5 minutes with…Gordon Houseman, Senior Associate
10th January 2020
Q. When did you join Shearman & Sterling?
I first joined Shearman & Sterling in 2012. I spent half of the summer as an M&A associate in New York and the other half of the summer doing leveraged finance transactions in London. I joined full-time in 2013.
Q. What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office?
The first thing I do when I arrive at the office is walk around the floor greeting people. In today’s connected world, I love the opportunity that the office provides to connect with colleagues and share ideas. Then I drink coffee.
Q. Can you give us an idea of the sort of projects you manage from day to day? What sort of clients do you generally deal with?
I manage leveraged finance and capital market transactions. When I first started practising, European leveraged finance credit agreements and New York high yield bonds were fairly different. Since 2013, the core provisions have converged, which has allowed me to broaden my practice. As a result of overseeing both leveraged finance and high yield transactions, the clients include traditional financial institutions and corporate borrowers, as well as direct lenders and private equity sponsors.
Q. What’s your ideal holiday destination?
I have been to the Balearic Islands nine times in the past four summers and although I am planning on going again a couple of times this summer, I am most excited about going to Mykonos for a birthday party for a client I’ve worked for in the past.
Q. What is your favourite food?
My favourite food would have to be deep-fried chicken wings, covered in hot sauce. If I was trying to be healthy, then it would be roast chicken, covered in hot sauce.
Q. In your experience, what qualities or attributes does an associate need?
In my experience, the qualities and attributes that make an associate excellent change as they progress through their career.
An excellent junior associate has a positive attitude and good attention to detail. As my mentor (Ward McKimm) says: our clients expect us to read the last page just as closely as the first page. An excellent mid-level associate has the ability to multi-task and track the progress of a number of items at once. The level of discretion jumps significantly from junior associate to mid-level associate, so an excellent mid-level associate will have developed solid intuition and understanding of the commercial motivations of the client.
An excellent senior associate should be able to effectively manage a team and transfer as much knowledge as possible to the mid-level and junior associates, as well as focus on building their own personal reputation and the firm’s brand.
Q. What has been the most challenging part of your career to date?
The most challenging part of my career to date has been learning to effectively delegate when I was a mid-level associate. As a lawyer, it can be easy to be consumed with control, perfectionism and efficiency. It took me a while to realise that everyone has a different style and the same approach will not necessarily work for everyone. I realised that the associate was not necessarily the problem but rather my one size fits all approach to delegation and supervision. Now that I have adapted to other people's style I love overseeing deal teams.
Q. How would you describe your workload? Do busy periods alternate with lulls or is it all go, go, go?
Leveraged finance and capital markets work tends to alternate between extremely busy and fairly quiet, with the summer and new year’s periods being the slowest. The deadlines can occasionally be fairly tight and the entire deal team works non-stop.
Q. What songs best describes your work ethic?
The Seven Dwarfs, Disney, “Heigh Ho”
Q. What would your superpower be and why?
If I could only have one superpower I would pick the ability to teleport. I live within walking distance to the office so I do not have to take the tube. Teleportation would greatly expand housing options!
Q. Have you had any particularly memorable cases while working at Shearman & Sterling?
Leveraged finance transactions tend to involve a number of team members from across Europe and the Americas. Each transaction has its own set of challenges and nuances that are memorable. Working with clients and colleagues from the various jurisdictions is the most enjoyable and memorable part.
Q. What was the last gift you gave someone?
I bought matching hats that have “FINANCE” embroidered on the front for the mid-level and junior associates on a recent deal I completed. We plan to wear them to the pub at some point in the near future.
Q. What two items would you take with you to a desert island?
I would bring a fishing rod and a lighter.
Q. If you won £10 million on the lottery, what’s the first thing would you do?
If I won £10 million on the lottery, I’d invest the money and show up to work the next day.