Showing admirable innovation in gruelling economic times, our shortlist of teams slug it out for the most prestigious law firm management accolades in the business
The days of a law firm’s business support staff being overlooked by the partners are rapidly being consigned to the dim and distant past, but if ever there was a chance for them to shine it will arrive on 24 September.
That is the day of the inaugural The Lawyer Management Awards, an event that, judging by the shortlist, will also underline the fact that the UK market is far from being dominated by the larger firms when it comes to innovative thinking. Across the categories smaller firms jostle with some of the largest in the world for the right to be recognised as among the most forward-thinking when it comes to operational matters.
The Lawyer’s editorial team, led by features editor Matt Byrne and an external panel of judges, all highly experienced in areas of business support including marketing, technology, finance and HR, have whittled down the raft of entries to a shortlist for this year’s 14 categories. The winners will remain a closely guarded secret until 24 September, but for now, here’s the shortlist to whet your appetite.
If ever there was an area of business support that has come into its own in recent years it is business development (BD). As firms seek to differentiate themselves in a crowded market and clients demand more for less, an innovative BD team can make all the difference.
In the Best Business Development Team category the judges were impressed by the quality displayed by the likes of Baker & McKenzie, where Julia Hayhoe’s team’s adoption of a “sales pipeline” approach has helped boost revenue in the London office; Devereux, where the BD team combines the clerking function with the skill-sets of the CEO; and Harper Macleod, where one of the team’s primary responsibilities is to operate, manage and develop the Connect2Law network in Scotland.
Further afield, Gibraltar firm Hassans’ BD head Amanda Noble-Simmons’ relocated to the UK in 2012/13 to concentrate on the firm’s referral network, while Mishcon de Reya’s focus on intermediaries and its strategy to focus on this area, led by intermediaries BD manager Jenny Stebbing, caught the eye of the judges.
Over at Mayer Brown, senior manager (transactions) Julieanne Wilde has played a key role over the past two years providing advice to several key accounts including Virgin Media and Thomson Reuters.
The winner of the Best Knowledge Management strategy prize will be crowned from a list that includes A&L Goodbody, Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP), Hogan Lovells, RPC, Taylor Wessing and Wragge & Co.
For the Best Major Project award, national, international and magic circle firms collide. Dentons, which in February became the first law firm in the world to achieve the business continuity management-related certification ISO 22301 and Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, which has turned its meeting rooms into a ‘start-up ecosystem’ in the City, will go head-to-head with DWF, which makes the shortlist largely thanks to the efforts of its facilities, IT and real estate teams in integrating 742 people (and three leases) following its acquisition of Cobbetts, and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which is in the running due to the success of its large-scale refurbishment.
Also on the list is Farrer & Co, which launched a major private exhibition to coincide with the London 2012 Olympics, and Weightmans, which managed a seriously big office move while integrating the May 2010 merger with Liverpool firm Mace & Jones.
The Best Marketing and Communications Team award will be a hard-fought battle between eight firms: Bakers; BLP; Devereux; Mayer Brown; Mishcon de Reya; Norton Rose Fulbright; Taylor Wessing; and Thomas Eggar.
In contrast, just five will scrap it out for the title of Best Technology Project. The latter award includes relative newcomer to the legal market Clarion, which developed its own bespoke CRM system (Engage) to help with a new sales generation strategy.
Clarion goes toe-to-toe with legal market titans DLA Piper, which is shortlisted for its Next Generation Desktop programme that provides a fast, functional and reliable workspace for its users across Emea and AsiaPac; Eversheds, in the mix for the launch of the big data-utilising reputation management tool Eversheds Big View; and Taylor Wessing, which launched a cloud-based brand protection service for clients.
Wrapping up this category is Spain’s Uría Menéndez, which designed a free app giving anyone who downloads it access to all of its news, articles and legal guides drafted in-house.
Three of these firms – Clarion, DLA Piper and Taylor Wessing – also appear on the shortlist for the Most Innovative Technology Team award. In addition, Allen & Overy makes the grade for the team behind its EPiC (‘experience, pitches and contacts’) legal sales support system, while Weightmans also makes an appearance for the growth of its business intelligence team which produces and analyses external client data reports as well as internal management reports in an effort to improve process.
In one of the hardest-fought, consistently strong and most oversubscribed categories, eight firms will compete for the Best Trainee
Recruitment Campaign award. Baker & McKenzie’s streamlined graduate recruitment process has dramatically cut back on the time required by partners, associates and its HR team, while Hogan Lovells has repositioned its graduate recruitment brand to align it with the firm’s commitment to citizenship, diversity and inclusivity. The launch of Linklaters’ Link Up campaign in 2010 was followed last year by a -social media-led push aimed at recruiting the best possible 110 trainees and 100 interns. Mishcon may have a smaller annual intake but is no less innovative in its methods of attracting them. This year that included the creation of six short films showcasing a selection of the firm’s lawyers on a variety of topics.
