Julie Gingell - partner and director of marketing and business development at St Albans and Mayfair based SA Law - on the firm, being one of the UK’s first non-lawyer partners and what guides her professional life

Can you summarise what SA Law does?
SA Law is a full-service regional firm with an extremely proactive approach to client engagement. We focus a great deal on anticipating the future needs of clients, and continually research and develop services and service-packages that meet them. Every SA Law department champions this proactive approach, and our clients really appreciate how we anticipate their requirements and make it easy to stay ahead.

What are your own specialist areas?
I am a specialist in strategic marketing and communication for professional services organisations, with over 15 years’ experience in brand development, market research and digital/social media.

How many years have you spent in the legal profession?
16 years.

Can you give us a brief summary of your career thus far?
My first full-time job was head of merchandising at Watford Football Club, where I enjoyed glamorous responsibilities such as designing the Premiership football kit. Swapping football for law probably sounds a bit strange, but I was attracted to the fact that marketing-led approaches to selling legal services were still in their infancy. This gave me a fabulous opportunity to start afresh – examining the profession and finding a strategic approach that worked. I also wanted to work in a sector that had learning and knowledge at its core. After being marketing manager at Pictons Solicitors for three years, I was instrumental in the launch of new firm SA Law in 2005, creating its bold brand identity and positioning that still stands out across the region to this day.

What’s been your greatest career achievement to date?
I’m extremely proud to be one of the first non-lawyer partners in a UK law firm, and certainly one of only a handful of marketing professionals to have achieved this position. My role has allowed me to champion marketing throughout SA Law’s partnership, and the benefits have been instrumental to our success. The injection of marketing and other non-legal expertise has also allowed SA Law to benefit from greater professional diversity and objectivity in its decision-making. In many respects, this could be said to give us an edge over partnerships comprising purely legal professionals.

Who or what has inspired your career?
Definitely Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of global advertising firm WPP. As a non-lawyer partner in the legal world, I really admire the way a non-creative transformed the world of advertising – Sorrell came from a finance background.He built his business through talent, determination and by emphasising the value of non-advertising marketing elements that are often overlooked.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given during your career?
One is hard to pin down, so allow me to inflict my top three on you:

1. Would you like fries with that? While I was studying I worked as a part-time McDonalds manager, the concept of upselling is drummed into you from day one.The concept is essential to this day, both in an organisational and personal capacity.
2. Trust your instincts.I still believe that my gut reaction is the right one, and it’s given me the confidence to stay strong to my convictions.
3. Always leave from a position of strength, which isn’t necessarily the same thing as ‘leaving on a high’. It means conquering setbacks and dealing with frustrations, rather than taking an easier path. I’m certain I wouldn’t be a law firm partner today if I hadn’t adopted this approach.

In one sentence can you describe what makes SA Law standout from other firms?
Law is a business tool, and we consider how it can be used optimally to achieve an exceptional return on investment for our clients.

Do you have a motto or philosophy that guides your professional life?
Keep on learning and use it to continually improve. The kind of learning that keeps your business ahead comes from many different sources, and I regularly seek the opinions of people inside and outside our business. I take time to examine all of our marketing output, particularly the projects that didn’t go as successfully as we planned because this is where we learn the most. I read a lot fiction, non-fiction, white papers, journals and blogs – you never know where the next idea can come from. This motto itself comes from the film Working Girl, where the plucky Tess McGill gets the idea for a major corporate deal from reading the People page of the New York Post.

What’s next for the firm?
SA Law celebrated its 10th birthday this year, and building on a successful first decade we’re looking for further opportunities to expand – particularly growing our market share in London, having opened a satellite office in the West End in 2013. We’re also continuing to pre-empt shifts in the market, and building attractive products that bring real value to our clients.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
Within the next 10 years I would like SA Law to have fully embraced the alternative business structure (ABS), to the point where my team is offering marketing and business development consultancy services to our clients.