Franklin Morton

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This was a BLD interview with Debo Nwauzu in November 2007. Read more about Franklin Morton in the Directory

Our Lawyer of the Month is Franklin Morton. Frank, an ex-Linklaters lawyer, is a partner at Beachcroft, one of the UK's top 100 law firms and largest national law firms with offices in Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Manchester, Winchester and London. 

Frank was born in May 1964 in Northampton to working-class West Indian parents. He read Law at Kingston, graduating in 1986. He did his Solicitors Finals at the College of Law, Chancery Lane, London and his Articles at Lewis Silkin and qualified as a solicitor in 1990.

On qualification, Frank joined Linklaters as an assistant in their employment law department and he remained at Linklaters for nine years. He described his time there as "an enjoyable experience".  He said: "I worked with some of the best employment lawyers I know and importantly made a number of friends.  There was a lot going on and the team in the then Group 20 was brilliant, as can be seen by the careers of those who were in the team from 1990-2000. I made a lot of very good friends there which I feel is very important in life."

In 1998/99 Frank moved to Bristol for family reasons and worked in Bristol and Reading. He joined Osborne Clarke in Reading in 1999 and became a partner there in 2001. He left Osborne Clarke to join Beachcroft as a partner in 2004.

He specialises in non-contentious employment law issues, restructuring programmes, discrimination and major change issues in the UK and to multi-national companies. In April 2007 Frank led a team advising MITIE on its successful tender for the cleaning services contract for the new BAA Heathrow Terminal 5. In The Legal 500 for 2006 Frank (and Alex Lock's) employment team increased its ranking as the "growing reputation of its (Beachcroft) Bristol offering continues to strengthen".

Frank is a member of the Employment Lawyers Association and the Institute of Arbitrators. He is also a governor of a school in Bristol and a trustee of the Freeway Trust, a charitable trust that cares and houses those with learning disabilities.

He is married with three children.

Below is our interview with Franklin:

BLD: Why did you choose a legal career?
FM:  When I was 17 (before the Police and Criminal Evidence Act), I was leaving my house and was taken in for questioning by the police from my doorstep the Sunday before Christmas about a Chelsea Girl store robbery. I was given a hard time at the back of the police car and subsequently in the station. I thought to myself that it wasn’t right and decided to carry out research and find out about my rights and the legality of their behaviour. I found that my treatment wasn’t right and was shocked at the lack of protection. As a teenage black boy growing up in Northampton, this incident made me very interested in becoming a lawyer.

BLD: If you were to choose another role/profession other than law, what would it be and why?
FM: I would probably have chosen to be a creative director in advertising, as I quite like the idea of being creative. I would have also liked to have followed a career in music. I'm not sure what but would have liked to have been involved in that industry. However my mother and family would have preferred me to be a doctor or a teacher!

BLD: What was the best career advice you were given?
FM: There were two bits really, one that the world needs another lawyer like a hole in the head, so if you are going to give a piece of advice, give the answer, not the law. Two never give a 50/50 answer as if you do it takes the client no further forward in which case why should we be paid - give me a view.

BLD: What was the worst career advice you were given?
FM: A career adviser told me when I was 16 at the school in Northampton to join the Army because that was the limit of my ability and that colour didn’t matter in the Army.

BLD: What career advice would you give to others?
FM:  Try to follow what you feel is right for you.  Don't be limited by circumstances or your own insecurity or people's perceptions of you.  Be yourself (you can be successful bringing all of yourself to the table) and try your best – enjoy life, too. When you are successful remember the breaks that you had and try to help others.

BLD: Who is the person you most admire (dead or alive) and why?
FM:  Although it sounds a bit of a cliché, my dad, who is now dead.  He overcame all the problems that beset first generation West Indian immigrants. Incredibly intelligent, but never had the chance to use it but was nevertheless never unhappy. Interestingly, he was never a pushy parent and he allowed me to flourish and all he did was trust in me. My Mum, who was just a rock and still is, still gives me advice which I store on my computer. Just recently I went to her for some advice and she was spot on … better than a book.

I also admire Stevie Wonder because he is a sheer musical genius.

BLD: What are you most passionate/happiest about?
FM:  Education, music, friends and family (maybe not in that order).

BLD: What are your dislikes?
FM: Insecurity and maliciousness. When both are contained in one person, it can be a bad combination. I find unwanted maliciousness is particularly difficult to deal with.  I have seen far too much of both traits in the legal profession.

BLD: What was your worst moment as a lawyer?
FM:  I'm not sure that I have a worst moment. There are always moments which you would rather not have … they tended to involve lawyers who have been insecure and malicious (and maybe something else as well). A low moment was when my clients and I  had turned up to a meeting; everyone was there and the meeting was about to start but the lawyer on the other side said we couldn’t start as my clients' lawyer hadn’t turned up and that this was a poor show. The look of actual surprise when I said I was the lawyer will stay with me.

BLD: Tell us your professional high point(s).
FM:  I've had a number recently.  Settling a very big establishment claim for a plc which would have involved a lot of costs for the client.  We settled for a nominal sum of money.  But generally high points revolve around working with a team to achieve a positive outcome.
 
BLD: What was the most famous/interesting case(s) you have handled to date?
FM: My first ever case when my male client asked me whether he could marry his stepmother! That still is the most interesting request I've had.

BLD: Any professional regrets?
FM: Yes, doing a law degree. I did not mind doing law but I wish I had done something that I would have really enjoyed, such as geography. Other lawyers with non-law degrees appear well-rounded. Some of the best lawyers I know do not have law degrees. Also not to trust my instincts on things, always a bad thing to do in my case.

BLD: If you could rule the world for a day what would you change/do?
FM:  I would hate to rule the world as I can’t think of anything worse! If I however have to, I would try to ensure that up to the age of 10, everyone has access to education which is independently-minded, non-political and non-religious.