bckr | Non Executive Directorships – The Lawyers Point of View – With Tim Eyles
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Non Executive Directorships – The Lawyers Point of View – With Tim Eyles

Non Executive Directorships – The Lawyers Point of View – With Tim Eyles

This week we were pleased to welcome distinguished lawyer Tim Eyles who gave us the benefit of his wisdom as an experienced Non Executive Director and Trustee. Here is a summary of what he had to say.

Tim chairs the Jerwood Foundation, which over the years has given over £100m to the arts.

His passion for the arts alongside his role as managing partner of Taylor Wessing makes him a fantastic example of a lawyer managing serious NED roles alongside a substantial legal career.

Tim started at Goodman Derrick, chaired by Lord Goodman who was very well connected, and it was a great place to learn how to develop business. Lord Goodman held breakfasts, lunches and dinners, opera visits etc. where at each event there would be people to link together. However, it was all about Lord Goodman, and so Tim made the move to Taylor Garrett and has now been there 30 years.

John Jerwood was a client of the firm. He died too young and very well off but had no family. His executor was Alan Grieve, a Senior Partner at Taylor Garrett who was coming up for retirement. He was chair of the trust for John Jerwood’s estate and was given a broad remit by the will to give to the Arts. Tim kept in touch with Alan, who was a great networker and mentor, and in due course was invited to join the board of Jerwood Space.

Jerwood Space, was a rehearsal space cum art gallery which they rented out to major theatres – rents driven by the size etc of tenant. In 2000 they decided to move a large chunk of funds into a charitable foundation, which became the Jerwood Trust. The Jerwood Trust, which Tim has chaired for the last ten years, gives funds to arts organisations and supports emerging artists via schemes such as the Assistant Directors scheme at the Young Vic and makes sure the funds are being properly spent.

There are 4 meetings a year and a lot of events to attend. If it was only the meetings it wouldn’t be nearly so interesting.

Looking back Tim believes the best opportunities come from people very close to you. The Theatres Trust came through such contacts – a lunch with friends in south of France, another guest, An introduction to Tim Clark and then on to Odgers arts headhunter. The Theatres Trust (coincidentally set up by Lord Goodman) is a DCMS controlled statutory body. When he took on the chair role he had to develop its strategy. Their objective is to promote theatre, and to protect theatre buildings and advise on how to develop theatres across the UK.

Juggling decent external roles alongside the day job requires you to be very good at managing time but it’s hugely enriching. It opens up a lot of doors, you meet very interesting people and it forces you to deal with people differently. The blunt quick style of lawyers talking to people does not work for the arts. It’s taught him another way of dealing with clients which has been good for his practice. Not only is it stretching but it is also a great way of increasing your network.

Lessons learned
• If you’re going to be a chair, check out the management and board
• Don’t talk law. That is not the skill they are looking for.
• They don’t know what you don’t know, so you can get away with a lot if you’re good at fronting things up.
• Don’t under estimate how much running a law firm brings to your understanding of business. The right lawyers bring along a combination of forward thinking, intellectual rigour (which is often missing in the arts), and common sense.
• Do you have a sense of marketing? Law is very competitive – trying to distinguish your own firm from others teaches you a lot.
• Knowing how to use experts in the right way.
• You will need to be a richer more interesting person in the future to win the clients. A chair role of a charity will give you more profile so may be more useful in this regard. Good for the connections, to broaden your mind and create business opportunities.

Tim was 40+ when he started the NED practice, but too often lawyers aren’t interested because they feel nervous, head down, counting the hours. There’s a crying need in the third sector for the involvement of business people. Think small to start with, remember the location and the rest of your life to make it easy to work. Implicit discouragement of roles within the law firms has, at Taylor Wessing, now turned into positive encouragement for roles, often through clients directly or indirectly. Good news for the individual and the firm – subliminal message it’s good for showing your business credentials. All within the confines of making your own legal business work. Needs a cultural change in law firms for ensuring the risks are assessed and the right people know, but if the spirit is ‘let’s encourage this’.

The real challenges in taking on a chairman role are that it can be tricky to feel your way to what’s wanted from you and challenging to find out what the trustees know and what they’re skills are.

Many people outside the law are really in silos in their jobs. Lawyers underestimate how broad their commercial experience is in different sectors and businesses and how flexible their minds are for turning to different topics.