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10 Mins With

Helen Hamilton-Shaw

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Q: Has the industry changed drastically since you started working in it?
A: Life would be so boring if things stayed still, so thankfully, yes! If I just think in relation to our network, one thing that really stands out is the professionalisation of law firm management. When I first started out most firms still operated with a Managing or Senior Partner (or both) at the helm, with even the most mundane decision-making needing to include all the partners. Very few firms had professional finance, IT, HR, Marketing & BD or other business specialists working in them. Or if they did, they were relatively junior. Roll forward 15 years and the landscape looks completely different. The majority of our firms now have Management Boards with delegated authority for decision making. It’s common for Finance, HR & BD specialists to sit on those boards and a number also have professional CEO’s in place. LawNet has always encouraged this and the impact on firms has been clear to see, with members demonstrating more sophisticated leadership and management approaches delivering great results.

Q: What has been the key positive, or negative, impact of change in your area of the market?
A: LawNet members are mid-market firms with the majority ranging in size from £2M – £25M annual turnovers. Two key positive trends stand out for me; the first has been the increasing focus on client experience and service. Our firms are committed to putting the client at the heart of their businesses and use the support we provide them with to create holistic programmes of measurement and improvement. We all know that what gets measured is what gets done and the LawNet Excellence Mark programme proves that is true. Our latest white paper focuses on the work our firms have done in this area and the insights demonstrate clearly the positive impact of building a client focused strategy, something we encourage members to continually refine and develop.

Second is the changing nature of the relationship law firms have with their workforce. Our firms are embracing leading edge leadership thinking and focusing on making their firms great places to work. The impact of truly focusing on the needs of your clients and your people are powerful drivers for change.

Q: Who inspires/inspired you and why?
A: I’ve always been inspired by those who don’t follow the crowd, and do things differently – the trailblazers. When I was growing up Kate Adie was a particular heroine of mine. She was such a strong, independent role model, doing important work and refusing to be defined by stereotypical notions of what a woman should or shouldn’t be doing. Although, I think my parents were very grateful when I decided war reporting was not for me!

Q: What has been the most valuable piece of advice given to you?
A: I’m lucky that my role requires me to spend a huge amount of time researching the latest ideas, thinking and innovations so I have been exposed to a lot of advice over the years! But one thing that really sticks out is to always “Be a learner”. Eric Hoffer, the American philosopher wrote: “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” I cannot imagine a time when that was truer than now, with the challenges and change the profession is facing.

Q: If you were not in your current position, what would you be doing?
A: I’m fascinated by how the brain works, psychology and neuroscience. I’m always trying to work out what drives people to make the decisions they make so I think I’d probably explore a career in those fields.