The Lawyer Management: Brachers
20 May 2013 | By Lucy Burton
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Joanna Worby is Brachers’ first female managing partner. She joined the firm in 1991 as a trainee solicitor and became a partner in 1999.
In 2006 Worby changed specialisms and led the HR and employment team - one of the largest in the South East. She has since moved into a pure management role.
What are your main responsibilities?
As newly appointed managing partner I am working with my colleagues on our management board on a range of strategic issues to take the firm forward - from honing our client care and business development activities to making sure we focus on what clients really need.
My responsibilities also include improving the profile of the firm and bringing our various audiences up to speed with the reality of the firm, as well as improving our financial performance and internal processes - and, of course, managing and retaining talent in the business.
How has your role changed in your time at the firm?
I joined Brachers in 1991 as a trainee solicitor. I then trained as a litigator specialising in injury claims, but later I ‘re-specialised’ as an employment lawyer as I was looking for a different challenge.
So the latest transition to a management position is my second big role change since I’ve been here. I think this is where firms in the regions can potentially score over their City counterparts; I believe my firm sees people in terms of the personal contribution they can make over the longer term, rather than just as numbers, headcounts and short-term gains.
One change I have observed during my career at Brachers is the growth in the proportion of women in senior roles at the firm. There were only two women partners when I joined and now there are nine, meaning we make up 32 per cent of the partnership.
And, of course, we now have a female managing partner.
What are the main issues you’re faced with at work?
By definition, my work is people-centric and involves investing time and care in my relationships with clients and staff as well as my fellow partners.
All the legal expertise we offer is delivered through people and for people. Therefore, if we don’t get the relationship bit right we are lost. This is a perspective that everyone in the business needs to share - we need to listen to clients to understand what is really important to them and what they need, and we also need to understand our staff and what motivates them if we are truly to engage them in the business and make sure everyone is focussed on achieving our common goals.
What’s on your to-do list?
My to-do list is the longest I’ve ever seen it at the moment, and it just keeps growing.
My most important objective is to ensure the firm goes from strength to strength in terms of its financial performance as well as its client service and delivery, so we can achieve growth and secure our place in the ever-changing legal landscape.
My most immediate objective is to ensure that everything is in place for the next Lexcel audit.
How important is training for those in a leadership role?
Hugely. In my view it cannot be overstated how critical it is to invest in tomorrow’s leaders.
Successful organisations of all sizes rely on a team united around common goals.
Effective leadership involves harnessing the best of every employee’s potential.
What is your favourite part of the day?
Mid-morning. That’s when I’ve had time to get to grips with what’s going on in the firm and the wider world, and have made some progress towards completing the tasks of the day.
Also, by this point, my morning cup of tea has kicked in.
Who would you least like to get stuck in a lift with?
Anyone with claustrophobia - or without a sense of humour.
What do you look for in prospective employees?
“I hope to find team players with a commitment to finding solutions to the multitude of issues they will invariably face at Brachers,” responds Worby. “I also look for candidates who can demonstrate good people skills because I consider these to be essential when it comes to building a trusting relationship with clients
“While I appreciate and expect hard-working employees I do recognise that we are better able to make a positive contribution to the workforce when we have a fulfilling life outside the four walls of the office, so a healthy work-life balance is important.”
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