22 November 2012
Squire Sanders graduate recruitment partner Richard Morton advises you not to be fearful of letting your personality shine through your application
Name: Richard Morton
Firm: Squire Sanders (UK) LLP
Department: Financial Services
University: King’s College London and University of Nottingham
Degree subject: Law
Hobbies: Slow motion Triathlon. This year’s quotations about me in Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners refer to me as having a “massive appetite” which probably explains the slow motion bit.
How long have you been a partner? Seven years
Who/what inspired you to be a lawyer? I’d love to pretend that it was something to do with an insatiable desire to wield the mighty sword of truth and justice. I have wanted to be a lawyer for as long as I can remember and before I really knew what being a lawyer meant, which sounds a bit sad, I know. Sorry.
What things did you wish you knew before embarking on a legal career? I suppose I wish I’d known what law firms are really looking for in their applicants. At Squire Sanders we look for people who are bright, enthusiastic, committed, willing to learn and able to apply their knowledge to practical situations. Having a sense of humour also helps.
What does your typical day involve? The core of my day involves advising banks, financial institutions and corporate borrowers in acquisition finance and asset based lending transactions. As a transactional lawyer, clichéd as this probably is, there’s a good variation in what I do and inevitably some days are longer than others but that’s the sort of thing that appeals to me personally.
What are the most challenging aspects of your job? Financial regulation in the United Kingdom will undergo fundamental change in 2013 when the Financial Services Bill 2012 receives Royal Assent. I am co-authoring an academic text book on modern financial regulation which is something I haven’t done before and it’s challenging me a little at the moment.
What has been the highlight of your career so far? It’d be a bit smug to go around compiling my own personal “Best of”, but as our UK Graduate Recruitment Partner, it’s very satisfying to be in a position to help people progress in their careers and reach their potential. About a quarter of our current UK partners trained with the firm, which I suspect is quite rare. I am training principal to around 60 trainees each year and it’s great to see someone develop from first day trainee to qualified solicitor and then to see them to progress through the ranks.
What are the best aspects of your job? I like finding out about our clients’ different businesses and success stories and it’s rewarding to work in a team with them to achieve their aims. Negotiating deals can be challenging but it’s also a lot of fun (most of the time).
What are the worst aspects of your job? In any job there are frustrating moments from time to time but I really enjoy what I do and I am very fortunate in that respect. Having said this, there’s no getting away from the fact that the hours we work can be unpredictable. It’s Hofstadter’s Law: things always take longer than you’d expect, even when Hofstadter’s Law is taken into account. I often remind myself of this when I am drafting something at 2am when I’d expected to be at home sleeping…
What tips would you give to students who want to break into the legal profession? Think about why you want to become a lawyer, what genuinely interests you and what you want out of your career. Once you have a clear view on this, then think which ‘type’ of law firm is right for you and be realistic about your chances. Don’t be overly influenced by what your contempories are doing; what’s right for them might not be right for you. From the outside the differences between firms might at first seem to be impenetrable but if you do your homework you will be much more convincing both in your application form and at interview. If you aren’t sure, try a number of different firms vacation schemes to see what suits you - that’s what vacation schemes are really meant to be for.
What are the most common mistakes you’ve seen candidates making? On application forms: stock answers. I can understand the tedium of filling in application forms whilst trying to get on with the rest of your life but we want to hire individuals not some kind of corporate drone. It’s really okay to let your personality shine through in your application (although I am not suggesting ‘wacky’ or ‘crazy’ answers). If you are looking to make your application stand out, why would you make it read the same as everyone else’s?
As lawyers part of our job is to distil the ox into an Oxo cube for easy consumption. The same goes for application forms: be selective about what you include. Sometimes if you put a bit less it can stand out a bit more. The “Use by Date” has passed on that School Council position you held in junior school.
How has the legal market changed since the days you were a trainee? Law firms have expanded globally. Trainees at our firm and other truly global firms are lucky; there are opportunities that just didn’t exist when I was a trainee. In the last 12 months we have opened offices in Riyadh, Seoul and Sydney and have 37 offices in 18 countries, so there’s lots of cross border and international work around.
Where did you go for your last holiday? We have three children under five years old so we love our UK-based summer camping holidays in the driving rain. As a consequence, we normally end up spending part of our holiday in the Children’s’ Ward of some hospital or other. I can recommend the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro for a short break.
What gadget/gizmo would you be lost without? BlackBerry has been around so long you can’t call it a “gizmo”, but clearly like every other lawyer I couldn’t do without that and a laptop. I suppose the joke answer here is a SatNav, however.