Stay in the game: high-flying lawyer’s gritty advice to QE prize-winners
July 15, 2015
July 15, 2015
Barrister Peter Morcos (OE 1999-2006) was the Guest of Honour at this month’s Queen Elizabeth’s School Junior Awards Ceremony.
Called to the Bar by Inner Temple in 2012, Peter began his legal career fresh from winning a string of awards during his higher education, which took him to the University of Pennsylvania, Lincoln College, Oxford, and London’s BPP College of Law.
He left QE to take up his place at Oxford, in 2006, having gained straight A grades in A-levels in Chemistry, English Literature, French and Mathematics.
In his speech at Junior Awards, Peter, who now lives in Holloway, related one particularly vivid memory of his own time in Year 9 to prize-winners, who were from Years 7–9.
“It was a cold February afternoon. The Year 9 QE Rugby C Team, for which I played centre, was lining up for an away game against Merchant Taylor’s.
“All 15 of us were bright young men, I like to think. Which is why it took us approximately five seconds to realise we were shorter, smaller and scrawnier than the other side. Still, we battled gamely for the opening 20 minutes, keeping the score at 0-0. Finally, however, our staunch defence was breached and the other side scored a try.
“Our captain, Simon, …gave a rousing speech; real blood and thunder stuff. Each and every one of us thought the same thing, I think: ‘We may be the underdogs here, but we can turn this around’. We lined up underneath the posts, scraped and muddy, but ready to bellow our defiance. The conversion came in, and our eyes lit up. It was going just low, and our comeback was set to start.
“Alas, Simon had already leapt to intercept the conversion. He stretched out, pushing the ball with his fingertips. And in so doing he managed to alter the ball’s trajectory; a ball that would have missed by centimetres instead tipped inches over. The conversion was good, and our resistance was broken. We were walloped 37-0.”
And the moral he drew from this “embarrassing defeat” for the benefit of the prize-winners? “True failure only comes once you admit defeat. Until that time, you are still in the game and with enough hard work success is still possible.”
His second piece of advice for the boys was: “When you decide to do something, do it with energy. Do not do it half-heartedly or begrudgingly. Do it happily; do it with ambition.”
During the ceremony, Peter presented more than 100 prizes to the boys, covering not only academic subjects, but also house awards, prizes for commitment and a number of endowed prizes and special awards.
Peter is no stranger to receiving awards himself: over the past six years alone, he has won six, beginning with a Lincoln College award in 2009 for his performance in Finals in his Jurisprudence degree. As an undergraduate there, he was Junior Common Room President and also an Academic Disciplinary Committee Representative.
He was back at the college from 2010–2011 and gained a similar award for his performance on his BCL graduate law course. He then won the Oxford Pro Bono Publico Scholarship to fund his work as a caseworker at the AIRE Centre (Advice on Individual Rights in Europe), a charity where he worked for a few months at the end of 2009 and then again in the summer of 2011.
In the same year, he was awarded an Exhibition by Inner Temple to study the Bar Professional Training Course, which he completed at the BPP College of Law, being graded outstanding. While he studied for an LLM Master of Laws degree in Pennsylvania, in which he graduated with distinction, Peter was awarded both the Withers LLP Scholarship and the Dean’s Scholarship by the university’s Law School.
He now works as a barrister at New Square Chambers in London, with a practice specialising in commercial and public law. Recent cases have included appearing as junior counsel for a Jordanian company in relation to an $80m dispute concerning the construction of a power station in Iraq and as part of a counsel team in a multi-million pound public procurement arbitration relating to a UK defence project. He was also sole counsel successfully representing a Member of Parliament in a civil claim arising out of the discharge of her official duties.
Other high-flying legal alumni who have left the School since the start of the new millennium include Peter’s contemporary, Daniel Isenberg (1999-2006) who went up to Pembroke College, Cambridge, in 2007 and took a double first in History, following in the footsteps of barrister Tom Cleaver, who was at Cambridge from 2004 to 2007 and took a starred first, also in History.