Gregory Shields (scroll down for video interview) showed off his taste for trying out the new as far back as 2007, when he led the first pure management buyout of a law firm in the UK.
Since then he has taken the number of offices at Liverpool-based personal injury specialists Forster Dean from two to 29. He now plans to add 10 new sites to the firm each year from September 2013 onwards, although the current market environment is also forcing a small number of redundancies.
However, rapid growth isn’t necessarily what makes the CEO’s strategy stand out. Shields has spearheaded a firm that encourages a strict work-life balance (doors close at 5pm, believe it or not) and an ethos of ‘giving back’ to the local community.
Concerned about the erosion of access to law, Shields has encouraged local managers to give back to their community by supplying free statutory declarations and advice on non-core business enquiries as well as offering free photocopying, Wi-Fi, coffee and cake and toys for disadvantaged children in the run-up to Christmas.
It’s an environment that seems to have paid off, with turnover climbing and gender diversity, unlike much of the legal market, more than a distant dream.
A huge number of women choose to work at the firm, with females making up 80 per cent of its 116 total employees and 61 per cent of the firm’s office managers in 2011-12.
For Shields and his team, trying something different has shown the market that it’s not just the big City guns who can be innovative.