Featured Panel Member: Nicholas S

It’s not every day you meet a former barrister who has successfully transitioned to become a sought after contractor for in-house legal teams.

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That’s exactly what Nicholas has done after leaving the bar in 2017 to set up his own IP, litigation and commercial law practice. Since then, he has contracted to a variety of corporate legal teams such as Telstra, Nine Entertainment Co. and Fairfax.

We sat down with Nicholas to learn more.

1. What are you best at i.e. your sweet spot?

Getting work done. My best (some would say my only) ability is that I don’t procrastinate and turn around work quickly. I find that being prompt and commercial really builds a good reputation so when you do have to give tough advice to the business they trust you and are much more receptive to that advice.

2. What’s the most interesting skillset or experience that you can offer a legal team as a consultant/contractor?

I spent 5 years as a barrister, which was a great experience. In that role I was often required to pick up and run cases involving clients I was not familiar with and areas of law that I had not worked on before.  I have found the skills I developed in “mastering a brief” to be really helpful in an in house role where you get matters where you have to work out the business drivers and the specific legal issues affecting very quickly. 

3. What have been your favourite projects/engagements/roles/clients?

As a solicitor at KWM I was heavily involved in the launch of the (sadly now defunct) Masters Home Improvement chain, advising Woolworths on all sorts of issues, in particular branding. It was a great learning experience as to the complexity of setting up such a business and I am in continued awe of how some of the senior management people at Woolworths managed it all.

4. Any tips for a GC/Partner who’s never used a contractor in their team?

One great advantage of using a more experienced contractor (in addition to their ability to handle the workflow) is that the contractor may be able to share insights and experiences from their former roles (i.e. “at Telstra we handled this issue in this way” or “at Nine we used this software to manage this sort of workflow”). All good in-house teams are a mixture of lawyers who have deep experience with the company and fresh blood who can bring new ideas in.

5. You’re one of the few former barristers I've seen branch out on their own back into private practice – what prompted that move?

I enjoyed the bar, but decided that I didn’t want to spend the next 20 years of my life running up and down to court and dealing with the stress of trials. I would encourage any lawyer interested to try the bar but ultimately I find my work in helping clients get deals done (and sort out problems) a lot more rewarding. 

6. Since we’ve known you, you seem to be able to juggle in a healthy mix of contracting, advisory and hearings work, how do those work streams fit together?

When I am not working on my part-time contractual roles as an in house counsel, I work for IP Australia as a hearing officer, deciding trade mark oppositions. I really enjoy the mix, with some days involving life as a busy in-house counsel, constantly in meetings and firing off e-mails, while other days involve working from home reflecting on my administrative decisions. Mentally each one operates as a break from the other.

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Nicholas is available for part-time, on-site or remote placements and ad-hoc advisory work – feel free to get in touch with us 👋🏻