Bill Gornall-King is a Partner in the Commercial & Technology group at Boyes Turner LLP and specialises in helping organisations protect and exploit their intellectual property both in the UK and internationally. He is ranked by both Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession and The Legal 500 as one of the UK's leading IT and Corporate & Commercial lawyers.
1. When you were at Brighton College, what did you want to be when you ‘grew-up’?
My Birkbeck test results suggested that I should do well in Finance (accountancy, banking and finance) or law. My grandfather thought I should do accountancy, perhaps this was prescient as accountants do now seem to rule the world! Entering the family profession – medicine – was not an option for me as I dropped (as it would turn out foolishly) physics and chemistry before O level.
I was torn between the army and the law and the law won!
In terms of lawyering, originally I thought I’d like to be a barrister - for two years I was in the College public speaking team and had enjoyed debating at Prep School (St Christopher’s) - but a school visit to Lincoln’s Inn and meeting with Lord Denning, the then Master of the Rolls, convinced me that I would probably make a better solicitor.
2. What are you now you've grown up?
I am a solicitor, husband and father. I help to run a National 2 Rugby Club. I’m an enthusiastic military historian. I’m a charity fundraiser for Action for Children. I’m a trustee of the Sandhurst Trust and a non-executive director of the Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce; also business representative on the Reading Local Strategic Partnership and the Business growth and Skills group of the Reading UK CIC.
3. What is your best memory of school?
That’s difficult. I have struggled with “best” because, after a somewhat difficult first year, I have many good memories of my time at the College.
A few of them:
- Singing in Verdi’s Requiem in the Dome in 1974
- Commanding the CCF Guard of Honour at the AGI in 1976 and the contingent then being selected to represent CCFs at the Queen’s Silver Jubilee review in 1977
- Coming second in the School Senior Cross Country race in 1976 (to everyone else’s surprise!)
- School Plays whether acting or as stage crew
- Tea with condensed milk in the armoury and sage counsel from the RSM
- Shooting in the .22 range
- Winning a wager with the RSM by putting a .303 round through a torn off piece of cigarette packet (provided by the RSM!) at the end of our day on the ranges at my last CCF camp – I still have it somewhere
- Being ‘set up’ on a date by Anna Stewart and Jim Gordon on Valentines Day 1976 with Tory Glasby. Forty years later we’re still together and celebrated being married for 33 years last month!
4. What was the best piece of advice you were given?
Three: two of which I follow and one I struggle with and I’ll leave you to guess which it is:
- Own up if you’ve made a mistake
- A problem shared is a problem halved
- Don’t sweat the small stuff
5. What do you do/did you do as a career?
Having resisted the sadly late lamented Bill Blackshaw’s entreaties after I received my ‘A’ level results (no going to school to collect them in those days they arrived by postcard!) to return for the Oxbridge term I read law at Exeter. Who’d believe their offer was for BBC grades! From there I went to the College of Law at Guildford for the “guinea pig” one year long “Finals” course and then to Reading for two years articles with a law firm in 1980.
Not for a moment did I think I would still be in Reading 36 years later!
After qualifying in 1982, I remained at the firm at which I had trained for six years, becoming a partner in 1985. Whilst there I was national chairman of the Law Society’s Trainee Solicitors Group, beating a young lawyer called Keith Vaz in the election to the chair. We persuaded the Law Society to introduce the minimum salary wage for articled clerks, since abolished but maybe about to be reintroduced – how the wheel turns!
Later I became Secretary of the national committee of the Young Solicitors Group and co-wrote a Law Society booklet for aspirant law firm partners. I sat on the Society’s Education & Training committee for three years and helped introduce continuing professional development!
I left in 1988 to join another firm in Reading. Then called Boyes Turner & Burrows I was its tenth partner. We had 35 staff across two offices. It’s now called Boyes Turner we’re 175 strong with 21 partners operating from a single office in Reading. We have been named Regional Law Firm of the Year twice in four years.
I began my career as a commercial lawyer and remain that. In the eighties and nineties I did a lot of insolvency and restructuring work but throughout my career I have specialised in intellectual property and IT law, advising businesses in the TMT, electronics and engineering sectors, advising on the protection and exploitation of their intellectual property, hence my regret at not having kept up science. I work with a number of international businesses helping them to negotiate global trading arrangements as well as advising on their business strategy and from time to time crisis management.
For twelve years I served on the Law Society’s Intellectual Property Committee (2003-2015).
I was chairman of Boyes Turner for eight years (2001-2005).
I am still a partner and full-time lawyer. I find the challenges of problem solving and providing solutions for my clients stimulating and rewarding. I spend much of my time mentoring and developing the skills of junior lawyers as well as providing counsel to my partners. I am still learning – maybe that’s why lawyers practice law?!
