Lawyer 2B puts some quick-fire questions to Hogan Lovells graduate recruitment partner Ben Higson
Name: Ben Higson
Firm: Hogan Lovells
Department: Corporate (International M&A)
Degree subject: Law
Hobbies: Skiing, sailing, tennis, walking, watersports, music, theatre
How long have you been a partner? Three years
Who/what inspired you to be a lawyer? I wanted to be in a career where I could make things happen, working with a range of people, and one that required an academic/intellectual grounding and had substance. I was also interested in the business world and the international side of life. A career as a commercial lawyer in a top international firm seemed to fit all those criteria.
What things did you wish you knew before embarking on a legal career? It is a long term game! Succeeding as a lawyer requires a lot of hard work, good experience, stamina, energy, resilience and a fair degree of patience – plus a bit of luck.
What does your typical day involve? There is no such thing as a typical day! One of the characteristics of the job – but also one of the aspects of the job that makes it interesting – is the unpredictability and so variety of one’s day to day existence. This is particularly so in a global firm such as Hogan Lovells and has been especially the case in recent years given the world’s changing economic power bases and the turbulence in global markets.
What are the most challenging aspects of your job? It can actually be a pretty demanding job as a whole. However, I think that the key challenge is ensuring that one has a complete understanding of the client’s needs and requirements and then balancing excellent technical legal advice with commercial judgment and presenting the advice on time and in a way that the client can appreciate and apply in the context of its businesses and the real world. Related to this, working in a global firm can mean that one is constantly juggling jurisdictions and time zones – which can require a certain flexibility as to working hours (and sleep)!
What has been the highlight of your career so far? Being invited into the partnership of what has now become one of the largest of the world’s leading law firms.
What are the best aspects of your job? Variety, both in the work that I do and the people whom it brings me into contact with, the people whom I work with at all levels in the firm and very often being at the centre of some of the world’s most interesting and significant transactions.
What are the worst aspects of your job? The administration that comes with running a practice can be one of the least interesting parts of the job – but it is, unfortunately, a very necessary evil.
What tips would you give to students who want to break into the legal profession? First of all, never underestimate that you are trying to become a lawyer – where excellent legal, analytical and communication skills are a must – and that the legal market is highly competitive. Therefore ensure that you understand why you want to become a lawyer and that you can identify the skills you possess that will make you a successful one. Secondly, do your best to get useful work experience that will help inform you what it is actually like once you have become a lawyer. It is a great career but it will not suit everyone and so you need to be honest with yourself about whether you have what it takes.
What are the most common mistakes you’ve seen candidates making? We are lucky in that we tend to see the highest quality candidates and so mistakes are fairly rare; but the most common is a candidate clearly not having appreciated that at interview he or she was likely to be questioned in some detail about what he or she said on the application form and so should have been able to substantiate what it contained. In other words, ensure that your application form is accurate and that you re-read it thoroughly before the interview and are prepared to talk to it – we want to get a proper feel for who you are and what you could bring to Hogan Lovells.
How has the legal market changed since the days you were a trainee? The key change must the technology that now dominates our working lives, both in terms of how we communicate and what we use to do so. When I was a trainee (which was not that long ago!), e-mail was only just beginning to be used and mobile telephones were rare; nowadays, e-mail is the principal mode of communication and everyone seems to have a mobile (or more than one!). What doesn’t seem to have changed, though, is the complexity of the work or the speed at which the mind can process it – and it is therefore important to develop a way to juggle these two and still meet client expectations – sometimes this can be tough and demanding, especially on global transactions when time differences also play a part.
What impact has the recession had on your firm? We have been fortunate to have been remarkably resilient so far during the recession. We have a broadly based, global practice and a strong reputation, all of which have helped us to achieve instructions on a number of key mandates and enabled us to continue building a stable platform both in London and across the world. We have also expanded our practice into areas where we determine that our clients are or will be active, recruited extensively and opened a number of new offices.
What three words best describe your firm? Ambitious, confident, energetic
Where did you go for your last holiday? Cornwall
What gadget/gizmo would you be lost without? iPad