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Hugh Tebay - Mishcon de Reya

Oxford Spotlight: Hugh Tebay

Posted on 23 October 2023

This article is part of our 'Oxford Spotlight' series, profiling the lawyers based in our Oxford office. In the series, we find out about their backgrounds, their journey through law and hear why Oxford is important to them. 

Hugh Tebay is a Partner in the Innovation department and part of our Technology Transactions team. He is a commercial technology lawyer and has specialist expertise in the commercialisation of intellectual property rights.  

I knew I wanted to get into law when … I started early. I was a scientist at A Level stage, but realised I didn't want to progress with pure sciences at university. One of my teachers suggested that they thought the law would be good for me, so I researched what a law degree and a career in the law would involve, and it seemed to click for me! It combines a logical approach to problems, but also involves creativity - and I've always loved problem solving.  

I came to be in Oxford because … my wife and I had always agreed that we'd move out of the City when we had children. When that time came, my very first interview was with an Oxford firm called Dallas Brett, which was a highly regarded firm with a particular reputation for its intellectual property work. Two years later Dallas Brett ceased to be, but the IP team started the first Oxford office of Rouse and Co, an international niche IP practice, and I've been in Oxford ever since.  

I chose Intellectual Property as an area of work because … IP is at the heart of tech and innovation. Ther majority of the work I do is centred around intellectual property rights and the protection commercialization of intellectual property.  I was fortunate to be offered a training seat in the small IP team when I was a trainee at Slaughter & May.  At that time not many people knew what intellectual property was, but immediately enjoyed it and knew right away that it was the area I wanted to specialise in.  

The thing that motivates me most is … I enjoy working with people. That's why I love doing what I do, because I get to work with inspirational colleagues and clients – and most days I get to meet interesting new people, learn about their businesses and see how the team can help.  

I particularly enjoy getting to understand new businesses and to learn about their technology. It really is inspiring to see the extraordinary innovation that is out there.  

The work achievement I'm most proud of is …  when I was a junior lawyer, I was asked to review a large number of IP-related contracts as part of a due diligence exercise on a very substantial business sale.  I found what seemed to me to be a serious issue for our client which was buying the business. The negotiations were in an advanced stage, and I had to disturb the all-parties meeting to alert them to what I had discovered. I was terrified that I had made a mistake, but luckily I hadn't and the parties had time to pause to sort out the issue (which was a big one!). I remember thinking afterwards: "I can do this!" 

The thing that makes Oxford such a hub of innovation is … Oxford is a place that attracts serious innovation – whether through the University or otherwise.  The University obviously is a source of significant innovation and crucially has a very well-developed tech transfer office in OUI that helps to support innovation and encourage development of opportunities to commercialise the resulting technology.  

One opportunity from the merger is … in addition to combining the range of expertise of both teams which is incredibly exciting, the merger provides us with an excellent opportunity to expand the scope and reach of our virtual general counsel service, 'Mishcon GC', under which we support businesses who need legal support where they don't have an in-house legal resource, or require access to specialist complementary legal support. This service is proving very popular with our expanded range of clients.  

Somebody that has inspired me during my career is … While I was at Rouse & Co, I was most fortunate to get to know and work with Tony Willoughby. Not only is Tony a hugely respected IP lawyer, he is also an absolute delight to work with. When I was lucky enough to work with him, I always had the utmost respect not only for his experience and expertise, but also the way he conducted himself. Always smiling and courteous, he was always generous with his time and always encouraging to others.

One thing I wish I knew when I started my career is … life is about change, so change should be expected and embraced! I also wish I'd learned shorthand!

The future of my practice area looks like … the advances in legal tech are extraordinary and offer the opportunity to focus increasingly on where we as commercial lawyers can offer the best value. The pace at which we need to work continues to increase and so the effective use of legal tech will be crucial. 

The one thing you don't know about me is ... I recently became a grandad for the first time. I have absolutely loved being a Dad to my four children, and now it's incredibly exciting to enter this new phase of being a Grandad. I'm already starting to bolster my bank of dad jokes with grandad jokes.  

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