David Pester, the recently re-elected managing partner at TLT LLP, shares his views on competitiveness, growth & what’s next for the firm...
Law is not synonymous with creativity or a fast paced, entrepreneurial culture. It's true that stood up against technology or media; we're a very different animal. But, we do ourselves a disservice if we don't recognise the competitive legal market within which we all operate. Competitiveness means continuous change and improvement in the way we deliver legal services and this is certainly the way we work at TLT.
Indeed, I'd argue that this way of working has kicked up a gear since I first took the helm at TLT in 2002, just two years after the firm was set up. In that time, commercialisation has taken hold in both the way lawyers run their businesses and in the way they advise clients – as it should be. Regulatory change has opened up the market to new opportunities and, as a result, new competitors.
It is within this environment that TLT has evolved. Since 2002, it has more than tripled in size to become a UK-wide firm that is growing fast. In the last two years, we have opened from a standing start in Belfast and Manchester. Both offices are now over 50 strong and are bringing some really interesting work to the firm as we support a host of new clients like boohoo.com and E.ON.
We entered the Scottish market through a merger with Anderson Fyfe, a strong player in the financial services market. This meant we could immediately provide a UK-wide service for our financial services clients. It also provided us with the right foundation to grow our UK-wide renewables practice; building on the expertise and reputation we have in the south west to support clients in other areas of the UK.
Like any business competing with larger more established brands, you need to figure out quite quickly what you want to be famous for. This means focusing investment in particular sectors. For TLT, this includes financial services, energy & renewables, retail & consumer goods, leisure, housing and public sector. It also means developing specialist niche expertise in areas like pensions that can service a national client base.
The sector approach is now familiar territory across the legal sector, so we continue to look at how we can differentiate. This means a clear focus on listening to our clients and building our service around their specific needs. It's a simple approach, but in practice it impacts everything we do from the large scale strategic decisions to the minutiae of day-to-day life at the firm.
For example, our recent office openings resulted directly from listening to clients about how to support them. We have also been proactive and open to collaboration with other law firms to help ensure work is resourced with the right expertise at the right price. This means some of the larger magic circle law firms are now clients of the firm.
At the day-to-day level, we focus on the small details like picking up each other's phones to avoid calls going through to voicemail. This is because clients tell us they like to speak to a person rather than a machine when they call. These small details form part of a wider approach to team-working which centres on open plan working and the support and flexibility we provide each other. This in turn helps the firm better respond to our clients.
In addition to how we work with clients, we also look at how we differentiate ourselves as an employer and attract the right talent. We have a clear strategy to invest time and energy in achieving recognised standards from the likes of Investors in People. This keeps the firm on a continuous treadmill of assessment and improvement, constantly sense checking our approach.
We also make sure we have a robust approach to recruitment and training. TLT people need to be good communicators and listeners. Senior fee-earners need to be entrepreneurial and able to develop and help grow a business. They need to be able to collaborate and knit that service into our current offering and approach.
To the future; the firm is an incredibly busy place at the moment and we are already seeing a faster return on our investments than originally anticipated. Recent growth is being consolidated across the firm as we put in place the right structures to support UK-wide working and a UK-wide client base.
But, growth is still high on the agenda. We expect to be an £80m business within three years. This means continuing to grow our new offices by adding new teams and expertise. It also means continuing to look at how we can deliver our service so that we improve quality while also responding to an increasingly cost conscious client base. We are a growing national firm focused on building expertise, credibility and relevance in our focus sectors. This means hard work, but also exciting projects and opportunities for our people.