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The Linklaters partner on maintaining industry respect, parental guidance and the world’s classiest bar 

Why did you become a lawyer?Lawyering seemed like an honest profession for an immigrant blue-collar kid from Chicago. I didn’t want to perpetuate any stereotypes by going into medicine or engineering.

What, or who, has influenced you the most during your career? My folks. Whenever I’ve had tough times in my career, I think about what they went through as immigrants raising me and my sister.

What has been your proudest professional moment? Probably when I was a mid-level associate recently arrived in Asia and my supervising partner left me alone to run a meeting for the first time. I got through it without drama, and the clients were happy. 

… and worst day on the job? When I was a junior associate, the partner I was working with chewed me out in front of a room full of people. It’s been a life lesson for me on how not to treat someone.

What’s your strongest characteristic? My professional imperative is to do right by my client. Defend your client’s interests no matter what. Sometimes it means protecting the client from himself and giving advice that is not always gladly received.

…and your worst trait? Sometimes a situation calls for me to express serious displeasure, but temperamentally I tend to hold things in. Plus, no one wants to see their lawyer losing it.

What annoys you most about the legal profession? I see an erosion in respect for the profession, and a tendency in many quarters to view the business as commoditised. With cost pressures and a tough economy, many people view lawyers as just another service provider. I like to think that, as a profession, we hold ourselves to higher standards of client loyalty and service than in the general population.

Aside from your own firm, which lawyer do you most admire in Asia, and why? Yong Lee, a partner at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, is a great lawyer. A lawyer’s lawyer. But the thing I remember most is how he treats everyone with respect. A true professional.

What advice would you give to young lawyers considering a stint abroad? Just do it.

Why did you decide to move to Asia? When the internet bubble popped Asia seemed to be the one part of the world that was still growing and a place where there were opportunities for a young guy starting out professionally.

What is the best, and worst, thing about working as a lawyer in Asia? Asia is growing. Stimulating, challenging opportunities abound. There’s a real excitement to being out here. The worst thing is Asia is still growing; professional standards and expectations are not uniform; and many places reject or are not familiar with international norms.

What is going to be the most significant trend in your region and practice over the next 12 months? The recent liberalisation of the Korean legal market and the entry of foreign firms, including ours, means there will be a period of volatility and competition as these firms try to figure out how they will fit in.

What’s your favourite place to spend an evening in Hong Kong? The Captain’s Bar at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The classiest bar in the world, bar none.

Favourite item of clothing? A pair of JM Weston black cap-toe dress shoes. I recently discovered this make. The search is over.

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