Mike Brown – senior partner at BLM – talks about the firm’s record financial results, its future direction & gender equality in the legal sector
Can you give us a quick rundown of your career to date?
In 1986 I qualified as a solicitor and subsequently went on to join AW Mawer & Co in 1987. I stayed with AW Mawer & Co through its mergers to become Berrymans Lace Mawer LLP. I was then promoted to partner in 1992.
In 2012 I was appointed senior partner at BLM and I am delighted to still be in that position today. Most recently I have led the firm through two significant combinations – in May 2014 Berrymans Lace Mawer combined with Scottish firm, HBM Sayers and in December 2014 we combined with Northern Ireland based firm Campbell Fitzpatrick Solicitors. We are now truly the leading insurance and risk law specialists in the UK and Ireland.
Last month BLM revealed record financial results, with turnover hitting £104.1m. What do you put that down to?
That’s simple, it’s two things; firstly our talent. The people at BLM are the driving force behind our success, along with dedication to the sector in which we operate. Secondly, we work alongside the industry, its thought leaders and stakeholders. As a result, BLM has evolved organically with it – we are reliable and work very closely with our customers to ensure we deliver what they expect in a rapidly evolving marketplace.
Which parts of the business are you looking to invest in over the coming years and what will be your main growth areas?
We are ambitious. In 2014 amidst the breaking news of our recent combination with HBM Sayers and subsequent rebrand, BLM was described as an “insurance giant”. Our vision is to be recognised as one of the leading global insurance and risk law specialists by 2020.
Our notable geographical growth over the past 18 months enables us to provide customers with greater focus on its chosen sectors, clearer perspective and better solutions. Aligned with this vision is the commitment to always invest in our people.
Are there plans for more mergers or acquisitions?
Never say never. We are often approached by other firms who may be interested in combining with us, but it doesn’t mean they’re right for the business. We are always open minded about our next steps but we have no plans at present.
We are creating a network of global like-minded risk and insurance law businesses. Firms from across the globe are invited to join our insurance network, with access to an International Desk led by a team of specialists operating at the heart of the London insurance market.
This network will facilitate global tailored solutions for BLM customers, which they have requested. BLM will be able to offer a very high quality niche risk and insurance focussed global network. The BLM International network will deliver worldwide access to risk and insurance local market intelligence.
The legal market place is continually changing so how does BLM keep up and evolve?
We listen to our customers. We ensure we know what they want and we deliver it. The market place is changing rapidly with society in general. Our new office at Plantation Place is a good example. We are now immersed in the centre of the insurance district in London - we like to go beyond just meeting customers’ expectations – we offer our exclusive customer lounge as a place to work, network or simply use as a base whilst they’re in London. Our aim is to make our customers’ lives better so we have to adapt to achieve that.
We also make sure we have the right talent on board. Just this year, former Law Commissioner David Hertzell joined BLM as a consultant. David has been the leading force on the implementation of commercial insurance contract reform and is working with us to educate and prepare our customers in advance of the implementation of the Insurance Act – a topic that we have put at the forefront of the agenda.
BLM prides itself on promoting gender equality. Can you tell us a bit about what that means in practice and how the firm directly benefits?
Diversity is a topic that all of us working in the insurance sector need to address and it’s great to see so many organisations and individuals driving the change.
We are very proud of the fact that 63% of all lawyers at BLM are female and 67% of all staff in total. We benefit because it means equality is thread throughout all levels of the business which in turn, makes for a happier, more productive and diverse workforce.
BLM was very proud to support the recent Dive In festival run by Inclusion@Lloyd’s – our lounge was used as the official Festival Lounge for the entirety of the event. We are also working with Ambition First – an organisation that promotes equality in the workplace.
Where would you like the firm to be in 10 years’ time?
I am certain that we will achieve our vision and be one of the leading global insurance and risk law specialists by 2020. So, in 10 years’ time we will be truly established on a global level.
In five words, why do clients choose BLM?
We are focused, courageous, reliable, innovative and connected.
In your opinion, what makes a good lawyer?
I think what makes a good lawyer is a mixture of capabilities. You need to be able to quickly digest significant information, be able to simplify the complex issues, and advise your customer in the best way possible. A good lawyer needs to be able to show understanding and empathy with a customer, and to be able to quickly gain the confidence of the customer. If you can achieve these things then you are on your way to becoming a good lawyer. However, I think the aspiration should be to become a great lawyer. What makes a great lawyer? I’ll tell you another day!
Finally, what are your own career goals that you still want to achieve?
My immediate career goals revolve around being the senior partner of BLM. I am responsible for the leadership, direction and promotion of the firm – three words for strategy. I am determined to assist the firm in the delivery of its strategy for the remainder of my term as senior partner. Thereafter who knows? I would like to continue to make a useful contribution to the firm and to the wider legal community. Whilst it’s not a career goal I would also like to become a better golfer!