Peter qualified in 1985 with a regional law firm and initially joined Paris Smith in the commercial disputes department.
“It didn’t take me long to realise that no one wants to know a commercial litigator’s perspective if they can avoid it. It usually means trouble has arisen and money needs to be spent to put it right. The other side of the coin is to talk to them about how they can avoid the problem in the first place.”
This decision proved important in his later career. He could go into businesses, listen to their stories and understand their challenges. This had far greater resonance for him and he ultimately qualified as a commercial mediator. “I can sit between two parties at loggerheads and try to help them find a solution with which they can move forward in a way a court couldn’t order.”
The skills he picked up were invaluable when he took on the role of managing partner in January 2015. He had some experience, having previously headed the commercial litigation department.
“My first major task was to effect a change in a senior role in the firm. The easy option would have been to ignore the issue. However, confronting it and resolving the problem gave me more confidence that I could deal with complex and emotional situations. My mediator training proved invaluable; in fact, it is a key element to being a successful leader. It was about understanding my purpose and being consistent in my decision-making process. ‘EQ’ as well as ‘IQ’.”
Peter was greatly influenced by a book - Simon Sinek’s ‘Start With Why’, which discusses how people can become more inspired at work by those leading them and, in turn, inspire their colleagues and customers. Sinek talks about how all businesses know what they do, some know how they do it, but very few can explain why they do what they do. He argues that it is very important to define the ‘why’ for people to build an emotional connection with the business.
Peter’s ‘why’ is to enable success. “I want our people and our clients to achieve success, whatever success might look like to them and to have a positive experience with legal excellence. This is what motivates me each day… I believe in providing an inspiring environment so that each member of the firm can reach their full potential to be the best lawyers, secretaries, marketeers they can be.”
Outside the firm, his focus is on what makes businesses tick. Everything he does is underpinned by a clear sense of values, outlined in the firm’s competency framework.
“We look to work with and for businesses and people who share our values. If we don’t think those values are matched, then we are likely to step back from entering into a relationship. You work with people you want to work with and you share what good looks like. This has helped us attract more people to join us. Since 2015, we have grown from a team of 153 to 255 – we’re continuing to grow at 9% a year.” This has also been seen in business flows with the firm increasing its market share.
Paris Smith continues to have big ambitions. The firm is committed to inspiring and developing its staff. It wants to be the law firm of choice in the Solent region and a top-three firm in the south. Investment for the long-term development of the firm and creating a legacy is also a priority for the leadership team.
“I want to play our part in building a legacy in the south in which future generations can thrive. We do not aspire to be a national firm, but to build strength in our region and engage with local communities.”
Peter recognises that today’s lawyers increasingly want flexibility and agility. With this in mind, the firm has recently changed to a cloud-based IT platform and implemented a new practice management system, known as Liberate. “Change is always difficult”, he says, “but change comes from the leader and team managers understanding how to manage people through the process. This is key to creating a progressive, modern law firm.”
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.
More success stories
Maurice Turnor Gardner
Whether it was becoming just the third female trainee at Allen & Overy, or its first female partner, Clare Maurice has been reshaping the legal sector since she joined as an articled clerk in 1976. She departed A&O in May 2009, along with other colleagues establishing Maurice Turnor Gardner.