What’s prompted your retirement from JMW after 20 years as managing partner?
I made the decision two years ago and revealed my plans for the future to the board. After 20 years of being at the helm I thought it right that the time had come for a change. I wanted to make sure that the firm came through the recession in good shape and this year also coincided with my 65th birthday. We have a very strong management team in place at JMW and I have every confidence that Joy Kingsley, our senior partner, and Paul Walker, my successor as managing partner, will continue to drive the business forward.
The firm has gone through a huge evolution since the days of Jones Maidment Wilson so what’s been your highlight?
There have been so many. Working with so many talented people and helping to exploit their true potential has been a fantastic experience for me. We have successfully come through a number of recessions and I have seen the firm grow from strength to strength. Planning and developing our own seven storey offices in the centre of Spinningfields in 2006 was a very exciting and rewarding experience.
Under your leadership fee income has doubled from £8m to £16m between 2008 and 2014, and there are now 235 staff, including 40 partners at the firm… what’s been your secret?
I have always believed that if you enjoy your work and are good at what you do then you will be successful. I have tried to create a working platform from which everyone can be rewarded for their efforts. It is also so important to get the right people working for you and to give them the appropriate motivation. I don’t believe in standing still and I have always been on the lookout for new opportunities. Financial and business planning is essential as is the need to embrace the most up to date technology.
It’s been confirmed that Paul Walker will be JMW’s new managing partner. How do you think his leadership will differ from yours?
Paul is different from me. He has his own style and personality and I am sure he will put his own stamp on JMW. He has been at JMW for over 20 years so he knows all about our culture and ethics. Importantly, he also knows the JMW people. Whilst he will do things in his own way, I have no doubt that JMW will continue to prosper under his leadership.
Will you be involved in the firm post-retirement?
Yes. JMW is in my blood. I will continue to work as chairman but I won’t have those day to day responsibilities of being managing partner. I will remain as the firm’s COLP and Money Laundering Reporting Officer and I will be there to offer my support and guidance when needed. I will also be heavily involved in training and compliance areas. Hopefully though I will be able to take the occasional day off to spend more time with my family and maybe even play more golf!
What will you miss most?
As I am going to be around for a few years I will still be in regular contact with all my friends and colleagues at the firm. I will miss the excitement of making things happen and being at the forefront of everything that is going on. I have always found that the hardest things you achieve in life bring the greatest rewards and I will miss the challenges of going through the pain barriers to get the end results.
How have you found Manchester as a city to do business in?
Manchester is where I was born. I love Manchester and I have met and done business with so many fantastic people here over the years. I have seen how Manchester has blossomed and I am proud that JMW with so many other firms has been part of its success story.
The legal services sector has also changed hugely. What are your predictions for the market and for the law firms in general?
The legal market has changed significantly over the last few years and I have no doubt this trend will continue. Alternative Business Structures are now being adopted throughout the profession and this will lead to more competition and influence from external sources. Law firms which refuse to change and adapt are not going to survive and we have already seen evidence of this. Law firms no longer have the luxury of being a special profession where fee income can be taken for granted. They need to be run as businesses and adopt the same principles as successful businesses outside the profession.
What’s the plan for your retirement?
I am now 65 and I still plan to be around with JMW for some time. I have other interests like the Spinningfields Business Group of which I am chairman and I am also managing director of ML Solution4U Ltd which is a company that provides anti-money laundering training for law firms and other regulated organisations. I will have plenty of things to do to keep me busy but it will be nice to take more time away from the office and enjoy longer holidays.
Any words of wisdom for the readers of The Brief who have followed your career and seen JMW’s continued growth?
My father told me three things about life: always be honest in everything you do; work hard; and never avoid or put off the difficult decisions that sometimes have to be made. Keeping to those simple principles has been good for me.
I also think it is important to keep a balance in your life. Work hard but take time out as well. You don’t have to become a workaholic. Leaders must lead by example and earn the respect of the people working for them. Never sit back and think that you have made it as there will always be something waiting round the corner to knock you off course.