In this in-depth interview we chat to Steve Turner about his role at Nycomm, why he chose a career in-house and more
Steve, can you please quickly summarise your education and career path to date?
After studying law at Sheffield University, I spent a year as a paralegal in
the Litigation team at Nabarro. I started a training contract with Eversheds in
2010 and was lucky enough to spend six months in the Corporate team in Shanghai
to gain some international experience. When I returned I qualified in the Real
Estate Litigation team in Manchester and spent six years working for clients
like Manchester United, Manchester Airport and Morrisons on a range of property
disputes. I took the plunge into the in-house world last summer when I accepted
a job as the Head of Legal and Company Secretary at Nycomm.
What kind of work do you undertake at Nycomm?
Nycomm has grown considerably as a business over the last few years. We now
have a team of three and we have had to put in place a lot of processes and
procedures to ensure that as the business grows, it is legally compliant and
risk is minimised. I work on a huge range of matters including commercial
contracts, IP, financial services, litigation, company secretary and employment
related matters. I have also taken on quite a few non-legal tasks including
managing and procuring our insurance, assisting on tenders and frameworks and
What’s the most enjoyable thing about your current role?
I have really enjoyed the challenge of developing the department and managing a
team. Initially I spent time with each department working out areas of risk and
how to implement improvements. I also love how fast paced the work is and the
variety of queries I receive. When your client is the people you work with it
feels like there is a real opportunity to make a difference and to see things
through from start to finish.
What first attracted you to law?
It feels like a long time ago now but I think a combination of a really
inspirational teacher from my law A-Level class and TV.
You started your career in private practice so what made you switch in-house?
After eight years at Eversheds I felt ready for a new challenge and was looking
for something with a bit more variety. I really enjoyed working in private
practice but looking ahead to the future I wanted to try something with a
little less black letter law and a bit more practical application and the most
obvious next step seemed to be to experience working within a business. The aim
was to learn a lot of transferable skills which could open up any number of
different career routes in the future.
What was the biggest surprise?
The main surprise was that in many respects it feels like a completely different
line of work to that of a private practice lawyer. You need to be willing to
provide advice quickly, take risks when appropriate but also to push back when
necessary. It feels strange and completely contrary to how I was trained not to
try to get every piece of work into the most perfect state possible, but often
the commercial drivers override this. It also brings its own challenges when
your client is sat on the same floor as you! Even though this was to be
expected, I was also quite surprised by the sheer volume of variety – in my
first week I was advising on competition law and dealing with a TUPE dispute,
the next week I was drafting finance documents.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of working in-house?
I think to be open-minded about the opportunities that are available. I worked
as a Real Estate Litigator at Eversheds for eight years which is hardly the
usual fit to take on a general role with a telecoms firm advising on all
aspects of law. I have found that the skills you learn as a lawyer, regardless
of the discipline, are extremely transferable and actually the ones I use a lot
tend to be my litigation skills. This has really influenced me when I have
recruited for the team – I think it’s easy to think that the only suitable fit
for an in-house role are lawyers with commercial experience but it has been
really useful to get a good mix of people with different experience.
What four words best sum you up as a lawyer?
Approachable. Enthusiastic. Practical. Diligent.
Do you have a motto that you live by in business?
No motto as such but I have been described by some of the senior team here at
Nycomm as someone that tries to kill people with kindness. There are always
times when you have to hold firm with people in business, whether it be the
other side in a piece of litigation, colleagues, directors, or lawyers on the
other side in a transactional negotiation. My aim is always to try and treat
everybody with the same amount of respect and to save belligerence until it’s
absolutely necessary – you spend a lot of your life working and I prefer to do
so with a smile on my face and to enjoy work where possible.
Finally, who has been your biggest career inspiration and why?
I have been lucky to work with some great characters who have helped to shape
my career. In particular, I have learned and taken inspiration from James
Batham and David McGuirk, the two partners I trained and worked with at
Eversheds. James is a very senior partner at Eversheds and, despite being one
of the busiest people I have ever met, will always take the time to mentor
junior staff and to provide personal support. He is also continually looking to
think outside the box and break the perception of your usual lawyer. David is
calm, supportive and a technically brilliant lawyer. I am really grateful for
the training I got at Eversheds and always try to treat my team and colleagues
with the same respect and provide the same support as I got in the formative
years of my career.