Emma Simcox-Oliver, head of industrial disease at Asons Solicitors.
Emma, what’s your role at Asons?
I’m the head of Industrial Disease. We currently employ 85 people within the ID team, of which 12 are team managers. I’m responsible for the mentoring, teaching and training of these individuals to make them the best that they can be, whilst also hiring for, and guiding, the development of the department. Having people with the right mind-set, attitude and skill is key to building a successful ID department and I play a pivotal role in acquiring and developing these skills and competencies whilst setting goals and benchmarks for the team to meet.
We have a broad spectrum of qualifications and expertise across the team ranging from paralegals, through to qualified solicitors; including CILEX, trainee solicitors, and those presently doing their LPC / ILEX. Running the largest department at Asons is challenging, and requires a great deal of ‘outside the box thinking’ to succeed in today’s competitive legal climate. I’ve found that if you hire people with the right attitude and give them the skills and resources to do the job to the best of their ability – they’ll do it. I see myself as a facilitator, motivating people and giving them all the tools and training they need to succeed.
Asons is a pretty new firm; how, why and when was it established?
Asons was established by Kamran Akram, our principal, back in 2008 handling conveyancing, PPI and personal injury from a terraced house that was refurbished into a modern office space. Kamran was later joined by his brother Imran Akram in 2010. Imran brought with him a commercial mind-set and a proven track record as an entrepreneur. Having analysed the business financials, Imran saw personal injury as a growing field and positioned the business to focus on this entirely – in doing so, the firm was better placed for its later diversification into industrial disease and clinical negligence.
The strategy worked; Asons Solicitors then moved to a purpose-built office floor in the Bark Street Tower and we have just this month celebrated our sixth birthday. Still growing, we are about to begin the build of our new HQ, a £7 million investment gateway property, with capacity to elevate our employee count to over 600.
What services does it offer?
Presently, we offer expertise in personal injury, industrial disease and medical negligence. During our six years we have helped thousands of claimants recover compensation for injuries or disease suffered through the fault of another. We’re working to make people aware that when someone else’s mistakes lead to times of illness and hardship, speaking to a solicitor is a legitimate and positive option.
How many people work at the firm and across how many teams?
Asons presently employs 350 staff and we have four legal departments; industrial disease, medical negligence, RTA and EL/PL / serious injury in addition to our resource departments. We have brought our costs and our marketing in-house with great success. We offer an amazing bespoke training programme that every employee is taken through - regardless of qualification or experience - which consists of lectures, knowledge transfer sessions and workshops, broken down into Beginners, Intermediate and Advance modules.
As a commercially led firm, we aim to keep 80% of our workforce in fee earning roles and 20% in resources, ensuring that the majority of work is revenue generating, all of which aids our continued growth.
It has a reputation for taking a different approach to other law firms. Why is it different?
First and foremost Asons is run as a business – we take a commercial view to every decision. The directors are here every day and take a very hands on approach to running the business. We are dynamic and fast paced and because we have streamlined all our departments in-house, it means we can have a discussion in the morning, make a suggestion, get director approval and it will be implemented by close of business that day. We are entirely paperless, and as far as I’ve seen, we have possibly the best bespoke Proclaim Industrial Disease case management system in the country.
We try not to take ourselves too seriously; we thrive on creativity and energy, and traditional ways of working tend to stifle the flow of ideas - ideas we’ve used to better the business. This open approach has seen us become remarkably successful, both as a business and as a law firm. However, the directors and senior management work very hard to ensure that all our employees enjoy the perfect work / life balance - a balance which simply doesn’t exist at other traditional law firms!
What’s the culture like?
Amazing. The average age of our employees is 25 – that being said I have NEVER seen such a dedicated and loyal workforce in my life. Our staff retention is maintained at over 85%. We are KPI driven and strive to exceed targets, not simply meet them. We have fun – you spend such a large percentage of your life at work so it’s imperative that you enjoy your time there. We work hard and play hard.
At the same time, we do our utmost to foster creativity, which has seen a huge number of changes take place here at Asons. To facilitate this, we’ve worked to gain a variety of accreditations to prove our dedication to employee growth and development. We were awarded with both the Lexcel practice Management Standard and the prestigious Investors in People Gold Award ward during the first year of business. 2013 saw us included within the ‘Best Companies’ list and this year a plethora of new awards including; E3 High Growth Business of the Year, Red Ribbon Awards Family Business, Skill for Business Award and we are shortlisted for the Eclipse Modern Law Awards in three categories, Entrepreneur of the Year, Rising Star and Non Lawyer which are due to be decided in October.
Personally, I like to see people succeed, and Asons encourages the kind of innovative thinking needed to survive and thrive in what is otherwise, a very competitive market.
What’s an average day like?
That’s one of the best things at Asons as no one day is the same as another! As I write this piece, we have a group of 20 staff up on the roof taking the ALS ice bucket challenge – last month we had space hopper races. During the World Cup, we had football tournaments going on in the breakout room on our football table, we had a cycle race between floors to celebrate the Tour-de-France on exercise bikes and that’s just to name a few of the incentives we implement for our staff. Our mentality here is that happy staff are more productive staff and that is certainly demonstrated with the company’s continuing performance and growth.
What are Asons aims and objectives over the next few years?
Our primary objective is to build our new HQ – we are hoping to be in our new state of the art offices by Christmas 2015. We have plans in place to double the size of our ID and MN teams immediately as soon as the move occurs. After that, we are looking to expand into new areas of law - employment and commercial initially with the view to making Asons a fully serviced law firm. Long term we intend to take Asons overseas, starting with an office in Dubai, later expanding to Singapore, India and New York.
What kind of people thrive at Asons?
Asons is such a multi-cultural, diverse firm that it’s difficult to pin point a ‘type of person’ – it’s a mentality that has absolutely nothing to do with age. An Asons ‘person’ is one who strives to do better, to be better, and gives 150% - a team player who is committed, motivated, commercially aware and ambitious.
We have fast track promotion opportunities and offer a large proportion of the North West’s training contracts, so naturally that attracts a younger workforce, but you don’t have to be ‘young’ to work here. It’s more about state of mind. You do need to have the ability to thrive in a modern, progressive, technology savvy law firm that is ambitious, energetic and forward thinking – to embrace change not fear it.
Can you sum up why Asons is a great place to work in one sentence?
Easily – because we are NOT your traditional law firm!!!!