Taylor Wessing’s managing partner Shane Gleghorn speaks to The Lawyer about the new range of initiatives the firm has launched during lockdown including virtual yoga, mindfulness sessions and Skype choirs.

What will change for Taylor Wessing when offices being to re-open?

Throughout this period, we’ve been shaping our policies by both looking at our business needs and by consulting with our people. It’s clear from our people’s responses on how they wish to return to work that the long-term office environment will be very different. The first point is enhancing remote working. More people want to work more flexibly than before, and not just until the risk of return to our buildings has reduced. We’re taking a simultaneous look at the safety and logistical aspects of return to work plans.

Shane Gleghorn
Shane Gleghorn

We are focused on connectivity driving productivity and enabling our people to work agilely. That means smart deployment of technology, which enhances client service and increases collaboration (both in terms of working with clients and how our people work better together). This is something we’ve been looking at for a while. The crisis accelerated our approach to those outcomes, and we will continue to make even more investment in our systems and infrastructure (wherever our people are choosing to work), training for our people, and aiming to increase agile/office working productivity.

It’s also important to be more focused on our purpose, social responsibility, sustainability and culture. We believe that, even more so in a crisis, those factors lead to deeper relationships with clients and increase the commitment and performance of people.

Has this period strengthened or strained relationships with clients?

Without wishing to diminish the impact of the crisis on our clients, it has been an opportunity to strengthen relationships.  We have a culture that supports resilience, encourages collaboration and prioritises long-term client relationships. Our people have found new ways to invest in relationships, supporting clients during this time and finding ways of working together to support our communities, and sectors we work in, and add more value to our client’s businesses. I have a few examples in mind where clients are thriving at the time of the crisis. For instance, robotics and AI are thriving and our patent partners in Europe have been doing great work here. Similarly, we’re working with the UK Government on the new Future Fund, which matches financing to UK start-ups and scale-ups. We also jumped at the opportunity to help one of the hardest hit sectors by working pro-bono for UKHospitality. Our hotel and disputes partners are assisting their members with the FCA High Court application in respect of business interruption insurance.

Are game-based assessments (GBA) proving successful for the firm in hiring the right individuals?

We were the first firm to do this in 2017 and it has become a very important tool. It captures a huge number of data points that give us the ability to look beyond a candidate’s written CV and focus more on their potential talent. It also helps us to widen access to the profession. For example, 40 per cent of our 2020 vacation scheme cohort were the first in their family to go to university. And what really caps it off is that the candidates enjoy the process too. We are seeing well over 80 per cent of applicants enjoying GBA as part of the selection process, which compares very favourably to more traditional testing processes.

What wellbeing initiatives have Taylor Wessing launched during this difficult period?

We have a long-standing wellbeing network that promotes and supports wellness in the firm as a way of improving the lives of everyone at Taylor Wessing, and assists to prevent the onset of physical and mental health conditions. I won’t list all of our pre-crisis work but, post-crisis, one of the first things we did was reach out to our clients and partners in the wider community to discuss what would help most and provide assistance where it is needed. In terms of community partners, that has meant working with, among others, St Jude’s Primary School, The Lodge and Opening Doors London. This has also led to some fantastic initiatives and opportunities to work on important social issues with our clients. One example is working with our client, Ola, the ridesharing company, so that they can use their fleet of vehicles to support transporting NHS staff to hospitals.

It was important to listen to our people too, and the things they would find most helpful and identifying the local/personal initiatives they’re involved in, and we did this by asking them to feedback ideas and experiences. And that led to a range of new initiatives like:

  • supporting universities in developing and delivering more PPE to local NHS hospitals and care homes
  • hosting parental choice sessions already for working parents, and more to come to support those with dependants at home
  • using Headspace and extending it to use for our future trainees
  • investing in a bespoke mindfulness webinar for our people
  • developing a dedicated intranet page with resources and information, including supporting our physical and mental wellbeing.
  • virtual yoga, mindfulness sessions, and our choir gets together and performs for the firm over Skype
  • our inclusion networks are running virtual sessions to keep everyone engaged and provide support to their members – we have a wonderful team of mental health first aiders.

Obviously we’re conscious of other global events that are deeply connected with people’s wellbeing. While not directly related to the coronavirus pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement has had a real, lasting impact on our firm so we are convinced that our cultural diversity network needs to double-down on its efforts. And these are initiatives that we’ll continue to focus on with input from our cultural diversity network and others around our international network.

If you hadn’t become a lawyer, what would you have done instead?

Well I certainly wouldn’t have had it in mind when I first started working, but I have come to enjoy salvage shows like “Salvage Hunters” and “American Pickers”. So I am not sure I would have necessarily set out to do it, but I like interesting objects and, if I was not a lawyer, would quite like a stint of driving around the country to meet the interesting people who own those bits-and-pieces. I would certainly enjoy the banter and negotiation.