“We’ve got a lot of work to do to enhance our City reputation,” admits Monica Burch in the last few days before becoming Addleshaw Goddard’s new chairman.
Burch meets The Lawyer at Addleshaws’ new headquarters at Milton Gate, the smart City offices the firm took last year as part of its City profile-raising. The building is bright and airy, but the bare walls and empty corridors suggest that it has some way to go before it is fully ensconced in the capital.
Burch recently won a three-way contested election to take up the chairman role (TheLawyer.com, 31 March), a position encompassing the market-facing and governance functions associated with the senior partner position that Paul Lee will relinquish this month.
While she politely rebuffs a question about how her management style will compare with that of Lee by smiling and saying “you have to be your own person”, Burch’s emphasis on City growth – that is not at the expense of the firm’s Leeds or Manchester offices – is broadly continuous with the strategy of previous management.
“We really need to develop more of a City moniker, [but] we can’t be complacent about Manchester and Leeds. We need a market focus there. The three cities have independently built up firms. The work we’re doing and deals we’re acting on are great [in all three locations],” she says.
Burch echoes the view of her antecedents when she speaks of targeting more FTSE350 clients and growing the finance and corporate practices and “profitability and reputation enhancers”. On the latter she highlights the successful professional partnerships and LLP practice run by Richard Linsell.
But Addleshaws now arguably has an added ”reputation enhancer” given that it is one of a small handful of City firms with a female senior manager – the only other top 20 firm being DLA Piper with Janet LeGrand in the chairman/senior partner role.
“I don’t think you should elect an individual because of what [they] are,” asserts Burch. “But what they are can help, for example, with client dialogue and female GC dialogue in particular,” she adds.
Internally there is great potential for Burch to inspire her more junior colleagues. She began working at the firm as a trainee at legacy outfit Theodore Goddard, becoming an equity partner in 1999, and has been on the board for the past six years. She has worked flexibly since 2004 and intends to continue this arrangement as chairman, while also performing client-facing duties.
Burch has been quoted as saying that she wishes she had started working flexibly earlier on in her career. She also tells The Lawyer that she wants the perception of flexible working to move beyond the idea that it is just the domain of working mums. So as chairman, will she be supportive of flexitime requests from junior lawyers, both male and female?
“We need to recognise that people have a life outside of work. I guess there’s a little bit of a concern that if you open the door you’ll have 90 per cent of people stampeding through. [But] I think [there’s an] overwhelming business case [for flexible working],” she argues.
However, she issues the caveat that those working flexibly have to factor in time to do networking, especially “if you want partnership”.
Burch will take charge of a firm that is operating in a very different market to the climate when Lee became senior partner in 2003 – the year of the Addleshaw Booth & Co/Theodore Goddard merger. With Lovells about to become a lot bigger through the Hogan & Hartson combination and talk of further consolidation in that tier below the magic circle, will UK-centric Addleshaws need to emulate this with a transatlantic merger of its own?
“I don’t think we need to do a merger,’ states Burch. “It’s not a strategy item. You have to watch the market. People drop out of it all the time.”