Laura Devine discusses how winning the Excellence Award for Woman Lawyer of the Year has made a difference to her firm.
My 2015 Law Society Excellence Award for Woman Lawyer of the Year came 30 years after my articles - as training contracts were then called - at what is now CMS. My excellent training and experience at University College London, CMS, PwC and Eversheds gave me a superb platform to set up my own boutique firm in London in 2003 and in New York in 2007.
Seek out the best
For me, the most enjoyable and satisfying part of running a business is the recruitment, training and development of staff. We have a strong emphasis on our team members, and the structure of the firm often surprises people: top professional support staff run both offices, which allows the lawyers to concentrate on client service.
Another differentiator is that the firm is female-oriented, with all four partners being women. Our workplace is feminine in nature, meaning that our ethos is caring, collegiate and collaborative, with initiatives that focus on wellbeing and pastoral care, such as team-building events abroad, regular charity evenings and four weekly in-house exercise classes. We don't operate family friendly policies but friendly policies.
I love that my partners and I have all worked together for 15 years, which is a testament to the firm's commitment to retention and professional and personal development.
Recognition for building a business and contacts
The Excellence Award, along with several others that we have won, was an incredibly satisfying reward for the firm and recognised the team's excellence in immigration law and client service. As a result of the awards, we have received quite a bit of press coverage and attention which is, of course, terrific for business. As well as the staff enjoying our success - which they fully deserve - clients appreciate it, and it gives us an advantage when pitching for work, or targeting new clients. The independent recognition gives our clients ultra confidence in us: in our work, our technical knowledge, and our client service.
The best foundation
Solicitors often ask me whether or not they should set up their own firm. My first response is to ask if they are inclined to worry. If they are, then I point out that there will always be something to worry about, such as regulation, compliance, cash flow, client care, and staff management.
In running a firm, I believe that it is essential to be surrounded by excellent colleagues. My advice is never compromise on recruitment. Supervise, support, develop and delegate. Above all - trust your team to deliver a first-class service and product. The rest - including clients and success - will follow, and should be enjoyed.