Bolton School Former Pupils

Simon Turner (1987-1994)

I attended Bolton School from 1987 to 1994, and was taught by some wonderful teachers, foremost amongst them A.E. Jackson (who taught me classics up to A-Level) and C.G Edmundson (who awarded me a music scholarship, taught me throughout my school career and inspired me to read law). To them, and the many others who helped me, I owe a huge debt of gratitude.

I went on to Magdalen College, Oxford, and enjoyed the experience immensely. After my law degree I followed my dream to become a barrister, completing pupillage (apprenticeship) at Lamb Chambers in the Temple. At that point I hit a rather large bump in the road: only one of four pupils got the tenancy (the permanent job) and it wasn't me. Having until then led a life without significant obstacles, I had to figure out my future from my friends' sofas. I chose to follow a slightly different path and joined the London office of Allen & Overy, a global firm of solicitors.

I spent five years there working on international project financings, leveraged buyouts and securitisations, including a six-month stint in New York. I then moved to a New York firm in London, Debevoise & Plimpton, and continued with financing and corporate restructuring work. Although the hours in those jobs were regularly insane, the combination of adrenaline and big-ticket deals made this a happy, if hectic, period. When I met my wife-to-be, however, I decided to move to a less time-consuming position as a professional support lawyer at Travers Smith, an excellent London firm.

Throughout my career I had been interested in pro bono work. I attribute that not only to my upbringing but also to my school experience. The school culture was always that community was important, and that we ought to look after those less fortunate than ourselves; as someone who could only attend Bolton School because of the 'assisted places' scheme, and a scholarship from the Rank Foundation in the Sixth Form, I have always been aware that my life story has many authors, the generosity of others being one of them. Whilst at Travers Smith I was considering a move into a more socially-impactful role - potentially the judiciary - when I was introduced to someone who offered me a completely different opportunity: working in connection with a philanthropic foundation.

It was a 'sliding doors' moment, and (rather against type, as I am typically cautious) I grasped the opportunity. For the past nine years I have run the UK charity funded by the foundation and more recently I have taken over as the foundation's Chair. The foundation is the majority shareholder of an international group of companies, and I now also sit as a non-executive director on the board of the parent company, Camellia Plc. In order to prepare myself for a closer connection with the commercial world I have recently completed an MBA, studying part-time with the Open University; after twenty years out of education this was quite an experience!

Together with the sense of purpose it has given me, an important benefit of my role in the foundation is that it has afforded me plenty of time to spend with my wife and children; whilst my job demands some international travel, I am grateful to be able to participate in their lives much more than I might otherwise. Although quite different to how I thought things might turn out, these past nine years have been extraordinarily rewarding; reflecting on the journey it is hard to fathom how I got here from where I started, but I am very grateful for where my life has taken me so far. 

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