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Vicky, what’s been your career path and when did you take over as regional managing partner?
I qualified into the commercial litigation department at Freshfields in 1996 and spent 10 happy years there before moving to Thomas Eggar to help build its litigation practice. During my 11 years at Thomas Eggar I held various roles including practice head for Commercial Litigation and was a member of the strategic board. I was elected as managing partner of the firm from May 2012 and was in that post when we merged with Irwin Mitchell in December 2016. Following the merger I assumed various roles in Irwin Mitchell including the regional managing partner job.
Has the firm changed much under your leadership?
We have exciting plans for Irwin Mitchell. During my time as managing partner at Thomas Eggar there were many changes which I implemented and led with a strong leadership team. The most interesting change was cultural. The firm had a clear direction when I became managing partner and we followed the strategic plan reacting along the way to changes in the market. As a leadership team, we started to build a strong collaborative culture with our people at the heart of everything we do. We developed and enhanced our client service and experience by ensuring our people were engaged, developed and supported and fairly rewarded.
How tough is it to juggle your client work with your duties as regional managing partner?
It’s challenging as the role, along with my other roles, is demanding and requires a significant amount of time. My client role is limited to client relationship management, business development – meeting prospective clients and explaining how the firm might be able to help their business or them personally. Client engagement is a key and important part of what I do and something I really enjoy so I make time for it.
What’s the commercial disputes market been like for the firm over the past couple of years?
Steady is probably the best word to describe it. For many years we have seen a shift in clients wanting to be supported in better risk management and claim avoidance rather than in conducting large-scale litigation. Our emphasis has changed to working with the clients to understand their business, their strategy and their priorities so that we can help them to protect their businesses and maintain their reputation in the market. Obviously there are still larger claims around and we have seen some of those over the last couple of years. As a firm, we have historically adopted a sector approach to working with clients and so our disputes tend to be focussed upon sectors where we have strength and expertise – banking, TMT, retail, sport and leisure.
What are its biggest challenges & opportunities moving forward?
There are enormous opportunities for the firm following the merger. Irwin Mitchell is a firm with a strong reputation, investment capability, a sound infrastructure and flexibility because of its ABS licences. It is a firm with ambition and one that thinks a bit differently. Clients are asking us for certainty and flexibility on pricing, holistic approach to problem solving and strength and depth in our offering. As a national full service law firm we can offer those things. We are one of only a handful of firms that successfully combines its offering to private individuals with a full service offering to businesses. Challenges will come from the economic position of the UK, political uncertainty and the European dimension following the referendum. However, as a full service law firm, those political and economic changes also create opportunities because clients in the UK and outside the UK are looking for guidance, support and security through uncertain times.
How much collaborative working is there between the offices under your direction?
There is significant collaborative working across the offices which I manage as RMP and also across the offices in which I manage the Commercial Litigation team. It is essential for strong people development, team working, client service and creating efficiencies that result in better pricing for clients. We encourage cases and transactions to be managed by the right people with the right expertise at the right level regardless of location. Client service is enhanced because we have the right people for the job. It creates a great team spirit with a wide and strong network and helps us to develop client relationships more effectively.
You launched Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth is an example of one of the strengths of Irwin Mitchell. Its launch brought together the expertise of the teams from Berkeley Law, Berkeley Hurrell, Thomas Eggar and Irwin Mitchell to create a team with 40 partners and nearly 500 staff. Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth offers a wide range of specialist services for private clients including succession planning, reputation protection, family and divorce, probate and estate administration and town and country property. It also advises business owners and executives on their personal business wealth including succession planning, intellectual property, business law employment, commercial property and tax.
How has it been received in the market?
We are one of the biggest firms in the market and the launch has been received very well. Irwin Mitchell, Berkley Law and Thomas Eggar all had a strong reputation in this market before the launch of Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth, and combining the strength of those teams has enhanced the services we can offer and that has been recognised by the market.
How will it grow and evolve over the coming years?
We are already expanding the teams that support our private wealth clients. We are building on our reputation and strength in the market and our client profile is growing. We anticipate that we will continue to strengthen and deepen our services we offer by listening to clients who work with us and responding to their needs but also by constantly evolving and developing the support we provide. We anticipate our national and international reputation in this market being very significant within three to five years.
What five words best sum up the business?
Ambitious, Energetic, Approachable, Pioneering, Tenacious.
How do you invest in your people?
My philosophy is that if you engage people, explain what we are trying to achieve together, ensure they understand their role in making that happen, provide them with the support they need to succeed and reward them fairly, they will give a lot back. I try to ensure that all the people I work with understand what we are trying to achieve and how they can help. Regular communication, visibility, encouragement and support is essential. Good training, listening, collaboration and encouragement are things I aim to do to invest in our people. Empowerment is the best investment you can provide.
Is there anything else you want to achieve in your own career?
I would simply like to add value in whatever I do. I certainly did not envisage at the start of my legal career that I would have achieved what I have achieved so far. I would like to be in control of my destiny, add value, recognise when I am not adding value and look back with pride. Titles and roles do not excite me. Engaging people, watching them grow and succeed motivates me and I would like to continue to do that for as long as I can.
Finally, what inspires you?
Energy, bravery and honesty.