I am a non-executive director of the Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce Group, one of the largest BCC accredited chambers of commerce outside London.
For the past three years I have been a trustee of the Sandhurst Trust a charity that supports the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, through promoting esprit de corps, sustaining ethos and preserving its heritage as well as promoting and promulgating the Army’s approach to leadership.
Locally, I am a board member of the Reading Local Strategic Partnership which brings together the local authority, various agencies, community groups and business with a view to working in partnership for the benefit of all the town’s residents, visitors and people who travel to work in Reading.
6. What does/did your job involve?
Being available to my clients whenever they need me; often acting as their guide and mentor – as their trusted advisor - providing an objective view whilst seeking solutions to the issues they face thus enabling them to achieve their objectives.
It also means working hard, modern instantaneous communication has bred a belief that advice can equally be given instantaneously! The pressure to perform has never been greater. In addition there is the challenge of constantly looking to find and develop new clients; and keeping up-to-date with changes in the law, statutory and judge-made, as the law does not stand still.
Teamship and management skills: developing team players, nurturing a love of the law and ensuring good communication skills.
7. What are the most challenging parts of your job?
Managing client expectations: even when sometimes they are unrealistic as to what is involved in achieving their objectives, the timescale within which and the price at which they can be performed.
Not having enough “thinking time”!
Compliance with our regulators’ ever-changing strictures!
8. What have you done that you are most proud of?
Hmmm! That’s a hard one. Aside from purely work–related achievements for clients there are a number that I can’t rank but which are a source of pride:
- Whilst at Exeter, being selected for County and S-W Students fencing teams, captaining my University team and being awarded University colours
- Being Hon.Secretary of the Exeter University Athletic Union at the time of the “merger” with St Luke’s College. The University left the negotiations relating to sport to the student body: this was quite fraught as their rugby club had a long and proud tradition, on a par with Loughborough, which they were more than keen to preserve but we reached a compromise by combining their playing colours into the University’s for a limited number of seasons: that taught me a lot about negotiation!
- Being chairman of my Local Round Table in 1994-95 and subsequently Area Chairman for the Thames Valley in 1996-97
- Completing six charity bike rides for cancer charities in six years including Bristol to London three times
- Being a member of the board of Byte Night - Thames Valley. The board organises the sleep out by executives in the IT industry in the Thames Valley which is part of the annual national sleep that raises over a £1 million each year for Action for Children, a charity which seeks to tackle the scourge of youth homelessness – this year is our tenth and we aim to break through our own £1million barrier, for the money we have raised in the Thames Valley over the decade!
- Being Youth Chairman of Redingensians Rams RFC which plays in National 2-South to ensure that the structures are in place for nurturing the talent of 350+ children and instilling a love of the game of rugby with its potential to develop teamship and social skills in young people
- As their coach, taking an age group of young players from the age of five to Colts which became a hugely successful but happy squad of young men who fulfilled their potential by progressing to the Finals of the National Colts Cup in 2011:four of them now regularly play for the club’s 1st XV and another eight are playing for the 2nd and 3rd XVs: all of them have grown to become self-assured, delightful young men who have made the most of their talent and “get stuck in”! Even more, they are friends for life and I am proud that I may have played a small part in those outcomes.
- Being married to Tory for 33 years and having two wonderful children of whom I am immensely proud.
9. What is the single thing that would most improve the quality of your life?
Being freed from the tyranny of the time sheet! Lawyers will know what I mean.
10. What are the three objects you would take with you to a desert island?
Assuming I have my eight records, the Bible and Complete Works of Shakespeare:
I’m going to be cheeky here: it would have to be my library of military history books and my reading spectacles – would that count as one object? Actually, here I wish to pay tribute to one of the three masters at the College who truly inspired me: the late great Norman Frith who developed my love of history which then lay dormant for nearly 25 years before a friend – an ex-Gunner – took me on my first visit to Flanders and the Somme (the closest we ever got in history to the 1st World War was the “Origins of the Russian Revolution” in European History!) and reawoke in me a passion for history.
Secondly, a coffee machine with grinder and an infinite supply of yirgacheffe coffee beans.
Thirdly, a trombone and a supply of sheet music so I can pick up where I left off 40 years ago and master the instrument (and not have to write the slide positions over every note)!!
11. How would you like to be remembered?
To be frank I’d be flattered if anyone remembered me.
I have always been inspired by the motto of St Christopher’s – altiora peto which, if I remember correctly, translates as ‘I seek higher things’ or I aim higher; and also the College’s ΤΟ Δ’ΕΥ ΝΙΚΑΤΩ ‘Let right prevail’.
I hope I will be remembered as someone who cared and tried to make a positive difference.