Mike Parker found that his background as a litigator was invaluable training for his time as a managing partner. Most importantly, it taught him the importance of being a team player and collaborating with others to address challenges as constructively as possible. “We always need to work in teams,” he says.
Managerial responsibilities crept up on him. He had been at Wilsons since 2001, running the various contentious teams at Wilsons before taking over as managing partner in 2014. As a result, he has kept his client work going while juggling his managerial responsibilities. He admits that it can be tough, but has found other partners have stepped in to help and he has built a capable professional support team around him.
He sees his role as to help people do their job to their best ability: “That means having the systems and organisational components in place, but also ensuring that their ambitions, their concerns, are met. This is really the biggest challenge.”
The legal industry is changing fast and managing the pace of change is also a challenge: “People don’t tend to embrace change with relish. You need to reassure people you are on their side and they can trust you. This can help encourage them to embrace and manage change.”
In particular, he sees that law firms are being pulled in two directions. On the one hand, clients have far higher expectations – 24/7 service delivery at lower fees – while a new generation of lawyers wants to work flexibly.
Mike says: “There has also been a notable change in the nature of our competition. The Big 4 accountancy firms have entered the market which has changed the nature of the HR landscape. Plus, there are generational differences. Expectations about the working environment have changed at the same time as clients’ expectations have changed.”
He believes there is opportunity for firms who can get it right and he is a “living, breathing” example that flexible working is not incompatible with high service delivery: “I work all sorts of weird and wonderful hours and I sponsor that as widely as possible throughout the firm. To be a good performer you need to meet the needs of clients when those needs occur. We instil that professionalism and I know I can rely on our team to put themselves out to do the right thing for our clients and for Wilsons.
“That said, I worry if they’re not taking holidays or weekends. You need space in your life to do things.”
Mike is also conscious of the environment they provide and whether it provides sufficient scope for the next generation to build their careers. “We want this to be a stimulating place to work, to be attractive as an employer and as a place to be. The quality of the work environment is very important.”
Wilsons has branches in Salisbury and London. Mike believes it is a real advantage to be able to source work in London, but have some of the ‘engine’ in Salisbury. This can help lower costs for clients. Teams work across both offices, though many of the group’s clients are based in Wiltshire, Hampshire and Dorset.
The group has built a well-established reputation for its private client business, including tax and trust advice and complex probate cases. It is also building its name in litigation in these areas. It has also kept its name in the competitive charities sector.
He hasn’t planned his own path yet, but will move back to fee-earning work eventually: “We have a good record at Wilsons at reintegrating ex-managing partners back into the business. I miss client work and would like to go back, but I really enjoy the role I have. No day is like any other.”
His advice to anyone contemplating moving up into a managerial role? “You have to be a good listener - I’ve found that I’ve done a lot of listening. You also have to be bold and take responsibility for your mistakes. Being authentic is very important: you can’t think you’re more important than anyone else. You are there to facilitate those at the sharp end – the lawyers.”
By necessity, this briefing can only provide a short overview and it is essential to seek professional advice before applying the contents of this article. This briefing does not constitute advice nor a recommendation relating to the acquisition or disposal of investments. No responsibility can be taken for any loss arising from action taken or refrained from on the basis of this publication. Details correct at time of writing.
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