Among the innovations at Reed Smith is its partnership with one of its target universities, King’s College London, to support Anglo-French degree students in London and Paris, while RPC’s approach to graduate recruitment changed fundamentally last year, with the firm presenting a warts-and-all reality of life as a modern-day trainee lawyer.
Taylor Wessing is another firm that has overhauled its programme recently, with innovations including making its vacation scheme exclusively available to penultimate-year law students and final-year non-law students to ensure candidates have not been previously rejected by rival firms, and a commerciality test. Wragges also revamped its graduate campaign, inviting candidates to become ‘the lawyer you want to be’. The campaign received widespread recognition and, most crucially, a considerable increase in applications in a saturated market.
One of the most relevant awards in the current climate is the Excellence and/or Innovation in Law Firm Financial Management prize. Four firms will compete for this key award including Eversheds, which launched a potentially transformative new payroll system that, as one judge put it, “may become a marketable product in its own right”, and Herbert Smith Freehills, where revenue controller Mark Parsons’ Middle East business finance team in particular has put client care at the heart of the payment process system by introducing regular service reviews, helping to iron out potential procedural stumbling blocks while raising revenue.
At the other end of the size scale comes Higgs & Sons, which is included for its radical overhaul of the traditional law firm model, while Linklaters completes the quartet, nominated for its significantly enhanced matter management.
The human touch
For several years The Lawyer’s HR and diversity awards have highlighted some of the key developments in the industry, so it is not surprising that the HR Team of the Year award is another that was heavily subscribed.
Bakers’ “comprehensive, integrated” (in the words of one panel judge) HR team, headed by director Martin Blackburn, has introduced initiatives such as unconscious bias training and identified 65 partners who have become coaches for fee-earners.
Olswang’s team, headed by Ffion Griffith, has also introduced unconscious bias training for the board and all of the firm’s partners, while Pinsent Masons makes the shortlist off the back of the HR work the team conducted post-merger while it was itself under the scrutiny of a restructure, resulting in eight voluntary redundancies.
The sole US firm to make this shortlist is Shearman & Sterling, nominated because of the work HR head Lois Gordon’s team has done in developing the training of the firm’s lawyers and business support professionals.
Among a range of ideas at Taylor Wessing, HR director Caroline Rawes’ team recently introduced a five-day partner leadership programme, while over at Withers the efforts of the team headed by her opposite number Simon Luckett are reflected in the impressive diversity-related metrics and awards the firm has garnered.
The Excellence in Talent Management and Retention award sees four firms – Bakers, Hogan Lovells, Irwin Mitchell and Reed Smith go head-to-head, while the Excellence in Training award has double that number. The shortlist for this prize comprises Bakers, Clifford Chance, Dundas & Wilson, DWF, Eversheds, Hogan Lovells, Mayer Brown and SJ Berwin.
HR issues also loom large in the Most Effective Diversity Programme award, where six firms have been shortlisted. Bakers’ innovations over the past 12 months include the introduction of mandatory unconscious bias training programme for all lawyers and every member of staff. DLA Piper is nominated for its Break into Law global initiative that focuses on removing barriers to careers in the legal sector as well as its position as one of the founder members of access widening programme Prime.
Gordons makes the list for its -legal apprenticeship scheme, while Link-laters is shortlisted for a range of initiatives including its involvement in the 30% Club, the Government’s Think, Act, Report programme and its Inspiring Women sessions.
At Norton Rose Fulbright a three-year diversity initiative has seen UK female partner numbers rise from 16 per cent in 2009 to 21 per cent, while in the past 12 months women accounted for 62 per cent of top-level UK promotions at the firm. Pinsents completes the list, with its thriving Diversity Employee Network, which now has six groups providing mentoring and support across the firm.
This year’s awards will be capped by two Grand Prix categories, highlighting individual and firmwide excellence. In the Law Firm Management Individual of the Year category two high-profile law firms leaders – Peter Martyr and Paul Wilson, the chief executives of Norton Rose Fulbright and Shakespeares respectively – will go head-to-head with four less well-known but equally worthy nominees. They are Osborne Clarke’s head of business management Richard Bydawell; Julia Hayhoe, London client and business development director at Bakers; Mishcon director of business development Elliot Moss; and Gladys Swaim-Rutter, partner and head of business at Roberts Jackson.
The candidates for the first-ever Law Firm Management Team of the Year award are: Burges Salmon; Clifford Chance; Norton Rose Fulbright; Pinsents; RPC; and Wiggin.
Congratulations to all the firms that have been shortlisted and good luck in advance of the ceremony on Tuesday 24 September.
• Best business development team
• Best knowledge management strategy
• Best major project
• Best marketing and communications team
• Best technology project
• Best trainee recruitment campaign
• Excellence and/or innovation in law firm financial management
• Excellence in talent management and retention
• Excellence in training
• HR team of the year
• Most effective diversity programme
• Most innovative technology team
• Law firm management individual of the year
• Law firm management team of the year