Nancy Walmsley

Nancy Walmsley

Group Legal Counsel at Murphy Group

In this in-depth interview Nancy discusses switching from private practice, the growth plans for the business and more

Nancy, can you tell us a bit about your own career to date?
After training in local government, I spent the next fifteen years at Addleshaw Goddard as a senior construction and projects lawyer, working on large infrastructure projects across the UK. After a couple of children and a client secondment, I moved back in-house to Murphy as Group Legal Counsel in June 2016.

What made you move in-house from private practice?
For me, it was about taking on a new challenge at a point in my career when I wanted greater influence over decision making in a business, accessibility and proximity to the leadership team and flexibility in how I worked. In the end the opportunity at Murphy was a winning combination of the right role, organisation and team. I liked what everyone had to say about the future of the business and how the legal team would fit into that.

What was the biggest challenge?
Handing my notice in! That aside, the biggest challenge has probably been in forcing myself to acknowledge that it will take time to fully understand the Murphy business and that it’s an ongoing process.

Would you ever go back?
No, I don’t think so. I was once told that you have time for three careers in your life; if that’s true I’m only at the start of my second and enjoying what that throws at me.

What does the Murphy Group do and what’s its background?
The company was started back in 1951 by John Murphy. It’s a family-owned engineering and construction business with around 4,000 employees, that delivers a wide range of services to build vital infrastructure. The company also has a track record in living its values with a real commitment to safety.

What core sectors does the business operate in?
We’re focused on working in four key infrastructure sectors – rail, power, water and natural resources. We also have a range of other businesses – such as ground engineering and plant – that offer related services to our core business and the market as a whole.

Where in the world are you most active?
Much of our work is in the UK and Ireland, where the investment in infrastructure does provide lots of opportunities. We’ve just won a contract for HS2 for example, working in a joint venture. We also have interests in Canada and Australia, again, using our core skills and will look to continue to operate in those international markets if the opportunities work for us.

The last few years have seen a shift in the strategy of the firm; can you tell us a bit about that and its 10 year plan?
Our 10 year plan is our blueprint for growth. The company has a fantastic legacy – not only its skills and experience, but also the culture and values. We are building on that legacy to grow the business, having some clear objectives in place to do that over the coming decade. For example, we have a £2bn per annum revenue target and a 10% margin target, but we will achieve that by focusing on our core sectors and continue our teamwork ethos working as ‘one’ Murphy.

How is the legal team currently structured?
We’re a team of four solicitors, including a company secretary and general counsel who has been with the business for nearly 25 years. Myself and the rest of the team are based in the North West and together we service the entire Murphy Group, with support from external legal firms as needed. With the exception of one employment specialist, we have all come to Murphy as construction or commercial lawyers who undertake a broad range of legal work to support the business.

What kind of work does the legal team cover?
The team has a key role to play in the governance and risk management of the business. Given the nature of the Murphy business, we review a wide range of construction contracts across our core sectors of rail, power, water and natural resources; this involves working closely with colleagues from our commercial, procurement and work winning teams. We advise on ancillary documents such as bonds and guarantees and on all types of commercial contracts, disputes, property, employment, reputational and regulatory matters bringing in specialist external advice as needed. We regularly advise on non-UK projects and M&A work as it arises; for example we recently acquired an additional business in Ireland. The company secretarial function has also recently been brought in-house.

What‘s your vision for the team moving forward?
A first class in-house legal team servicing the whole Murphy Group irrespective of location or sector.