Meet the MD: Scott Whyte

From Thorntons trainee to the head of Watermans, Scott Whyte states 'no two days are ever the same' at the Edinburgh firm. Whyte tells BQ what his job entails.

Describe your role in no more than 100 words.
My role is a real mixed bag, which includes undertaking a degree of hands-on personal injury legal practice as well as having ultimate responsibility for all management functions of the business.

It is a role where no two days are ever the same. In the past few days alone my work has varied form planning our marketing and brand promotion activates for the next 6-12 months to preparing for a settlement meeting in a catastrophic injury claim, with a couple of mid-year staff appraisals sandwiched in between!
What is it the company does?
Watermans act for people who have been involved in accidents that were not their fault.  Whilst our core business as personal injury lawyers is to secure compensation for accident victims, we offer additional services to our clients. This includes providing clients with a network of private medical rehabilitation services such as physiotherapy to mechanics who can repair their vehicle. We fight tirelessly to ensure that our clients receive the justice they deserve following what can often be a life changing event.

What do you believe makes a great leader?
Commitment, communication and the ability to inspire are, for me, three of the most important traits of any great leader. Personal commitment to what you are trying to achieve is essential if you want anyone else to buy in to it. 

Communication skills are fundamental for a leader to ensure that his/her team know what is expected of them to achieve the goal that is being set to them. The ability to inspire is also crucial and is just as important when things are going badly as it is when things are going well. This can be as simple as saying thank you for a good job well done or by providing a working environment for people to thrive in.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
We are currently in a time of change in our industry with a significant overhaul of the Court system in Scotland. These changes will be bad for us but most importantly, they will be bad for our clients. As a business we are having to react to this, review our business model and ensure that we are best placed to deal with these changes and protect our clients. We have added experienced solicitors to our team to bring further expertise and capacity in order that we can face the upcoming challenge and hopefully use it as an opportunity to further enhance our position in the market.

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I train at Lochend Amateur Boxing Club in Edinburgh twice a week. An hour or so on the punch-bag usually takes the stress of a bad day away and gets the endorphins flowing!
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I went through phases of wanting to be everything from a footballer to a bin man when I was little, but nothing particularly stuck. Becoming a lawyer never really came into my thoughts though! I have always wanted to be my own boss though.
Any pet hates in the workplace?
People who talk a good game but don’t follow it up with actions and results.

Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
We have already started with the opening of a new office in Glasgow with the addition of two new members of staff so resting on our laurels is never an option. We aim to continue to grow our market share in the personal injury in market with a view to firmly establishing ourselves as one of the key players in this competitive industry

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Never forget where you have come from. Moving form employee to business owner is a big step and many people make the mistake of forgetting what life as employee was like. You should focus on making your business the place you wanted it to be when you were an employee.

Where did you start your career?
I started my legal career at Thorntons Solicitors in Dundee where I did a two-year traineeship.

Give us a brief timeline of your career so far.
I’ve had a variety of jobs doing everything from working in the postroom of a local newspaper to working in insurance sales during my time at University. When I initially graduated form University after my law degree I swore I was never going to practise law and moved to London to work for BT as part of their graduate scheme.

After about a year I decided to give law a second chance and came back to Scotland to complete my Diploma in Legal Practice. I then undertook a two-year traineeship with Thorntons in Dundee, before moving to Glasgow and joining Thompsons Solicitors who I worked with until September 2010.

I then joined Watermans as an Assistant Solicitor and was subsequently promoted to Head of Litigation at the start of 2012. I then became Managing Director of the business in January 2014.