John Murray: California dreaming

John Murray: California dreaming

John Murray was recently appointed as executive partner for the Leeds office of Ward Hadaway. He also heads up the firm’s specialist social housing group

I became a solicitor because…

My grandfather and his father before him were solicitors in the West of Scotland; in fact there is still a firm in existence with myname on it, which was set up by my great grandfather in 1897. The family job skipped a generation with my father who never managed to pass his law exams. So the answer to the question could lie somewhere between lack of imagination and filial one-upmanship.

The best part of my role is…

The variety. My primary work for 30 years now has been as a housing lawyer, working with housing associations and local authorities. Housing law never stands still – no government can resist interfering with the provision of social housing. The nature of the subject matter means the litigation is usually pretty fast moving and no two days are the same. I work with great people both internally and externally in a sector that never stands still and does a great deal of good.

As head of Ward Hadaway’s social housing group, I am more involved than ever with the strategic thinking of social landlords as they become ever more creative in continuing to deliver a product in high demand, with ever decreasing resources.

The worst part of my job is…

There are just never enough hours in the day. I realise this is a common complaint amongst lawyers but that doesn’t make it any less true. However, hopefully the emergence of new technology will help to alleviate this. That said, despite the busy nature of the job, it’s certainly never dull.

The highlight of my career so far is…

Can I have three? I built up a social housing practice from scratch at my previous firm, working for some of the largest housing associations in the country. I transferred the practice and my team to Ward Hadaway in 2013. And being appointed as a judge in the First tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) was pretty good. My latest highlight is to be appointed as executive partner for Ward Hadaway’s Leeds office, which gives me the opportunity to work with some very talented lawyers in forging the strategy and raising the profile of the office in the Leeds and Yorkshire marketplace and beyond.

If I wasn’t a solicitor, then I would be…

Well obviously I would have been in a rock and roll band, so now I’d be either (a) living in a mansion in Malibu (b) touring working men’s clubs re-playing an album released 30 years ago to very moderate acclaim to a bunch of middle aged men re-living their youth or (c) prematurely deceased.

 I would tell my 21-year-old self…

Forget that rock and roll idea. You have no talent in that direction, you will never get a mortgage and you’re more likely to be in the working men’s club in Mirfield than a Malibu mansion. Subconsciously I obviously did tell my 21-year-old self that and here I am.

Working in Yorkshire is great because…

We have the best of all worlds. I live in a great city (Leeds), surrounded by stunning countryside, in relatively easy reach of the coast. I liken Yorkshire, England’s biggest county, to California, the USA’s biggest state, in terms of its scale, and mix of city, nature and coastline. Obviously ignore the weather and the surfing’s not so good.

The person who’s had the most influence on my career is…

There’s been no one person. Like most people I’ve collected influences from people who impress in one way or another, whether they be colleagues, other lawyers, and even some judges.

To relax, I…

Don’t. I’m not the world’s greatest relaxer. I always need to be doing something. I have three daughters and a dog – so I don’ get a lot of time off.

The legal profession could be improved by…

Technology and artificial intelligence. As an information industry we have been comparatively late adopters but clearly we’re about to witness a speed up in technological change. Law is a conservative profession – but the Millennials will not tolerate that for much longer.

Whilst we live in fear of being replaced by robots, there’s nothing to fear in losing the dull stuff and replacing it with something more interesting. Lawyers are adaptable. We’ll survive.

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