Lawyer Management: Squire Sanders
8 July 2013 | By Lucy Burton
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Patricia Walsh is the global chief HR officer at Squire Sanders. She has previously held roles at Hammonds and Bupa.
What are the key elements of your role?
I’m responsible for all aspects of HR for staff and am a member of the firm’s legal personnel committee, which consists of a representative group of partners focused on the management of HR-related issues that affect associates globally. I also work with practice groups and support leaders to develop and deliver the firm’s learning and professional development programmes.
How has your role changed during your time at the firm?
Not only has the market changed materially during my time here but the firm itself has grown and developed beyond all recognition.
I joined the firm in 1997 and was promoted to the position of global chief HR officer in 2011, after a
period in which the firm had nearly doubled in size. My new role promised, and has delivered, lots of HR challenges including integration, global alignment and strategic resourcing.
From an operational perspective, I’m very fortunate in that I have a fantastic HR and training team around the world who are creative, hard-working and committed. One thing which hasn’t changed over time, I’m pleased to say, is the value that the firm places on HR and the quality of the firm’s partnership.
If you weren’t doing this, what else would you like to be doing?
I’d love to get involved in politics because I’m confident I could make a difference.
What impact are the structural changes to the UK legal market having on your firm and role?
The tough economic climate has impacted on the legal profession as much as any other business sector so it is perhaps not surprising that law firms welcome a more progressive regulatory framework that opens up some commercial options in relation to future business structures. However, while many firms may embrace the changes, a move to an alternative partnership model would not be right for all firms. It’s important that HR recognises the potential risks and opportunities arising from the changes in the UK legal market so they can support leadership as they organise the partnership in ways that are most beneficial for clients and their business models.
Today HR also has to cope with a much wider range of partnership, employment and consultancy models than ever before, such as part-time, flexible working and job-sharing arrangements.
What’s your favourite part of the day?
I like early afternoon (UK time) because it is when most of my global team are in the office.
How important is branding in the legal profession?
When you invest heavily in the quality of your product it is important that clients are able to pick you out of the pack, so brand is very
Our people are our product so we need to attract and retain the best and for this reason I work closely with the firm’s chief of global operations and the global chief business development officer to ensure our employer brand reflects the quality of our market brand.
In what key ways have you improved the firm’s efficiency?
The HR team continues to leverage opportunities created from having a global network of offices and resources open for business around the clock, and a great IT infrastructure. Our success in moving work around our network in a controlled manner enables us to offer a better level of client service while reducing operating costs.
In addition, we work with support teams to review and redesign conventional staffing models so they are aligned with the changing needs of our clients and our business.
Who would you most like to get stuck in a lift with?
Richard Branson. As a frequent flyer I’m sure I could persuade him to offer me a few free upgrades.
Heel the soul
Walsh says the most important lesson her role has taught her is to put yourself in the other person’s shoes “and treat other people with respect and dignity, whatever the circumstance”.
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