Director of HR & Learning
As director of HR and Learning at Pinsent Masons, I spend quite a lot of time working with the board, advising them on where we should go with our people strategy and how we can differentiate ourselves. My job is to make sure that the firm’s people agenda helps us to achieve our long-term vision.
I originally began a career in banking after graduating with an arts degree. Then I developed an interest in two related areas, corporate communications and HR, which I pursued through a few roles in the banking sector, and subsequently with a Magic Circle firm. I joined Pinsent Masons as HR Director in 2006.
What I like about the firm is that the people just seem a little bit more normal here, more down-to-earth and easier to get on with. The firm also seems more interested in taking the HR side of things seriously. There are plenty of leading practitioners here, but they’ve probably had to work a bit harder than their Magic Circle equivalents to develop all-round marketing, people-management and selling skills.
My own clients are internal, although I am now getting involved with external clients, following our sucess with The Lawyer magazine’s HR award for best diversity programme. Quite a few of our clients are interested in getting advice from me on how they can start up a programme of their own.
As an incoming trainee, having the potential to become a clever and able lawyer is of course important, but we need so much more than that. The really successful ones are those who can use their skills to build and sustain a practice. They have charm, they can manage, motivate and inspire, and they can get the best out of people. They’re commercially focused in the sense that they’re good at getting on with clients, and they put time and effort into really knowing what their clients do.
At Pinsent Masons, we deliberately set out to build a detailed understanding of the sectors in which our clients operate. We have energy, manufacturing and retail specialists who are real experts on current trends in their respective sectors. Being able to talk knowledgeably and in detail to clients about their own industries is a big factor in bringing in business.
We expect graduates to come in with a real interest in the business world, in the emerging trends and in who or what is making the headlines. If we can match the biggest firms technically and go that bit further in terms of relationship management, then that gives us a real chance to stand out as a preferred choice. The chemistry of the relationship can make a very big difference.
That’s why our internal training is primarily about educating the whole person. The Pinsent Masons Academy offers everyone in the business access to modular programmes which focus on making sure that every aspect of their skills - project management, people management and business management - is convincing. That learning process is tailored to individual needs, and never actually ends. You’re never the finished product, no matter how senior you are.
I’m currently engaged in using the London office as a vehicle for ensuring we collaborate as much as possible. It’s very flexible space without any physical barriers – every single person works in an open plan environment, and the office runs completely on wireless technology. We’ve even designated a ‘collaboration floor’ with no set department, which allows us to assemble teams of people from different departments to work together and exchange ideas. We don’t want anyone just sitting at their desk all day long without interacting with other people. It just takes a bit of a push to get people together, and to keep us from retreating into silos.