Focussing on Communication and the Human Element

Leaders in the Legal Sector. People Leadership Through the First Wave of the Coronavirus Crisis

Leaders are facing the greatest challenge of their careers. As stated by McKinsey & Co: 

“The goal for digital leaders is to emerge from this not having just “managed” the crisis but being stronger because of it. 

For this reason, it’s important…to keep a steady hand on initiatives and programs that can help the business become tech forward.”

In the next edition of our legal sector Futr Spotlight, we caught up with Paul Robinson, HR Director and Management Board and Executive Committee member at Trowers & Hamlins, to share his thoughts on the crisis, their response, and the implications for the future.

Please could you give a brief intro to yourself and Trowers?

“Trowers is an international law firm, headquartered in London and with regional offices in the UK as well as the Middle East.

Whilst we’re a full service law firm, we are best known for our focus on real estate, with the intersection between the public and private sectors in particular being our sweet spot.

Me personally – I’ve been HR Director at Trowers for 12 years, leading a team of 24 and sitting on our management board and executive committee.”

What have been the main challenges you’ve faced since the beginning of the crisis?

“The speed at which we had to mobilise all-staff to remote working tops the list.

We’ve embraced agile working for a couple of years now, but never on this scale before. After a successful test of half the UK workforce working remotely for a day we were immediately into the real thing – no more drills!

Some unexpected challenges arose that were far more down to earth, such as some processes’ reliance on paper documents and ‘wet signatures’ – these took up much more thinking time early on that anticipated.”

And where have you found success in overcoming the challenges faced?

“Communication became a top priority. From messages from our Senior Partner and management team, to departmental catch-ups and team leaders consciously keeping their team in the loop, this has taken hold across the firm.

1 week in and we’d created a dedicated section of our Intranet providing guidance and advice on a range of topics relevant to where we are, spanning things like educating kids from home and exercising whilst remote – which has been well used so far.

This also served the important role of showing staff a genuine understanding of the challenges some are facing – balancing busy working lives with parental or other caring responsibilities – and to support them through this.

Beyond the functional needs of working remotely, we’ve been focussing on sharing positive news, and ensuring we all stay connected – from quizzes about pairing an employee with a home office picture to a (light-hearted) Eurovision song contest.

Caring for the human side of our people is crucial now more than ever.”

How have you had to adapt your leadership style to this new way of working?

“We’ve kept our regular team meetings, but the challenge came in the loss of the informal, often personal, catch-ups that occur when wandering about the desks.

Now I make a much more conscious effort to catch up – ‘managed communications’ if you like – with team members as often as I can, often on a personal level more than a work one.

Beyond this, I strive to keep everyone up to date with what the team, and firm, is doing, for peace of mind and also to not feel guilty when some areas are very busy and others are experiencing a trough in workload, as we adjust and reallocate resources given the situation.”

What implications does this crisis bring for your long term strategy?

“We already had an ongoing debate about whether we need the office space we have – that can accommodate all members of staff at once. This will certainly accelerate that conversation.

More broadly, this has proved just how effectively we can run business and service our clients as usual across all functions whilst working remotely – proving to those that had doubts over its viability in certain functions, and even when it comes to delivering client work.

These findings will bear significance well into the future, I’m sure.”

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