Emma Holt, head of Pannone, part of Slater & Gordon
The last 12 months must have been an interesting period for the firm. How long did the merger take from start to finish?
The process took around seven months.
What was the process like?
The process was run, on all sides, by skilled people committed to achieving the best outcome, which is a market leading law firm, delivering high quality affordable legal services to all people, in a modern and dynamic business structure. Change in the legal sector, which has been brought about by the Legal Services Act, the creation of alternative business structures and extensive consolidation, creates great opportunities just like this.
What was the reaction to the merger amongst the staff and the wider legal community?
Amongst our staff, I think there was excitement, as well as some apprehension. In the wider legal community, I think the merger has been seen as a combination that made a lot of good business sense, which enables us to build a business with greater depth across our areas of practice and provides scale from which to build on.
How are things now everything has settled down?
We are embracing the opportunities presented by our new combined identity; these include learning from the best practice across all the merged businesses, people who were once competitors now joined to form a truly formidable practice, and enjoying our common values founded in the belief that everyone should be able to access the best lawyers.
What are the plans for the new Manchester office?
More than 700 staff will be moving into our new office space at 58 Mosley Street in early 2015. It’s our intention to provide a first class environment for our clients and our staff in Manchester. We are currently in a number of different sites across Manchester and it will be great to have all the Manchester teams fully integrated and working together under one roof. Our plans will ensure we adopt ways of working which reflect the changing legal sector, giving a highly efficient and professional service and this will be fully supported by our new IT systems (CMS and PMS) to be rolled out in a few months’ time.
How about across the firm; what’s next in terms of focus, services, infrastructure and vision?
The firm will be implementing a new case management and practice management system over the next few months. All the teams across the business are engaged in capturing best practice from all the disciplines to ensure our clients receive the best possible service. We are also introducing new and further efficiencies in the ways we work through continually improving our processes such that our IT systems are fully tailored to support all the work we do.
We have also refreshed our brand values to reflect all of the businesses. The cultural alignment across all the firms is evident and all our people are passionate about their work - we want to make a difference, to achieve the best outcomes we can for all our clients, and our combined expertise will be invaluable in moulding this into the future.
Our vision is to deliver world class legal services in a way which is accessible to all people, and our national office network means we have significant geographic spread to reach more clients across the UK.
The firms that have come together have enormous strength and depth across many disciplines, including Serious Injury where we have specialists in all areas including Spinal and Brain Injury, Industrial Disease, Travel litigation and Clinical Negligence where we are now the country’s largest team. We can support our clients further through our strong Court of Protection and Disability Rights teams.
Our Family, Employment, Dispute Resolution, Real Estate and Crime teams include many leaders in their field experienced in these areas of law.
The work we undertake for business clients as well as for individuals will be a focus for growth in the coming months, in areas including Commercial Real Estate and Dispute Resolution, particularly developing our work with SMEs.
You have a long history with the North West so will the firm’s commitment to the region & to Manchester stay as strong?
Absolutely yes, our commitment to the region will be even stronger. When we move into our new space, Manchester will be our biggest office. We see ourselves as part of the fabric of the North West, we have brought together some strong North West brands - Fentons, Slater & Gordon, Pannone, John Pickering & Partners and Goodmans – and as a result we believe we will be the largest law firm in the region, with a strong reputation and we have plans to continue to grow.
Where would you like the firm to be in say five years’ time?
I would like us to be the market leading consumer law firm, foremost in people’s minds to look after their legal needs, with great expertise and empathy, representing the causes that concern them, and not afraid to push the legal boundaries.
Can you tell us a bit about Linked to Law following its rebrand & relaunch?
The branding of our network of law firms, “Linked to Law” is intended to reflect our aims of linking clients to the right lawyer for their needs at any particular time and linking member law firms together.
The Linked to Law network has some fundamental aims; ensuring our member firms can refer their clients to us trusting the service we will provide and confident in our non-poaching agreement, and giving our members access to new and evolving benefits to help them. These benefits include a new PII scheme through Willis, procurement services including, for example, energy procurement and remote dictation services and training.
Feedback from our members has included an interest in receiving work from us reciprocally, and so we are also introducing a preferred member scheme, whereby firms agree to work to certain agreed service levels with Linked to Law to support the clients we can refer to them.
On a more personal note, what’s been your career highlight to date?
I am very fortunate as there have been many highlights. In my career as a practising clinical negligence lawyer, I have acted for many people badly injured as a result of negligent treatment, many in the most tragic of circumstances. Being able to stand up for people in such difficult times in their lives, to guide them through the legal process and recover compensation which dramatically improves their quality of life, is always very rewarding.
I have also been involved in a number of cases where we have succeeded not only in winning, but also in changing the law. A most recent example was in the Supreme Court, where we secured a judgment extending the right to life to non-detained mental health patients.
In management terms, leading Pannone for almost four years, and spearheading the transaction that brought Pannone together with Slater and Gordon has been a true highlight.