Steven Zdolyny: North West Development Agency

Building up a team almost from scratch was a challenge that head of legal services of the North West Development Agency (NWDA) Steven Zdolyny has eagerly embraced.

Since joining the agency in 2005, Zdolyny has spent the past two years recruiting a team of experienced lawyers to service the NWDA’s increasing list of projects.

The team has since expanded from being a solo operation of just Zdolyny to a five-strong team made up of three lawyers and two support staff. And Zdolyny is keen to recruit two further lawyers.

“It’s great that we now have a team of people here. It means that legal advice is more accessible to the organisation and we can provide more services in-house,” Zdolyny says.

Under the current configuration, each member of the legal team specialises in one or two practice areas, corresponding to the broad range of topics that the NWDA covers on a daily basis.

The NWDA is one of the UK’s nine regional development agencies set up by the Government in 1998 to serve regional areas in core sectors such as infrastructure, business, skills and education and employment.

Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside are all served by the NWDA, which provides a diverse range of services, from joint ventures with local businesses to bus route expansion.

Key recent projects in which Zdolyny’s team has been involved include the opening of a 275,000sq ft distribution centre in Bolton and the planned £16m Greggs bakery factory in East Manchester, which will create 300 jobs in the area.

“The most satisfying part of my job is travelling around the various towns in the area and being able to say that I’ve had a part in so many of the new developments that have changed the North West,” Zdolyny says. “It’s very satisfying, because I feel like I’m a part of what the agency does. I’m very much involved in the projects.”

Before joining the NWDA in 2005 Zdolyny worked for public sector group the Environment Agency. Starting as a solicitor, he moved up the ranks to regional solicitor during his eights years at the agency.

Moving from being a member of a 22-strong legal team at the Environment Agency to heading the NWDA’s legal capability – and initially being the only team member – was a significant step for Zdolyny, but it is a change that he has adjusted to quickly.

“Having moved from a large team to being the only person in the department, I quickly realised I had a lot to adapt to,” Zdolyny says. “Making sure I was organised and getting everything done was hard at first. You get used to having support with administration, so going it alone can be tough.”

Before his in-house career began at the Environment Agency in 1996, Zdolyny worked at Bristol-based firm John Hodge & Co. Gaining experience over his two years at the firm enabled him to weigh up his career options before deciding to go in-house.

“You have a very different approach in-house, and this is more particular for us because the NWDA has to adhere to regulations set out by the Department of Trade & Industry. I’ve found working in this sector fascinating and feel that I made the right decision to move in-house.”

The team strives to maintain constant contact with all of the other departments in the agency. Making the legal team a part of the wider strategy is something Zdolyny is keen to develop.

“It’s important to know what’s going on with the rest of the organisation,” he says. “You’re not just a team standing on its own, you’re a part of what other parts of the group are doing and this must be evident in your day-to-day work.

“I’ve found it extremely rewarding working at the NWDA. You embark on something completely different every day, and seeing the fruits of our labour all across the North West makes all the hard work worthwhile.”

Steven Zdolyny
Head of legal services
North West Development Agency (NWDA)

Organisation: North West Development Agency (NWDA)
Sector: Public sector urban redevelopment
Number of employees: 415
Head of legal services: Steven Zdolyny

Turnover: NWDA will invest £1.5bn from 2006 to 2009
Legal capability: 5
Main law firms: Beachcroft, Eversheds, Forshaws Solicitor, Hammonds, Mace & Jones, Platt & Fishwick
Steven Zdolyny’s CV

1985-88 – Leicester Polytechnic;
1988-89 – Chester College of Law
Work History:
1994-96 – solicitor, John Hodge & Co;
1996-97 – solicitor, Environment Agency;
1997-98 – principal solicitor, Environment Agency;
1998-2005 – regional solicitor, Environment Agency;
2005-present – head of legal services, NWDA