy one. The College of Law, as it was then, was the best place to study the Law Society Finals, so I didn’t consider any other institution.
I knew at the outset of my career that I wanted to become a partner and that never changed. In 2008, I was appointed as the managing partner of the London Office of Morrison Foerster. Whilst this was in the middle of the global financial crisis, it was a great opportunity, which I enjoyed tremendously. I held this role until 2015. Now I am a partner in Morrison Foerster’s Global Tax Group, which involves advising some of the world’s largest companies on their complex transactions and financing arrangements. All the work I do has an international aspect. I also help educate our trainee solicitors and junior associates, so they can deliver first-class service to our clients.
To be successful in this area of work you need keen attention to detail, a good understanding of the economics of how deals work, and the ability to explain complex concepts in a way that anyone can understand. The pandemic will also have a long-lasting effect on work/life balance, as we now know that working from home can be both effective and efficient. Having a presence in the office however, is also important for training, collaboration and seeing colleagues.
Most of what we do is challenging and interesting because our clients look to us to advise them on their biggest and most complex matters. This often requires me to come up with creative solutions to issues that I may not have seen before. Collaborating with colleagues to find answers to complex problems is one of the most rewarding elements of what I do.
Being appointed the first Black managing partner at the London office of Morrison Foerster was great. When I joined Morrison Foerster I never expected that to happen, and being given the responsibility to lead an office filled with very smart people was a real privilege. It was however, a family team effort as I could not have done it without the great support of my wife and kids.
I have also been a judge in the UK Diversity Legal Awards for a number of years now and regard it as an honour each time I am asked. I get to see the great work law firms and chambers up and down the country are doing to make a real difference in our profession to promote diversity and inclusion.
I am very passionate about mentoring and helping others achieve their goals. I mentor a number of young lawyers and try to pass on the knowledge and experience I have acquired over the years. I am also involved with a great London based charity, Urban Synergy, which helps and supports young people through mentoring, and by providing role models and work experience opportunities.
I would advise all law students to keep an open mind during their studies and training contract. While you may enjoy an area of law from an academic perspective, that does not necessarily mean you will enjoy it in practice. Finally, your career is a marathon not a sprint.
Considering a career in law? Take a look at the courses ULaw offer and plan your first step into the legal field.