We speak to Ryan Hawley – Corporate Partner at Mills and Reeve
Ryan, can you please tell us a bit about your career and current role at Mills & Reeve?
I spent the first eight years of my career at Squire Patton Boggs as a corporate lawyer working in the corporate finance team. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there but about five years ago I realised that I needed a new challenge. I wanted to make sure that I moved for the right position and firm. Mills & Reeve really appealed as it was a strong national firm with a desire to grow both its Birmingham office and wider regional presence. That mixture is exactly what I was looking for. I became a partner 18 months ago and since then I have been spearheading the team’s growth and direction. It’s been fantastic so far and the future is looking good.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing businesses in the Midlands?
When we talk to our clients locally, nationally and internationally the real challenge is uncertainty. Businesses just aren’t on a sure footing – be that due to Brexit, Trump tariffs or the broader economic picture - and that means that they don’t have the clarity they need to make strategic decisions and invest. I fear that status-quo is going to remain the norm for the foreseeable.
If you could improve anything in the region what would it be?
I’m an adopted Brummie and I love the city and its people. If I could change one thing it would be how the region perceives itself. Birmingham is a great city to work and live in and we should have more confidence about what it has to offer That, in turn, will impact on how the city is perceived nationally. People like Andy Street banging the West Midlands drum is working but we need more of that passion!
What has been the most rewarding - or most high profile deal - that you’ve been involved in?
There have been many but last year’s £1.4bn sale of Weetabix to US firm Post Holdings was a real milestone in my career. The Weetabix brand is known across the world and the deal involved parties spanning the globe; it was exciting and fascinating to be in the midst of the transaction.
In your view, what sets Mills & Reeve apart from other law firms?
The most important factor is the firm’s collegiate atmosphere. The culture is genuinely different to that of other firms, and that is something of which the firm is rightly very proud. For example, we have featured on the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies for the past 15 years. Mills & Reeve is a 1,000 people plus firm spread across six offices but there’s a real unity and common cause. That is inspiring and creates a sense of community.
Where would you like the firm’s corporate department to be in five years’ time?
Our focus is on growth and becoming a five partner department within five years. I also want us to be seen as a preeminent firm for deals and to be part of the deal-making and corporate finance fabric of the region. I think that’s more than achievable.
Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
My dad. He taught me what hard work means and what it takes to succeed. He was a civil engineer so our careers are totally different but seeing how he went about his profession instilled a certain work ethic that I’ve never lost.
If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you do and why?
Barring any currently undiscovered cricket skills... probably a trader. I am an amateur trader in my spare time so I’d like to have followed that career path in a different lifetime (although with more success!).
What five words best sum you up as a lawyer?
Innovative. Determined. Calm. Dedicated. Fun.
Finally, how do you like to switch off?
Most days I run into the office and that helps me to focus and also leave work behind at the end of the day.