Hogan Lovells UK boss Susan Bright on why the firm is no investment laggard.
Partners from legacy firms Hogan & Hartson and Lovells can finally pop those corks. After three years of underwhelming financial growth, the firm yesterday (27 February) posted record global turnover and a 4.5 per cent London revenue increase (27 February 2014).
Pop. There goes the bubbles, a few cheers no doubt heading in the direction of London managing partner Susan Bright. The bump in revenue has given the antitrust partner plenty of ammo to push her initiatives forward. When she took on the job in May she sat staff down to find out what they wanted over the next three years.
“I just listened,” she says, rightly emphasising its importance. But listening requires an active response, so what’s to come of it?
“I’m a big advocate of training,” she notes, having just reeled off a list of potential training programmes. “We’re currently piloting a training scheme for senior partners who lead offices and practice groups, and in London we’re looking at programmes to help people deal with a range of areas such as difficult conversations, pitches and leadership.”
A partner at the firm since 1999, Bright’s focus is clearly on her staff. Green apples gleamed on the desks of London’s 1,600 staff when they returned from Christmas break, with Bright kicking off 2014 with seminars on emotional wellbeing, healthy eating and a permanent on-site counselling service (20 February 2014).
Cynics might snort that it makes the office sound like a spa resort, but Bright and her partners know as well as anyone the importance of well-being among the workforce. She and her partners are moving forward in confronting the stigma surrounding depression in the City, something that was horribly highlighted last year by the death of IP partner David Latham, in the wake of which the firm pledged to examine its policies and procedures around workplace stress and mental health (13 September 2013). According to UK mental health charity Mind, one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.
But Bright’s initiatives are not all linked to staff satisfaction – this is a business, after all.
With her firm having already launched a low-cost support network in South Africa (3 February 2014), Bright is now turning her attention to costs in the UK. In a month’s time she will bring in a legal project manager, a new job for the office, with the person in question responsible for setting up a team to focus on areas such as pricing structures.
“This is important as the market moves away from hourly rates to fixed-price fees,” she highlights, adding that “nothing specific” is in the pipeline regarding further new roles.
This is surprising, given the office’s rampant lateral hiring in recent months. Hires since October have included legacy SJ Berwin private equity partner Ed Harris (22 October 2013 ), Herbert Smith Freehills environmental partner Louise Moore (5 November 2013 ), Field Fisher Waterhouse ’s privacy and information group head Eduardo Ustaran (10 October 2013 ) and longstanding Allen & Overy corporate partner Don McGown (31 January 2014 ).
As the already large office swells in headcount, Bright keeps up by walking the corriders as much as she can. She is also launching an internal forum next week which will allow staff to post questions or ideas.
“This [the forum] is just another way of communicating,” she adds.
Maybe a spa break wouldn’t be such a bad idea.