This article is part of our Oxford Spotlight' series, profiling our 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.
Nicola is a Partner in the Corporate Department with particular experience in advising companies and investors on funding rounds from seed through to exit. She frequently works with spin outs and start-ups from universities and research institutions embracing the ambition, energy and drive of the entrepreneurs behind these companies and the foresight and vision of those investors who support them.
I wanted to get into law because… at school I used to love history, and there was a girl in my class whose mum was a barrister. I didn’t know what it was, and one day I decided to look it up. Once I started reading into careers in the law it was the sense of history that further gripped my interest – the history of the law and the traditions, and the wigs and gowns. Several of my maternal family were in the police and the idea of upholding the law with a background of that sort of tradition really appealed to me. And, needless to say, I liked arguing and debating.
I came to be in Oxford because… I’d worked in London on a lot of big deals involving university spin outs. And although I wanted to move out, I wanted to keep doing the kind of work I had been doing in London and keep using the skills I had developed. That’s how I ended up at Oxford, because there is a world class university spinning out really interesting, science-rich and IP-rich companies.
I chose Corporate law because… As a Corporate lawyer you get to see lots of different kinds of transactions. As corporate lawyers on a deal we are in the middle, coordinating lots of different practice areas against the backdrop of commercial negotiations, and I get to be exposed to all of it.
The thing that motivates me most is… Seeing, and working with, lots of truly disruptive, innovative people, companies and ideas, and ensuring that they are successful.
The work achievement I'm most proud of is… I can’t choose just one, but one that stands out is working on one of the early COVID-19 tests that were developed in Oxford. The company span out of the university and was then sold within four months, and it was complicated not just because it was in the early stages of the pandemic with lots of new working practices but also because it involved parties in different jurisdictions and time zones. It ended up being the fastest exit Oxford University has ever done.
The thing that makes Oxford such a hub of innovation is… People associate innovation in Oxford with the university, and you can’t deny that it is a significant major stakeholder. But it’s not the only source by a long way – there are lots of research parks that are totally independent of the university. There is also Oxford Brookes, which is one of the top 10 universities in the country for licensing income. There's innovation everywhere: Oxford is made-up of of a community of curious, interested, engaged people who ask questions and want to deliver.
One opportunity from the merger is… It’s difficult to choose one – I feel a bit like a kid in a sweet shop! We can just offer so much more to our clients and our community with services and a level of resources that we didn’t enjoy before.
Somebody that has inspired me during my career is… I work with a serial entrepreneur, and have advised them on a few exits now. But what inspires me about this individual, is that they are passionate about the environment and climate change. Despite being financially very successful, retirement and a quiet life isn’t in their vocabulary and they have maintained that motivation and enthusiasm, convening dinners, contributing to research and recycling their expertise and their money into supporting others developing technologies to address the bio diversity challenge and the climate crisis.
One future trend in my practice area is… The development of the UK as a scientific superpower. And linked to that, a diversification of sources of funds, as well the opportunity for greater clustering and collaboration between universities.
One thing you didn’t know about me is… I have a black belt in judo, although I got it while I was at university, so it was a while ago. I also bake – my Christmas puddings (complete with being soaked in an entire bottle of brandy) are pretty legendary. I’m also a big fan of gin, independent travel and travel photography!