The Lawyer Management: Michelmores

Colette Stevens is HR director at Michelmores. She studied Maths at the University of Bath, then began a career as a chartered accountant before making the move to HR. She joined Michelmores from Deloitte in 2007 and is the firm’s first-ever female board member.


What are the key elements of your role?

To ensure Michelmores attracts, develops and retains the best people.

How has your role changed during your time at the firm?

When I joined the firm the HR function was focused on administrative support. As the firm has grown the nature of my responsibilities has changed. It now involves maintaining a high-quality business-focused HR service and acting as a sounding board for ideas. Recently, I have been invited to join our board. As the first female to join, I am thrilled.

What are the most significant external issues that have an impact on your job?

Despite the economic downturn, high-quality candidates are in short supply, so attracting the top talent is challenging. Also, the pressure on pricing and increased competition means we are having to be more innovative in how we service clients.

What’s in your in-tray?

We are refreshing and expanding the range of business skills training available to our lawyers. One notable example is the review of our associate development programme.

We are continually exploring ways to communicate and engage more effectively. For example, we are running workshops picking up on feedback received via our Sunday Times Best Companies accreditation.

We are also revitalising our induction programme to integrate joiners into the firm’s culture effectively. Finally, we are putting the finishing touches to our partner development programme ready for the next 2013 financial year.

What was the most pressing issue you faced relating to the operational side of the firm last year and how did you resolve it?

In the past 12 months we have taken on more than 60 members of staff, including eight partners, so integrating hires ranked high on our agenda.

What have been the key ways in which you have improved the efficiency of the firm?

My focus has been on exploring ways of getting the best out of everyone at the firm. Much of my task is to ensure the partner team is equipped with appropriate leadership and people skills through training and coaching.

What are the primary ways in which you source various suppliers to the business?

By cultivating strong networks, understanding the supplier market, emphasising our business requirements and seeking recommendations.

What problem would you most like technology to solve?

I would like a cloning machine so I can be in two places at once.

What is the management structure of your organisation?

The board consists of our managing partner, practice director and two nominated partners. Recently, it has been broadened to include a non-executive role and me.

What are your team’s core responsibilities?

To help champion fair treatment while ensuring people have the support to fulfil their potential. We are exploring ways to transition our HR team to a profit centre. I can see this being a growth area for us.

Who do you report to?

Malcolm Dickinson, managing partner; practice director Andrew Lovell.

What is the most important lesson your role has taught you?

To expect the unexpected. One size fits one.

Firm facts


Turnover: £19.2m (2011-12)
Profit per equity partner: £265,000
Top of equity: £284,000
Bottom of equity: £155,000

Adapting to change
“Upheaval in the legal marketplace presents commercial opportunities for us,” says Stevens. “Many discussions at Michelmores in the past 12 months have been concerned with how best to challenge the status quo and develop creative business development strategies. One of the most attractive elements of working in a tumultuous legal sphere is that rapid change can act as a fillip for innovation.”


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