How to break into Big 4 commercial law with Jock Steel
11 November 2020

How to break into Big 4 commercial law with Jock Steel

Published on 11 November 2020

Jock Steel didn’t expect to find himself in commercial law with a Big 4 firm. After all, he started his career with the Department of Defence in Canberra, a world apart from Ernst & Young (“EY”), where he now works as Legal Counsel for the General Counsel’s Office Oceania. Insights spoke to Jock about his less than linear path to Ernst & Young.

A far from linear career

“I’ve had a diverse career so my pathway to a commercial legal role has been far from linear!” explained Jock. As a young lawyer, the Department of Defence encouraged his interest in the nexus between commercial law and intellectual property.

“It was an inspirational environment for a young lawyer to deliver commercial legal outcomes whilst working with world-class engineers, defence personnel, and members of defence industry,” said Jock. “I was encouraged to gain an in-depth understanding of the technological capabilities Defence acquired or sustained and to work closely with our Defence personnel clients – these two facets have continued to motivate and mould my professional skillset.”

His experience positioned him perfectly to join EY.

“I provide commercial legal services across the full breadth of EY’s service lines with a focus on matters that are technology-related, such as digital services, cybersecurity, and automation; together with the development of new applications and solutions to support the firm’s service delivery,” explained Jock.

Joining EY was an opportunity to work in an organisation at the crest of transformational changes to our society and the marketplace.

“The legal challenges are diverse, complex, and exciting” said Jock, “and I am fortunate to be in a role in which I can be a creative practitioner and break new legal ground to achieve the best outcomes for my clients”.

A typical day of triage, huddle, and demos

Jock’s days are busy. Mornings kick off with a quick triage of matters and a team huddle to share key focus areas for the day, along with any knowledge worth sharing.

“This meeting sets up the rest of the day – usually comprised of client meetings, negotiations, and reviewing new agreements,” said Jock.

“A major highlight is receiving demonstrations from other EY teams about their work or a new piece of technology they’re developing. These demonstrations are always interesting, insightful, and help me to consider legal issues that may only emerge when our teams are delivering client services.”

Ahead of evening global GCO calls, Jock often breaks up his day with exercise to stay fresh and recalibrate. 

“Thanks to EY’s global presence and size, I am fortunate to sit on the technology, and managed services working groups,” said Jock. “These forums are a great opportunity to share knowledge and understand global trends or international case law developments.”

Get a sense of commercial law from practitioners

If you would like to learn more about what commercial law involves, ask someone in practice.

“Speak to a mentor, a colleague, or friend who works in the area and get a sense of whether it would be a good fit for you,” suggested Jock.

From the start, Jock was granted considerable autonomy to run his own matters, supported by his team leader and the General Counsel. 

“This level of trust and responsibility makes every day rewarding as I can champion my client relationships, legal service delivery, and continue to learn.”

He expects COVID, which has already triggered mass commercial uptake of remote work technology, to continue to impact the profession.

“I think COVID will be a catalyst for the market to shape the legal industry,” said Jock. “My expectation is that with the right mix of legal smarts and business acumen, the legal sector will ride the COVID wave very well.”