We sit down with Tapestry Compliance’s Janet Cooper to talk about her career, the firm and what drives her in business
Janet, can you please tell us about Tapestry Compliance and what it does?
Tapestry is a specialist law firm. Our focus is on global executive and employee share plans and incentives. Our team comes from a variety of backgrounds; I started as a corporate lawyer whilst my business partner, Bob Grayson, first trained as a banking lawyer. We also have tax, employment and trusts lawyers in the team. Their varied backgrounds give the team real strength and diversity in terms of knowledge and experience.
What kinds of clients do you work with?
We work for the biggest and best companies in the world. Our clients include Goldman Sachs, Rolls Royce, Dell, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, HSBC, Aviva, TripAdvisor, Discovery Communications, Fujitsu, Smiths Group as well as many FTSE 100, Fortune 100 and Euro 100 companies. As our clients may be headquartered anywhere worldwide, we regularly work on major global projects.
What’s been your own career path to date?
I was brought up just outside Huddersfield and, as I wanted to stay close to home and my twin sister, I went to Leeds University to do my law degree. My training contract was with, what was then, Hammond Suddards. I moved to London on qualification to join Linklaters and in 1991, became one of the first women partners. After 20 years as a partner, I started Tapestry in 2011.
Why did you establish Tapestry Compliance?
I wanted to show that we could set up a firm where the lawyers could have a fulfilling legal career - working with great clients doing stimulating and challenging work - but working in a more sustainable and fun way. We want people to be able to have their full careers with us, doing the kind of interesting, multi-jurisdictional work experienced in the City firms, and that I did at Linklaters, without having to change firms to find a career with more manageable hours.
You advocate flexible and agile working. Why?
I think it’s a really business smart thing to do. We don’t limit ourselves to people who can only work 50+ hours a week (which, on the whole, are the hours required by the City firms). I would rather have someone working shorter hours who is supersmart, very committed and highly able, than not have her or him at all because they can’t give us more hours. We have attracted really great lawyers from firms such as Slaughter and May, DLA and Pinsents because we are committed to this. Only one lawyer has chosen to leave in the last five years, and we are growing at around 25% a year. Few firms can claim those kind of stats. We win, on average, a major company client a week (many have been referred by our clients who like what we do for them), which I think is a huge testament that agile working does work.
What sets the company apart?
We have been described as ‘disruptive’ in the legal sector - we are different from many of the other firms. We are committed to agile working, we have a team-based approach to supporting each other in the work we do for our clients. We are based in Yorkshire. We are doing work normally done in City and Wall Street firms, from our Yorkshire offices. We are over 70% women, and the majority of the leadership team are women - not many law firms can say that!
We also love technology - it helps make sure the team are fully connected so they can work in a team-based way for all our global clients. We have also developed our own ‘legal tech’ service, OnTap, providing legal and tax information for over 100 countries. This innovative online offering ensures our clients have 24/7 access to help them do their job quickly and cost efficiently.
Where do you want it to be in five years’ time?
We will be wherever our team want it to be! We involve them in the decisions we make about what work we do, how quickly we grow, how we do our work and where we want to be. We are ranked in the top tier in both Chambers and Legal 500 Legal Directories, which is a terrific achievement for a new firm to achieve so quickly. I would expect that given the number of companies moving to us to do their work, we will be recognised as the top practice in the country. We will continue to grow in a manageable way and possibly have one or two more offices to support the growth.
The business won the Queens Award for Enterprise in 2017. What has the impact been?
It has had a tremendous impact. It is hugely prestigious to win a Queens Award. We won it because of the work we do for companies around the world - in the US, Japan, Australia and Europe - all from our offices in Yorkshire. We were surprised how well known the Queens Award was by our clients overseas. Many sent us lovely messages about our visit to Buckingham Palace.
You also received an OBE the same year. How did that come about?
I was chuffed to bits to receive an OBE. The citation says for services to ‘equality, women’s empowerment and employee share ownership’. It covers the work I have done throughout my career. I have always been committed to supporting women’s rights and pioneered agile working at Linklaters from the early 1990s (before the internet!). I’ve now taken it to a whole new level in Tapestry. I have also specialised in employee share ownership and have developed a number of the structures which are used today by companies around the world. I’ve also set up organisations to share best practice amongst companies and practitioners such as the Global Equity Organisation which I co-founded 20 years ago.
What drives you personally in business?
To try and make a difference, both in terms of the people I work with - providing the best career opportunities and training - and in the wider context of helping companies provide the best employee share ownership opportunities for their colleagues. If the right plans are put in place, it can be life changing for their employees and can really help drive the business forward.
Who do you most admire in business?
Business leaders who support their communities and employees to lead better lives and not just a focus on their shareholders; people like Paul Polman at Unilever. We work with companies such as Unilever and it’s a real privilege to work those organisations that have a wider vision of what they are trying to achieve.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
From my dad: always do your best.
How do you switch off outside of work?
I love spending time with my family and friends - usually over a nice meal and bottle of wine!