Trevor James

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This was a BLD interview with Debo Nwauzu in January 2009. Read more about Trevor James in the Directory

Our Lawyer of the Month is Trevor James who made UK legal history on 4 December 2008 when he was appointed as the first black Managing Partner at the London office of Morrison and Foerster, a leading US law firm and one of the top 30 largest law firms in the world.

Trevor was born in London in 1965. He read Law at the University of Essex, graduating in 1986. In 1990 he completed his Masters in Taxation at King’s College, University of London.  Trevor did his training at a small City law firm, Rosling King and was admitted as a solicitor in 1989. On qualification he joined Theodore Goddard (now known as Addleshaw Goddard). He left the firm for DLA Piper in 1995, became a partner two years later and was promoted to Head of its London Tax Group in 2000. Trevor left DLA Piper in 2001 and became a partner at Bird & Bird, subsequently becoming its Joint Head of the International Tax Group.

Trevor joined Morrison Foerster as a partner in 2005 and became its Managing Partner at the London office in 2008, the first person of black African/Caribbean origin to hold such a post in a sizable firm in the UK.

He is a tax expert with over two decades’ experience of regularly advising global banks and other financial institutions, public and private companies, venture capital houses, hedge funds as well as high net-worth individuals in relation to the acquisition and disposals of companies and business assets. He also advises multi-national companies on international structuring and tax efficient intellectual property rights structures.

Trevor is a frequent speaker at public seminars on a wide range of corporate tax subjects. He is involved - and indeed takes a hand-on approach - in many of Morrison Foerster’s Corporate Social Responsibility work, including work for homeless charities such as Crisis.

Below is our interview with Trevor James:

BLD: Why did you choose a career in law?
TJ:  I really enjoy the analytical side of things and enjoy the subject, too.

BLD: If you were to choose another role/profession other than law, what would it be and why?
TJ: As a child I was very keen on music and would perhaps pursue that. Otherwise I think I would be a venture capitalist or do something in finance.

BLD: What was the best career advice you were given?
TJ: The advice was from a partner at Theodore Goddard. I was the first black lawyer there and she said to me that by virtue of who I am, people will remember me and that I should therefore ensure that they remember me for good reasons by giving the very best advice.

BLD: What was the worst career advice you were given?
TJ: I have not been given any!

BLD: What career advice would you give to other lawyers and budding lawyers?
TJ:   The same as the best advice that I was given. To the young lawyers I will also say that any piece of work you give a partner to review, make sure it is the best and on the basis that there will be zero review.

BLD: Who is the person you most admire (dead or alive) and why?
TJ: Two spring to mind. Barack Obama – he has achieved something that I never thought I would see in my lifetime. The other is Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela’s achievement is simply incredible!

BLD: What are you most passionate/happiest about?
TJ: My family – my wife and kids.

BLD: What are your dislikes?
TJ: I absolutely dislike rude and discourteous people.

BLD: What was your worst moment as a lawyer?
TJ: I can’t say that I have had any worst moment. This is possibly because either I have been very lucky or because I never think that things are so bad, especially the next day.

BLD: Tell us your professional high point(s).
TJ: 4th December 2008! Being appointed as Managing Partner is a fantastic honour.

BLD: What was the most famous/interesting case(s) you have handled to date?
TJ: Many years ago, I worked on a transaction that went to the House of Lords. It is still the leading case on judicial review as to what extent the Inland Revenue can withdraw a pre-clearance.

BLD: Any professional regrets?
TJ: No, none at all.

BLD: If you could rule the world for a day what would you change/do?
TJ: Ensure that no child ever goes to bed hungry. Also to make sure that Liverpool wins the premiership!