Matthew Turnour

Posted May 15 2018

Faculty: Business School
Year graduated: 2010
Thesis: Beyond Charities: Outlines of a Jurisprudence for Civil Society
Career category: industry and academic

After over 15 years as a solicitor, Managing Director of Neumann & Turnour Lawyers, Matthew Turnour was looking for new challenges and intellectual stimulation. On holidays, considering his options and uninspired by the available Specialist Accreditation programs, the idea of doing a PhD emerged as an alternative to trade based skills development. For Dr Turnour, a PhD promised the intellectual stimulation, intense learning, and opportunities to further refine the skills he needed as a lawyer and company director.

Dr Turnour found 15-20 hours per week to dedicate to his PhD while working full time and graduated in 2010 with an Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Award. He describes how doing a PhD enabled him to develop his cross-disciplinary ‘tool box’ and problem-solving skills and that these – more so than the official degree or title – are the elements of his doctorate he values most.

“The real value of a PhD is the methodological tools. I grew in my ability to manage and manipulate ideas, frameworks and data from various disciplines. My problem solving skills are much, much more refined now. For me the greatest value of the PhD has been to draw upon diverse problem solving methodologies from different disciplines to address the very challenging problems that sometimes arise”.

Dr Turnour’s career has straddled industry and academia. He is the Director and Chairman of Neumann & Turnour Lawyers and serves private clients. As an academic he was awarded a QUT Vice Chancellor’s Performance Award in 2015 and is the first Australian to be admitted to the international honour society Mu Lambda Nu by the Nonprofit Academic Centres Council. As a researcher his most recent publication opens the 2018 year for the Melbourne University Law Review. While he values his roles in the university sector and in industry, he says navigating both sectors can be a challenge.

“The academy has an enormous ongoing contribution to make to the practice of most disciplines including my primary discipline of law, but the interface between academia on the one hand and the professions and industry on the other could be better. I’ve struggled to work across both fields”.

Dr Turnour posits discipline as key to managing such an intense and varied work load, and also to completing a PhD.

“We all have only 168 hours each week. I am very disciplined in my time utilisation. Particularly whilst writing my PhD I worked hard to ensure that I kept my priorities clear. People think getting a PhD is about being smart. But once you’re there it’s about maintaining your primary relationships, maintaining your health, and keeping everything on track so you can give your PhD the time it needs without neglecting other responsibilities.”

Matthew with his PhD supervisor Emeritus Professor Myles McGregor-Lowndes.

“A good supervisor is fundamental, too, of course. My supervisor Myles McGregor-Lowndes was extraordinary. He lifted me beyond what I thought I was capable of.

Lastly, you’ve just got to want to do it. It’s not enough to just want the ticket at the end. A PhD that really pushes the boundaries of a body of knowledge is really, really demanding and intensely satisfying – a bit like running a half-marathon.”

As an academic with over 30 years experience working in industry, Dr Turnour offers one piece of advice for new graduates interested in pursuing non-academic careers.

“To make it in the commercial world, the PhD is an external validation, but it’s only going to get you so far. So much is dependent, over the longer term, upon having a worldview that wants to contribute more than take. This involves a contribution of character, not just knowledge – a mature, other-regarding character. Many graduates just want to get a job that develops their career, but it’s not enough. You’ve got to more than pay your way. You have to be delivering for others.”

Resources:

Dr Turnour emphasises time management is critical to success. Read 4 Time Management ‘Soft Skills’ you need to develop by Cynthia Kyriazis, Founder and President of Productivity Partners Inc. for practical time management strategies.