Lunch with the editor: Paul Mourton, Managing Partner at Lodders
PUBLISHED: 14:53 06 March 2018
© Thousand Word Media
From law to Land Rovers and the joys of Lego...In a new series of features, Editor Tanya Gledhill has lunch with a leading business figure. This month, it's the turn of Lodders' youngest ever Managing Partner, Paul Mourton
Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.” So said Mark Twain once. And he knew stuff.
It’s a mantra that was drummed into me by my parents and my teachers - particularly the nuns, with whom you didn’t argue.
It’s something which still I subconsciously instil in my children, the students I teach, my nieces and nephews - all of whom are thankfully successful and brilliant in their own right.
Work ethic and what makes someone get up and get on when everyone else around them is eating Haribo in their pyjamas isn’t your usual lunchtime conversation.
But then I was sitting opposite Paul Mourton, who at 39, has just become the youngest Managing Partner in law firm Lodders’ long history.
Lodders has 140 staff and partners across offices in Stratford-on-Avon and Cheltenham, and it’s his work at the latter that has catapulted Paul to this illustrious position.
He joined the firm in 2005 from rivals Charles Russell, after qualifying at what was Rickerbys, and set his sights on driving the business right from the start.
By 2011, he was made Partner and by 2013 he’d persuaded the board to let him open an office in Cheltenham; pulled some strings to get the perfect address in Imperial Square, and set about building a dynamic team.
“I’m a Cheltenham boy,” he tells me, as we order in the restaurant at Hotel Du Vin, a 10-minute walk from his offices where he deals with high net-worth clients, many in the property sector.
“I was born here, grew up here, went to Cheltenham College. I loved it.”
He reveals BBC Radio Gloucestershire are running an interview on his success and his alma mater later in the afternoon, which he’s excited about.
Isn’t it true, I say, that schooling at Cheltenham, like Malvern or Rugby or Millfield, sets you on a certain trajectory; introduces you to people; paves the path a bit?
“It’s true,” he says. “It does. But I’m not the most successful old boy, not by far. I mean, I haven’t taken anyone to war and I’m not an Olympic gold medalist.
“But I did spend a lot of time on the rugby and cricket pitches, and that teaches you an awful lot about teamwork, perseverance, picking yourself up when things don’t quite go your way, digging in and getting on with it. Trying to be the best.”
He read law at Nottingham Trent University and always knew he wanted to be a lawyer.
“I think it’s because my dad was an accountant,” he says. “He was Managing Partner at Hazlewoods and I didn’t like numbers. I wanted to become a lawyer, and I did it.”
He says this, as he does everything else, with modesty, clarity and arresting ease.
“It was my idea to open Cheltenham,” he says.
“Because I’d maintained clients and contacts in the area, and obviously through dad’s connections I knew quite a few people and it seemed like a natural thing to do.
“It was book-ending the Cotswolds. Because we’re very much a private client, high net-worth individuals sort of law firm, we don’t look after PLCs, we look after owner-managed SMEs and property companies….and there are a few of those here and in the Cotswolds. And Warwickshire is an incredibly affluent area.”
Lodders’ influence now stretches north of Birmingham, where the firm has an office in St Paul’s Square thanks to a merger with a niche divorce practice in the summer, down the M40 to Banbury and Oxford and back up to Bristol.
Of the 140 staff, just 30 are in Cheltenham, and the plan is to grow it.
“It’s a big market,” Paul says. “And it’s a big opportunity for us, doing what we do with the high net-worth individuals, to capitalise on that. There’s a huge amount of inward investment coming to Cheltenham, and there’ll be more so with John Lewis.”
There’s a move out of Imperial Square planned for later this year, because the team has outgrown the building, and Paul will soon relinquish day-to-day control of the team - a move I’m sensing he’s finding it difficult to make.
“We’ve got some really good people,” he says. “Nick Rowe and Jess Beddows are going to take it forward. It gives them an opportunity to showcase their abilities while I go to Stratford and Birmingham more.”
It brings us on to the massive growth of the Midlands automotive industry, particularly Jaguar Land Rover and its supply chain, and a shared love of the brand.
And then lunch arrives. For him, chipirones and courgette flower fritos - baby squid with anchovy aioli - and a giant Devon crab cake in a glossy puddle of lemon butter sauce, and me, a punchy plate of roasted tiger prawns with pastis and chilli butter and a perfectly cooked fillet of crispy-skinned cod with a smoked salmon and hispi cabbage sauce.
It brings us on to seaside holidays with the children - ditching the laptop and switching off for the first time all year - and the joys of family time and lying on the floor building Lego and encouraging kids into sport.
That work ethic again, showing up, being part of a team, giving your best.
“It’s going to be a busy year,” says Paul. “I’m looking forward to it.”