Stephen Green

Stephen Green

Senior Associate in the Commercial team at Knights plc

Stephen Green from Knights plc’s Commercial team discusses his career, why he’s moved back into private practice and his time working at the 2018 football World Cup in Russia

Stephen, can you please tell us a bit about your career to date?

I have had a very varied career so far. I have worked both in-house and private practice, from Johannesburg to Moscow, Brighton to Newcastle, and now finally settled in Manchester. I started my career in-house at Sasol (one of Africa’s largest oil and gas corporations) in Johannesburg, before moving on to my training contract at a high street firm in Northampton. Shortly after qualification and a short in-house spell at Avon Cosmetics of all places (in the legal department, not door to door selling I have to say!), I moved back to my home town of Newcastle, where I joined the commercial team at Muckle. I enjoyed my time at Muckle and worked with some brilliant clients and colleagues. An opportunity at MATCH Hospitality then came up in the summer of 2015 with the chance to work on the 2018 football World Cup in Russia (amongst other major international sporting events). At the time, it was a tough decision but so exciting that I had to take up the opportunity. After three great years at MATCH Hospitality, I moved back to private practice to Knights plc in March this year.

What’s your current role at Knights?

At Knights, I am a Senior Associate. Not only am I a fee earner, working with some really interesting mainly tech-focused businesses, I am working with Simon Weinberg - Head of Commercial in the Knights Manchester office - to build the Knights commercial offering, which excites me. Before I joined, the commercial team in Manchester was just two and over the last couple of months we have grown to a team of five. We want to expand the team further by developing the client base, particularly in different areas and sectors. We are trying to get out and about, meeting local businesses, which may have not come across Knights before. I am also working with the wider Knights commercial team to try to develop an offering for in-house lawyers. We have some great, genuine in-house experience as a Knights team (not just simply secondees), which we want to use to support other in-house lawyers.

You’ve worked both in-house and in private practice so what are the positives and negatives of both?

I suspect my view on this is very similar to any lawyer that has made the move between the two. You clearly do not have the same “admin work” to do in-house, as to you have in private practice, which is good. No time recording, file opening, billing etc. More importantly though, in-house you get the opportunity to really get under the skin of a business and genuinely understand how it operates on the ground; which you simply do not get in private practice (despite what private practice lawyers might say in their marketing materials!). You get involved in business critical project and management meetings, understand the real business/commercial challenges and help solve those challenges with a commercial “hat on” (not just a legal one). You do have to be extremely commercial in-house (without the same professional indemnity concerns of course), a lot more than you ever do in private practice, which I enjoy. You are more a commercial adviser to the business and treated like any other employee (which again has its positive and negatives).

That being said, in-house you are narrowed in terms of the types and sizes of the businesses you assist. The one big positive for me, with being in private practice and the main reason for the move back, is that you get to advise all sorts and sizes of businesses and clients, and support them in their goals and hopefully growth.

What prompted you to switch back to private practice this year?

I get asked this a lot! I was ready for a new challenge and change. Whilst working at MATCH Hospitality and the 2018 football World Cup in Russia, was a fantastic opportunity (it really was), it was a truly international business and therefore I was limited in terms of the legal advice I was able to give. At the end of the day, I am an English trained lawyer and that is what I enjoy doing. I enjoy the variation in terms of clients and personalities you work with in private practice, and the opportunity to help them develop and grow. For me, it’s so exciting seeing a start-up client starting off on the journey or a more established client starting a new project or in a new market, and supporting and advising them through that. For me it is all about being a part of the client’s journey.

What has been the most rewarding –project that you’ve been involved in?

That is an easy one. It has to be the 2018 football World Cup in Russia. As a private practice lawyer, you never really get the chance to work on a truly international project, which is three-plus years in the making. To see that project right the way through to the actual tournament last summer was so rewarding. It was amazing. To be physically on the ground in Russia for five weeks, seeing and experiencing the tournament first-hand (particularly the hospitality programme) was a once in a lifetime opportunity. To walk around the hospitality areas and be at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow at the World Cup Final, knowing that you played your part in ensuring the clients had the experience of a lifetime, was so rewarding. It is difficult to put into 150 words!

You’re based in Manchester so what do you think are the biggest challenges facing businesses in the North West?

I think there’s a new world on the horizon for many businesses when it comes to new markets to trade with and there’s a good chance some more traditional trade routes might become less attractive when compared to others as new trade deals are struck. Businesses need the ability to react to market changes and see the opportunities out there that come with any level of change. Speaking professionally it’s been very interesting to see the type of work coming in to us from our more innovative import / export clients, and the work new business relationships we’re being asked to oversee.

If you could improve anything in the region what would it be?

I think if you look across the region you’ve got Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester all within 45 miles of each other, but instead of being a triangle of power it’s more like the Bermuda Triangle of lost travel time. I think the government is missing a trick linking HS2 from the south up and not having better connections in the north first. This way we would get businesses working closer together and pushing a more thriving northern economic agenda.

Where would you like the commercial department to be in five years’ time?

I would like to see us being the number one law firm of choice for commercial contracts work in Manchester. We want to expand to different sectors and client (particularly sports, hospitality, renewables and heavy industry), using the skills and experience both Simon, I and the rest of the commercial team have. Simon already has an excellent reputation in the region for being one of the go to commercial lawyers; especially for IT and data protection work. I would like to see the team build on Simon’s and Knight’s growing reputation for quality legal and commercial advice, to build a strong commercial team, with a superb reputation in the region. This is something our corporate finance team (excellently led by James Sheridan) in particular already have, and so I think it is achievable.

In your view, what sets Knights apart from other law firms?

What sets Knights apart from other law firms is its ambition for growth and success. Following the listing on the AIM market last year, there is a clear focus on becoming the number one legal and professional services business outside London. Our innovative approach of delivering successful business partnerships has created a unique proposition for our employees, clients and investors.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career?

This is really a difficult one. Clearly, my parents have had a massive influence on my career. They have both been so supportive and encourage me all the time. I also think that they have kept me grounded and level-headed which is such an important part of being a commercial lawyer and professional adviser these days. I also have to mention here the various partners and managers I have worked for over the years. Again they have been extremely influential, every one of them, in their different ways. I hope that I have been able to learn from them and their strengths and, probably more importantly, weaknesses.