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In 2006 Pinsent Masons interviewed for a new head of HR and the board asked applicants to create a vision that would place the HR function at the centre of the business.
Jonathan Bond did exactly that when he presented his vision to the board for a full two hours. He landed the job. His efforts were recently recognised outside the firm when he was named HR Director of the Year at The Lawyer HR Awards 2008.
Bond has worked in all areas of legal HR for more than 12 years. He started out as graduate recruitment manager and finished off as head of HR for the global corporate practice at Allen & Overy. This clearly puts him in a prime position to have witnessed some of the transformations of the HR function over the years.
“I think that 12 years ago HR had a valuable role to play in law firms but it was more at the administrative end, whereas now it’s more at the strategic end,” he explains. “Good law firms now use HR in a much more strategic way.”
But Bond insists that as HR has begun contributing to the strategic debate at firms, it has become increasingly important that HR people also have an idea where the organisation is trying to get to. “You can’t be fluffy,” he says. “You have to be commercial.”
Everything in Pinsents’ HR strategy now orbits three straightforward keywords: attract, retain and enable. The strategy has spawned capability frameworks for lawyers and partners, 360-degree feedback for all partners, a comprehensive drive on diversity, launching an occupational health programme, one-to-one coaching for new equity partners to adapt to their new role, an alternative to partnership for lawyers, overhaul of the bonus system, launch offirmwide values, an upgrade to flexible working – and the list continues.
Bond is especially proud of the work on diversity and getting gay rights group Stonewall’s seal of approval on Pinsents’ lesbian, gay and bisexual network. “Our values talk about respect and cooperation. To me it’s very important that everyone in the organisation feels respected and included.”
Bond sees two major areas that will loom large in the coming years. First, clients are showing an increasing interest in how the HR function at their law firms is run. Second, he anticipates that accommodating the mentality of Generation Y and the millennials – employees who entered the job market after 2000 – will be a “big challenge”.
“It’s foolish to expect staff turnover to go down substantially when you deal with people with the Generation Y mindset,” he says.
But Bond thinks there are obvious things you can do, such as making the environment more comfortable and stimulating, parting with them on good terms when they – often inevitably – leave the firm and teaching baby boomers how to manage future partners or legal directors effectively.
Firm: Pinsent Masons
Title: Director of HR and learning
Education: 1986: London College of Music, performing diploma (piano)
1987: Sheffield University, BA (Hons) English Literature
Work history: 1987-95: NatWest Group, roles included head of graduate recruitment & development, speechwriter to chairman/group chief, assistant to director of corporate affairs, “supergrad” in corporate banking
1996-2006: Allen & Overy, roles included head of HR for global corporate practice, head of career development, internal communications manager, HR manager, graduate recruitment manager
April 2006-present: Pinsent Masons, director of HR and learning