When I started law school, I was married with one child, and we had two children by the time I finished school. Most people were getting jobs in large Chicago law firms, but I considered my career to be a means to support my family. I decided that if I was going to succeed at being a father, I needed to find a firm in a location that would not require a lengthy commute on top of the long hours of work. That’s how we ended up in Milwaukee. I still had a lot of late nights at the kitchen table, but I was there more for my family.
Maurice D. Jones: Career Highlights
1978: Graduates as valedictorian from Meridian High School in Meridian, ID
1984: Graduates magna cum laude with a BS in accounting from Brigham Young University
1988: Graduates cum laude from the University of Illinois College of Law, receives the American Jurisprudence Award in Personal Property Security, and takes a position as an associate at the law firm of Davis & Kuelthau, SC in Milwaukee
1996: Advances to a shareholder position at Davis & Kuelthau then takes a position as legal counsel for Banta Corporation in Menasha, WI, handling commercial and contractual issues plus mergers and acquisitions
1999: Takes a position as general counsel and corporate secretary at the Manitowoc Company
2002: Earns a vice president title at the Manitowoc Company
2004: Earns a senior vice president title at the Manitowoc Company
I’d been a partner at a law firm, but I was not one to enjoy the rainmaking part of it. I like to meet people without the ulterior motive of getting their business, so I was intrigued with the idea of moving in-house somewhere. When Manitowoc called, I knew it was a good opportunity for me.
Working at a law firm is the best preparation for working in-house. I would generally prefer to hire somebody that’s had some experience at a law firm than someone who’s only had in-house experience. There’s a different way of thinking at a law firm; you learn the importance of satisfying a client and handling multiple clients at once. I feel fortunate that I had the experience I did at a firm with a wide range of business-related legal issues—but in particular with mergers-and-acquisitions work. M&A work is good prep for a general counsel because it exposes the attorney to so many areas of the law.
When I started, Manitowoc was a company with about $800 million in annual revenue. Through numerous acquisitions and organic growth, it’s now a $4 billion company. I enjoyed the M&A work, and it was enjoyable to be a part of the extensive growth, but I probably worked more than I ever did at the law firm. It was a challenge to manage the M&A work with all of the other day-to-day legal work that required attention.
Nothing is day to day as a general counsel. As an officer of the company, you are looked to for advice on all legal affairs as well as compliance matters and general business advice. Many things cross my path. I find myself doing everything from commenting on a draft of the CEO’s regular update to the company to working with risk, securities, the board, governance, or HR. My hands are in a little bit of everything.
In my view, in the legal field, it’s all about pleasing your customer or client. In-house, your client is your CEO and the business team. It’s key to make sure you please them. It’s important to be there and be timely and be prompt. I teach attorneys I work with that sometimes it’s better to do B work and be prompt and responsive than to do A work and be slow and inattentive to the client’s needs.
My father taught me to work hard. We were not well off. He managed a drive-in restaurant for a while and then got into furniture restoration. To make ends meet, my siblings all worked alongside him, often with no pay. That work ethic first translated to school. Whether you’re the smartest kid or not, you can succeed—and even excel—by working hard and smart. People really recognize if you’re willing to do that. ABQ