Describe your role in no more than 100 words.
I am responsible for the strategic development of Mills & Reeve’s 230-strong Birmingham office. This includes the implementation of our firm’s strategy across the Midlands region, the support of sector, international business development and strategic key account programmes. I am also the main partner point of contact for local media and networking organisations.
In addition I am the president of the New York-headquartered British American Business Council, and I also sit on the council of the Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group.
What is it the company does?
Mills & Reeve LLP is a full service national law firm. Our commercial clients include global and UK-based businesses, FTSE and AIM-listed organisations, private companies and start-ups.
We act for businesses from PLCs to start-ups, high net worth individuals and landowners, more than 120 universities, colleges and education bodies, and over 100 healthcare organisations.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I started my career in Stockport, Cheshire working in a small general practice which meant that on qualification we did a bit of everything: litigation, matrimonial, conveyancing and even crime. It was a tradition there to make everyone who qualified conduct a trial in the magistrates’ court. It was the first and last time I did that and I’m proud to say I won!
I soon began to specialise in commercial litigation, the area which remains my focus today. I moved to Manchester where I stayed for 10 years before coming to Birmingham. My move to the Midlands was prompted by my largest client, a multi-national oil company, requesting for me to transfer to a firm with more resources so I made the move to Wragge & Co.
I came to Mills & Reeve LLP in 2004 with the brief to establish and lead a commercial litigation team. We started with just myself and an associate – we are now a team of nine, acting for some exciting multi-national companies and undertaking a range of litigation and international arbitration cases.
In 2013 I was appointed head of our Birmingham office, with the brief to drive through an investment programme which would see the office grow substantially into a full service corporate/commercial law firm recognised as a regional heavyweight in the Midlands.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
In my view, it’s the ability to listen and take people with you when it comes to important decisions. When I’m involved in any new initiative for the firm, I like to formulate a plan and then consult with colleagues. Whilst this is very much part of the firm’s culture anyway, building consensus is always important in order to keep people on side and successfully deliver the objective.
It’s also important to set out a vision, communicate it and provide regular updates so that everybody’s on board with progress. A sense of humour is also essential!
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
We have by far the very best specialist health, private client and insurance teams in the Midlands. In some ways we have been slight victims of our own success, as for many years these high profile teams have tended to garner attention above the other great work that we do.
My role as head of office has been to assist in the development and growth of our corporate, commercial and other teams. We now have one of the largest corporate and commercial teams in the Midlands and have recently added banking and pensions to our roster.
Getting the market to understand how our office has developed has been a challenge, however the exciting and innovative work undertaken by these teams - for example the high profile sale of 99p Stores to high street giant Poundland – has helped. We are also now recognised as a regional heavyweight by the legal directories.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
In addition to my Mills & Reeve & BABC role, I’m involved with a small local charity which helps with community projects and I also sit on the Parochial Church Council for our local parish. In my view, having an involvement in organisations away from your day to day activities helps keep a sense of perspective. On the whole I don’t get stressed with things that happen at work.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A vet, although one day’s work experience trudging across a muddy field and seeing the vet wrestle with a cow was enough to put me off!
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about then?
Lateness for internal meetings is a big bug-bear. I always start meetings on time and will generally re-arrange a meeting if no-one’s there on time rather than wait. It’s simply a needless waste of time.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
Established as a national leader with a worldwide reach, growing our business faster than the top 100 UK law firms, and with a reputation for innovation in legal services.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Stay true to what you believe in, but listen and take advice from others. Make sure that you establish a good and open working relationship with colleagues, communicate your ideas clearly to them and take them along with you on the journey.