We have an exclusive chat with Sharon Needle
Sharon, what made you set up Needle Partners back in 2007?
I am not a person who enjoys working with limiting boundaries and restrictions. That was my experience working in traditional law firms. So, when I saw the opportunity to forge my own path, to build a company where I, and like-minded individuals, could thrive, there was no way I could walk away from it. I am a person who likes to push the boundaries and I could see the opportunity to do things my way, and really focus on the kind of work I wanted to do. I suppose I am really an entrepreneur at heart. Founding and running the business is not easy but it is very empowering and fulfilling.
What was the firm’s core service offering and how has it evolved since then?
My background is M&A, banking & finance and private equity, with a personal specialty in corporate finance as well as Islamic finance. This was therefore a natural beginning for us. However, as our clients kept coming back to us, having developed a strong bond and trust with us, we had to keep meeting their demands by providing additional commercial legal services to our offering. We have since grown into a full service commercial law firm offering litigation, employment and property for both local and international clients.
What was the biggest challenge you faced starting the firm?
Combining practising law with the day to day running of the business has been and still is the biggest challenge. It was a very steep learning curve initially and can be all consuming, and not without raised stress levels at times. Just because you're a great lawyer does not automatically mean you will be a great managing partner. This was a lesson I had to and still am learning every single day- helped by my team!
What do you most enjoy about your role?
I enjoy being the driver of innovation for both our team and for our clients. My role allows me to experiment and implement all the services, initiatives and ideas that seemed impossible when I was a single lawyer in a sluggish behemoth firm. Now, I can get involved on every level of our service to better understand and deliver a personalised and flexible experience for all our clients and encourage the team to do the same.
How would people describe your leadership style?
Honestly, I am still working this one out myself. It is very hard trying to find the right balance between wanting to do what is right for employees, running a sustainable business and also delivering exceptional service for our clients. I make mistakes at times but am constantly learning new methods and ideas about how best to lead our team. I hope the team see me as firm but fair.
Who or what have been the biggest drivers in your career?
Curiosity, purpose and a strong willingness to create something great.
Needle Partners is an international firm so what territories are you operating in and in what areas of law?
We have a very strong international client base and have partners that are members of the International Bar Association as well as various international business networking groups. In 2016 the firm was only the second UK law firm to open an office in Malaysia. The firm’s Malaysian office operates primarily as a marketing office to provide English law advice for local firms and companies. It also serves as a hub for European companies looking to expand into the region.
Where do you want the firm to be in five years’ time?
To still be a fun place to work and to not have lost its focus and ambition. As much as I value growth, I also value the identity of the company and what it stands for. I hope to preserve this as we move forward and moving forward is something we are doing, especially since becoming an ABS and subsequently beginning to work in collaboration with other professionals such as our corporate finance partner Needle Mackenzie Spencer.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Stop standing in the shadow of your own sunshine.
What makes you get out of bed in the morning?
Knowing that I can make a difference drives me forward and that feeling of achievement for doing a good job for a client. Not only do we affect our clients’ futures but Needle now has a team of 20 lawyers and support staff, and making a difference to their lives also drives me forward. If I'm allowed to be a bit cheeky, that feeling of success when we win a major case for a client against a much bigger firm is also a very strong motivator.
Finally, how do you like to switch off?
I never really switch off – I love what I do. But I do love to do it from a remote location, preferably on a beach!