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Spotlight on Miles Hawks (Tokyo, ’09)

Miles Hawks_426x426.jpg
Deputy Chief Compliance Officer at Morgan Stanley MUFG Securities

We recently caught up with Miles Hawks (Tokyo, ’09), Deputy Chief Compliance Officer at Morgan Stanley MUFG Securities. Miles began his career as an associate in Davis Polk’s Corporate group in Tokyo before transitioning to in-house practice.

Read on to learn about how a passport renewal contributed to Miles joining the Davis Polk Tokyo office and his experiences over a 30-year span living in Japan.

You have an unusual story of how you first connected with the firm. Can you tell us about that?
I spent a lot of my childhood in Japan as a Navy brat and returned to Japan after college. I was working as a passport clerk for the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo right before returning to the States for law school. I met Mike Dunn, a counsel in the Tokyo office at the time, when he came in to renew his passport. He invited me to lunch when he learned I was going to go to law school, and, we kept in touch during my 1L year and I interviewed with the Tokyo and Menlo Park offices for a 2L summer position in New York and Tokyo. I knew I ultimately wanted to be back in Tokyo, and started as a full-time associate in the Tokyo office in 2009. 
Tell us about your time in the Tokyo office.
The Tokyo office has always been relatively small, with about 10 to 12 attorneys at any time during my six years there. The combination of the small number of attorneys and heightened expectations of many of our clients gave junior associates an earlier introduction to various aspects of the practice than we might have had in a larger office. That ranged from practical tasks like leading drafting sessions for capital markets offerings and negotiating reps and warranties in a share purchase agreement to administrative matters like client billing and business development presentations. In addition, although I was primarily an M&A attorney with a little capital markets experience, my ability to speak Japanese allowed me to be meaningfully staffed on matters outside of my practice area, such as bankruptcy and antitrust.
Do you have a memory of your time at Davis Polk that you would like to share?
I have many fond memories of my time at Davis Polk so it’s hard to pick out a single one, but I would probably pick developing a personal relationship with one of my clients. We were representing an individual, and I was the only person on the team who spoke Japanese, so I spent many hours with the client on calls and meetings in Tokyo and accompanied him to the United States several times. I was seconded to Morgan Stanley before the representation finished, and I took the nearly four-hour trip out to where the client lived with the attorney who would be replacing me on the team to make sure he was comfortable with the transition. He and I kept in touch (which is how I learned Davis Polk ultimately got a good outcome for him), and we still write each other several times each year and visit each other every few years.
Was there an individual (or individuals) at Davis Polk who played an especially important role for you during your time at the firm?
I learned a lot from people I worked with in the Tokyo office day in and day out, and partners in the United States I worked with, including Michael Davis and Raul Yanes. In addition, a senior associate from DC, Jason McCullough, was a really valuable mentor who instilled a lot of confidence in me and served as a model of leadership. We worked together on an antitrust matter, which was, to say the least, not my area of expertise. Jason had the right balance of hands-on supervision and delegation. The things I remember most and still carry with me are: (i) “Three sentences” and (ii) “You know this case as well as I do.” The first was what he said when he needed a very quick summary of an issue, and it helped me focus my thinking on what was really important. The second was his way of letting me know I was on my own on a particular matter. He was ordinarily right, or would ultimately support me if I didn’t get it quite right. In my current role, I tell everyone to whom I delegate something potentially daunting that “I am delegating this to you because I trust you can do it”, which I learned from Jason.
Tell us more about your time working as a passport clerk for the U.S. Embassy.
It was a great job, where I got to meet a lot of different people (in addition to Mike Dunn). I remember having to escort an elderly U.S. citizen with dementia to the airport. He had come in because he had lost his passport. As we talked to him, we learned he had come to Japan for the first time in more than 50 years, since his time with the U.S. Army in the early ’50s, looking for his ex-wife, and had not told anyone in the United States that he was leaving or where he was going. While it typically takes some period of time to issue a passport, we issued him an emergency passport and we got in touch with people who knew him in the States, who arranged a flight for him that day. I was asked to escort him to the airport to make sure he got on the flight, and we shared stories about living in Japan with the U.S. military.
What does your typical Saturday or Sunday look like?
I currently live by myself (my wife and kids, ironically, are in the United States for my wife’s job), so I try and keep myself busy. My preferred activities, other than hanging out with friends, are cycling and road trips. I’ve lived in Japan off and on for more than 30 years, in a number of places, so about once a month I ride my bike to somewhere I used to live and see what has changed and what has stayed the same. For instance, the U.S. Navy base I lived on when I first came to Japan in 1980 no longer exists, but my first apartment, which was barely inhabitable 20 years ago, is still standing. I also hop in my pickup and try to go to places that my wife and kids could probably care less about, like the Tomioka Silk Mill, which is known as the birthplace of the Japanese industrial revolution, or Eiheiji, where Zen Buddhism was introduced to Japan in the 13th century.