The Lawyer Management: Burges Salmon

Emma Dowden joined Burges Salmon in October 2007 from Hamptons Estates, where she was group legal and operations director. Prior to that she undertook a similar role at PricewaterhouseCoopers.


 

Dowden’s core area of expertise is risk and best practice.

What does your role involve?

It is characterised by its breadth. My background is in risk and compliance, but my role involves risk and best practice, operations, premises and facilities management, IT, programme and project management as well as health, safety and business continuity.

How many people do you have in your core team and what are their responsibilities?

Seven people head the areas of my departmental responsibilities – the HR and finance departments are outside my scope. My team handles the running of the building, including security, front-of-house, catering and hospitality, the staff restaurant and legal support such as copying, post and archives. We also run the IT ­infrastructure and, through the IT team, deliver our IT strategy to ­support client requirements. Other responsibilities include managing the firm’s regulatory requirements.

What’s in your in-tray?

Getting ready for the introduction of the COLP/COFA [compliance officer for legal practice and compliance officer for financial and administration] roles and the self-reporting regulatory regime. That includes an enhanced regime for file review and audit.

What was the most pressing item in it last year?

Our office move to One Glass Wharf in 2010 has been the most pressing requirement to date, with a big bang lawyer move over one weekend. More recently there was a focus on ensuring we had processes in place for the outcomes-focused regulatory regime that took effect last October.

We’re also always looking for opportunities in our new building to generate efficiencies.

Anything else?

We’re considering options for our London office. We don’t have any lawyers based permanently there but we have the chance to take advantage of a break clause in the leases. We’re also overseeing the implementation of several IT systems, including a replacement HR system, the upgrade of Microsoft Office applications and a practice management system review, as well as a potential workflow tool. Then there’s budget planning and developing a measurement and reporting mechanism in accordance with set service level agreements.

Which board/s do you sit on?

The executive committee and the risk committee. I’m also a director of the Glass Wharf Management Company – which has responsibility for the public realm of the estate our ­office sits within – and our services company, Burges Salmon Company Ltd.

What is the management structure at Burges Salmon?

The partnership committee is responsible for the development and implementation of strategy, and oversees a number of committees such as the risk committee, a heads of department committee responsible for oversight of the fee-earning ­departments, business development and revenue generation, and an ­executive committee responsible for the operational running of the firm.

Who do you report to?

Managing partner Peter Morris.

What are the key ways you have improved efficiency?

The introduction of a multifunction printing fleet with ‘pull printing’ technology that resulted in reduced costs and significantly reduced paper use and wastage. There have also been environmental improvements in our new building and adopting new working practices as part of a business readiness change programme linked to the office move.

Financials

Turnover: £66.1m

Earnings per partner:£363,000

Profit per equity partner:£395,000

Revenue per lawyer:£258,000

Financial management

Burges Salmon moved into its new home in Bristol’s Temple Quay last summer.

The costs associated with the office move were funded ­entirely by partners, in a capitalisation process stretching back a number of years and an incentive package comprising a lump sum payment from the landlord. This allowed the firm to maintain its debt-free status.

Rent on the new building is £27.50 per sq ft.

Technology

Client relationship management: Interaction

Practice management system:Norwel (under review)

Document management system:iManage