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2017 eprivateclient Top Family Law Firm founder explains how to foster a positive firm culture

20/09/2017 Will Sidery

This week (Tuesday 19 September) saw the hosting of the fifth eprivateclient Leadership Insight Seminar – sponsored by Ruffer LLP and hosted by law firm Penningtons Manches in its London office - with the focus this time on ‘creating a positive culture’ in the workplace. 

Speaking to an audience of young professionals from the private client law, accountancy, trust and family law sectors, the first of three speakers - James Brown, founding partner of 2017 eprivateclient Top Family Law Firm, Hall Brown - explained that there were three elements needed to foster a positive culture at work and among employees.

Mr Brown, who trained at Manches as a family lawyer and then joined Pannone in 2007 where he was made partner in 2011, formed Hall Brown along with Sam Hall in 2016. The firm, which acts for high net worths, celebrities and sport stars, started with just two lawyers, and now has 14 and total staff of 21. The firm’s business plan was to generate £500,000 in revenue in year one but instead recorded £1.25 million and is aiming for £2 million in revenue in year two.

Mr Brown said that this initial success had been in part down to three elements in ensuring a positive culture in the workplace: 1. Being absolutely clear in the firm’s objectives. 2. Investment from the staff themselves in the firm and its culture and 3. One to one management.

Mr Brown explained that the firm’s objective - as stated on its website - is “to be the best family law firm in the north of England” rather than “the most profitable or with the highest fee income.”

Mr Brown said the firm was “not focused on profit” but instead the firm strived to “make the product excellent and the money will follow.”

To further engender this ethos, Mr Brown said the firm only employed top tier lawyers and ensure that solicitors are “always there for clients at any time.”

Responsiveness was also a key element for Mr Brown who said the firm tries to respond to client queries immediately, regardless of the time or day. He added that firms should try to be clear with clients through “straight talking” as this is what clients want.

To ensure the whole team are invested in Hall Brown, Mr Brown said the staff are told that if they do their work “we will commit to you and build a positive working environment for you.”

As part of this Mr Brown explained that the firm has a “mutual promise” in that the founders have committed to staff that they carry no debt as the 2007 crisis and failure of many law firms was enlightening.

Instead, the founders pay themselves based on cash flow and after all staff have been paid. “If nothing then we get nothing,” Mr Brown said.

In order to further strengthen team spirit the firm has an “open culture” with an open plan office as “not being open plan gives the impression that some better than others.”

At the same time, the firm also give all the staff the right of veto over any new recruit. Mr Brown said the firm did this because it meant no resentment or ill-feeling when someone new arrives, it makes people invested in the firm and new people feel immediately welcome.

As part of developing a positive culture, Mr Brown said that that encouraging one to one management was also essential. Although people are often led to believe that firms need a leader like a Richard Branson or a Steve Jobs, but in fact most duties staff do are with clients and one to one management of these relationships was crucial to the firm. “Don’t be put off if you are not a Jobs or Branson type as you can be an effective leader – one to one management is very important.”

The fifth eprivateclient Leadership Insight Seminar was kindly sponsored by Ruffer LLP and hosted in its London office by eprivateclient Top Law Firm Penningtons Manches.

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