Meet the MD: Petra Billing

As managing partner of DLA Piper and a trustee on the board of St Luke's hospice, it's fair to say Petra Billing has quite a busy working life. BQ caught up with her to see how she balances her roles and what she believes makes a great leader.

Describe your role in brief:

I am the Office Managing Partner for DLA Piper in Sheffield, a varied role, which I started earlier this month. I am responsible for the overall management of the office and most importantly, our people. Sheffield is a vibrant and busy office and  is home to some of our central teams who support the wider international business. In addition, I am a partner in our Property Litigation team and am responsible for this practice area both in Sheffield and Birmingham.

What is it the company does?

DLA Piper is a global business law firm. We provide the full range of commercial legal advice to clients wherever in the world they do business, be that in Yorkshire or across the globe.

What do you believe makes a great leader?

Someone who leads by example and inspires. After all, no business is a success without good people. The Sheffield office is home to some fantastic people who all make a vast contribution to the firm's values and cultures in turn supporting the continued success of the firm. Everyone has a part to play in delivering the firm's global strategy and a large part of my role is nurturing our talent so that each of our people fulfil their potential.

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

I would say trying to absorb the volume of information in getting up to speed in my new role whilst fulfilling the day to day expectations of my clients. I’d be interested in hearing any tips on how to master the art of storing knowledge and information!

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

I spend time with my husband and daughter both of whom always put a very big smile on my face. My six year old keeps me very busy outside of work and I prioritise her social commitments above my own!  She has a very active and full on social life - much better than mine!

I am also a trustee on the board of St Luke's hospice, a charity specialising in palliative care at the forefront of its field in the health care sector nationally. I am very proud of the work that we do at St Lukes, they are a fabulous bunch of people and the service they provide to families in the region is second to none and truly humbling.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Nice - I was a little naughty as a child! A bit of a handful they might say - My colleagues no doubt would say I haven't changed.

Any pet hates in the workplace

Egg sandwiches! They should be banned from all shared office spaces; in fact banned everywhere!

Those who disrespect others, do not give credit when it is deserved and take credit for the success of others. I find that unacceptable. Also, people who fail to do what they say they are going to do.

Where do you see the company in five years time?

With DLA Piper you never know but that is what is so great about being with a firm that is so ambitious in everything which it does. I'd like to think that we get the credit we deserve in being recognised as a leading global business law firm

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Don’t give up and stay focussed on your goal! I am also a great believer in the saying that 'everything comes to those who wait' and believe there is no substitute for hard work.

Where did you start your career?

I trained at Russell & Creswick a medium sized practice in Sheffield which no longer exists in its own right where I qualified in 1996 and left to join Nabarro as a property litigator. I joined DLA Piper in 2000 and have never looked back.

Give us a brief timeline of your career so far.

After Bristol University and York Law School I returned to the city and did my articles with Russell & Creswick, before joining Nabarro as a property litigator and then  DLA (now DLA Piper) in 2000 where I developed the property litigation practice in the Sheffield office. I became a partner in 2001.  

I am now also responsible for the Birmingham property litigation practice and work very closely also with my lovely colleagues in Birmingham. In 2012 I was appointed UK and EMEA Head of DLA Piper's Global Mining sector. I was privileged to become Managing Partner for the Sheffield office in September 2015, a role that I always had my eye on (secretly) since I first joined the firm.