BPE Solicitors HR director Julia Jones is also head of the Cheltenham firm’s in-house HR consultancy, which operates alongside the legal teams.
Jones is a chartered fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and has more than 15 years’ experience delivering commercial HR advice. She is also an Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service-accredited workplace mediator with considerable experience in management development training.
What does your role involve?
I have three main areas of responsibility. I joined six years ago as HR director and a couple of years ago put together a business plan to set up an in-house HR consultancy.
One reason was that we wanted to look at recruitment more closely. Lawyers are expensive. Also, there was an avenue of work that we weren’t tapping into – work that doesn’t require a lawyer. This includes recruiting, retaining or exiting staff – work that can be done without incurring legal fees. Plus there’s no end of work we can refer to our employment team that would otherwise have gone outside. I know that more law firms are thinking about creating in-house HR consultancies.
What’s the third strand?
Networking – to feed the HR consultancy I need to be out of the office drumming up new business.
What else is keeping you busy?
We’ve just done our first employee opinions survey. It has two elements: how people feel about working at BPE and how BPE is viewed compared to other law firms.
Why are you doing it?
I’ve wanted to do it for years. Last year we put all the firm’s senior management [the equity partners plus the chief operating officer (COO), business development (BD) director and Jones] through a strategic development programme, which was four days over two months. We pulled the firm to pieces and then put it back together again. The employee survey came out of that exercise.
Is there anything else you’re looking at?
We’re considering moving away from the PQE system [for remuneration] for our associates.
What’s in your in-tray?
We’ve just launched a mentoring scheme [in October 2011]. I identified that law firms were rubbish at developing people once they’d qualified. A lot of effort is put into trainees and then it falls off a cliff. Our scheme fills the gap from newly qualified to associate, developing skills in line with the firm’s strategy. It covers things such as financial awareness, work-in-progress, networking and BD, as well as lawyers’ professional development, including creating their own brand.
How does the mentoring scheme work?
Lawyers can choose their mentor for each category. Mentors are all senior management, equity partners or team leaders. It’s voluntary and open to all fee-earners below associate level because there’s a separate career development system above that. It’s a two-year programme and around 20 fee-earners are doing it.
Describe the management structure at the firm
The main board is made up of the equity partners, the BD director, the COO and me.
How many people do you have in your core team and who are they?
There’s me plus one other full-time person.
Who do you report to?
Our senior partner, John Workman.
Profit per equity partner:£140,000
Revenue per partner:£324,000
Revenue per lawyer:£101,000
BPE has been open-plan for 12 years, with all lawyers sharing the same space.
“Being open-plan helps with our culture, which I’d describe as sociable and friendly,” says Jones. “It also means our younger lawyers learn quickly because they’re surrounded by experience. The downside is if you want a private conversation you need to go outside the open-plan areas.”
To combat this BPE has a number of booths – “basically cupboards with sliding doors,” jokes Jones – plus breakout rooms.
Customer relationship management: SugarCRM
Practice management system:SOS Connect