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A custom-made career: Hyder Consulting general counsel Stephen Uhr

A custom-made career: Hyder Consulting general counsel Stephen Uhr

Stephen Uhr, general counsel at Hyder Consulting Nine years ago, Hyder Consulting general coun

Stephen Uhr, general counsel at Hyder Consulting
Nine years ago, Hyder Consulting general counsel Stephen Uhr walked out of an interview for a coveted position at a top London law firm, and he hasn't looked back since. He speaks to Zoe Lyon.

Stephen Uhr's professional "moment of truth" came in 2000 while he was being interviewed for a position in a large London law firm. He'd previously spent three years learning the ropes from Mark Carkeet at Minter Ellison in Brisbane before relocating to London with no plan to move in-house.

However, during the interview - with three of the firm's partners - the penny dropped.

"I asked what sort of hours to expect and they said: 'We're busy like most law firms, so you might have to work the odd weekend and some nights we stay until the work's done'.

"All the signs that point to 12 to14-hour days and working every weekend. So, at that point in the interview I said:'Thank you for the interview, it's been really nice to meet you, but I just don't think this is for me'," he explains.

Instead, Uhr took up his first inhouse role at an IT recruitment consultancy, later moving to Credit Suisse First Boston, and then to motoring company RAC plc, where he took on a greenfield legal role for a new division.

It was through this role that he felt he really developed the essential skills of an in-house lawyer. "They'd never had legal support before, so I was in the car, up and down the length of the UK, trying to convince truck salesmen that I could add value to their business," he laughs.

In 2004, Uhr married Caroline Grant and returned to Australia, where he took up his current role as general counsel of engineering consultancy Hyder Consulting. He's also since taken up various other roles, including a directorship of the Australian Corporate

Lawyers Association and chair of the contract and risk roundtable at the Association of Consulting Engineers in Australia.

The role at Hyder appealed, he says, because as with RAC, it was a brand new position that he felt he could make his own. "I started out quite junior, and the role has been quite flexible - it's really grown with me - and these days I sit with the executive board, I'm the director of the subsidiary companies, and I chair the bidding process for bids over $1 million."

>> For the latest news, views and analysis of issues affecting in-house lawyers, check out Lawyers Weekly's dedicated in-house sitewww.lawyersinhouse.com.au

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