Tim Robinson, chief operating officer
7 January 2013 | By Lucy Burton
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Tim Robinson was promoted from head of practice management to chief operating officer at Brachers in May 2012, having joined the firm in 2006. Robinson is a qualified chartered secretary and spent six years in the TV and video production industry, another year in the private further education sector and a further 24 in the legal market. He has worked at Cartwright Cunningham Haselgrove, Williams Davies Meltzer, Simons Muirhead & Burton, Dawsons and Heald Mellows.
What are the key challenges in your role at the moment?
Juggling priorities between financial management, compliance and risk management, while considering the future of the industry in terms of threats and opportunities. I am also focused on improving the client experience in all its aspects.
Has there ever been a challenge that’s surprised you?
After 24 years in the industry nothing much surprises me. Of course, inexplicable changes of mind are frustrating when you think you’ve got there on a project, but that’s lawyers for you. I had the perfect merger rejected by a minority out of personal spite at a previous firm.
What’s your favourite part of the day?
Probably between 11am and 1pm, and then in the middle of the evening when I get a ‘second wind’.
How has your role changed during your time at the firm?
It expands according to the requirements. I’m not as hands-on as I’d like to be in some areas, but I’m emphatically not a micro-manager.
The increasing number of layers of compliance and quality standard requirements involved will continue to change the role.
If you weren’t a COO what would you have been?
My stock answer to this question is a geography teacher as I did economics and geography at UCL, but in reality I don’t think I’d have had the patience. Otherwise, a town planner or a landscape architect.
Also, having been involved in politics in my 20s, I once had ideas of becoming an MP.
What problem would you most like technology to solve?
In broad terms, the provision of cheap and everlasting energy. In everyday life, I’d like to see a truly integrated system that facilitates efficient home-working.
What’s the most important lesson your role has taught you?
Keep an open mind and get to know the characters you are dealing with.
How do you see your role changing in the future?
Ever-evolving of course, but in what way depends on our response to the alternative business structure environment and investment possibilities. This will dictate where the role - and the industry - is in three or four years’ time.
What’s on your to-do list?
How long have you got? Second half-year forecast figures are top of the list right now. After that, preparing for all reporting and structural aspects of the compliance officer for finance and administration and compliance officer for legal practice roles, then renewing Lexcel and gaining ISO 14001, ISO 22301 and ISO 27001 in the next year or so.
Otherwise, there are rafts of internal projects on the go, while recruitment and acquisitional growth are also on my list.
Who would you most like to get stuck in a lift with and why?
I should say my wife, but as an alternative an influential economist such as the governor of the Bank of England or a Treasury minister, so I could give them the benefit of my experience and inform them why I should have their job.
Any other comments?
Just to say that we have no idea where the economy will be in three years’ time, which is frustrating but we have to make the best of it.
The business world must take the lead or we will be faced with Ed Balls in two and a half years’ time.
Equity partners: 14
Net profit: £2.469m
Average profit per equity partner: £179,000
CRM: FWBS Matter Centre (linked to case management system)
DMS: FWBS Matter Centre as above (part of Thomson Reuter).
Other: various specialist packages
A day in the life of today’s COO
“I’m not really an early morning person, but I have a 65-mile drive each way so there’s plenty of time to think about solutions on the way in as the BlackBerry gently vibrates beside me,” says Robinson. “Events are calendar-driven and meeting-oriented, as at most firms, and because my contribution is needed for just about everything that does not involve the fee-earning side, I quietly curse the sheer number of meetings required.”