James Morvell, special counsel at Hall & Wilcox, will be a speaker at Australasian Lawyer’s Contract Law Masterclass. He shares his background and passions.
What made you decide to become a lawyer?
Perhaps it was the influence of endless legal dramas on television, however I have always been attracted to the role of an ‘advocate’. As my career has progressed, my desire to be a trusted adviser to clients has continued to grow and is the most satisfying aspect of my job today.
How long have you worked at Hall & Wilcox for and what brought you to your position?
I commenced with Hall & Wilcox as an articled clerk almost 11 years ago and have been practising within the firm’s Corporate & Commercial group for all but two years since. The two-year gap was spent working in Tokyo as a Senior Attorney for The Walt Disney Company, which was a fascinating and invaluable experience both professionally and personally.
What do you think will be the single biggest issue facing the legal space in Australia in 2015?
The commoditisation of legal services is a common trend at present, and one which I see as a concern to the profession. Although I agree that legal professionals must continue to look for ways to improve efficiency (and not only in terms of the financial cost of their services), the value of building relationships with clients and gaining an intimate knowledge of their businesses over time, in my mind, far outweighs the perceived cost savings of the current commoditisation movement.
What’s the strangest case you’ve ever worked on/been involved with?
I’ve not been involved in many strange transactions, however, I did work on an IPO years ago where one of the strategic assets being acquired was a shopping centre in Mallorca, Spain. Unfortunately there was no need for an enthusiastic junior Australian lawyer (with his Lonely Planet Spain travel guide already packed!) to do any legal due diligence on the ground…
Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t a lawyer, I would be…
I suspect I may well have gone down the path of becoming a teacher, or maybe even sought out other (non-legal) opportunities with Disney…
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given (work or personal)?
Most lawyers have no doubt received the same advice, however I am still ever mindful of not misspelling my client’s name in agreements or correspondence… even the smallest error in this regard can undo many hours of rock solid legal advice or drafting.
Do you have any hobbies/interests outside of work?
During my time living in Tokyo, I started to learn Japanese. Since returning to Australia, I still attend weekly Japanese language classes and hope to maintain this as an interest outside of work. Between running and an interest in most sports, I also take great pride in getting my roses blooming by Melbourne Cup Day each year.
What do you love about your job?
Public and private M&A can be very stressful at times, however I enjoy the adrenaline rush that comes from transactional work and, most importantly, the satisfaction of completing a deal for a client. On recent transactions, I’ve been very fortunate to work with great lawyers in my own team and on the other side, all of whom adopted a collegiate (rather than adversarial) approach to getting the transactions across the line.
You are speaking at Australasian Lawyer’s Contract Law masterclass. Why is your session important?
When undertaking commercial transactions or dealings, it’s often the case that legal advice isn’t sought until the commercial terms are settled, with the lawyers’ role limited to simply documenting what has been agreed. This isn’t necessarily a problem in all transactions, however legally binding obligations may evolve before one or both parties even realise this is the case, which can be a huge problem later (and difficult to unwind).There have been a number of cases before the Australian courts recently where one party has sought to avoid the binding legal obligations purportedly created during pre-contractual negotiations. My session will explore how to best manage this early phase of a transaction, both strategically and from a legal risk perspective, and explore a number of tips to achieve the best outcomes.
The Contract Law Masterclass will be held in Sydney and Melbourne in March 2015. Find out more and register online here.