June/July 2019

A fresh culture for law firms + transforming lives

The end of March saw K-Club featuring 2 great speakers again at their regular breakfast event at the AJ Bell Stadium in Salford. Firstly renowned private equity lawyer Darryl Cooke took to the podium to deliver on philanthropy in business and the rewards we all receive. He began by giving an insight into the process of setting up law firm gunnercooke llp. Stating that their mission was not to be ‘good’ but ‘great’ in their work, he mused that ‘good’ was the enemy of great as it could lead to complacency. Talking about change in business, Darryl referred to a need to react to a ‘burning platform’. The leadership in law firms tends to miss this and that because the industry is so lucrative, change is simply not seen as necessary. Having been in very large UK law firms, including the second largest in the world, Darryl shared that he found his ‘burning platform’ through witnessing a lack of morality and integrity in operations where success was determined by the profit made for each partner by increasing their chargeable hours per year. Furthermore, billing clients went from ‘by the hour’ to intervals ‘by every 6 minutes’. Feeling that he couldn’t stay within that industry, he sought change.

Just before 2010 and after speaking to CEOs, MPs, heads of legal, etc, Darryl decided to create a model that was very different. They created a law firm with lawyers who had at least 10,000 hours experience (the criteria for being considered expert), thus avoiding impasses due to junior experience – and did away with time sheets. This meant fixed fees as agreed, for clients. They also initiated a profit share so that the lawyers were invested in the work – subverting the usual myopic view of lawyers who are often blind to the wider needs of commercial business. “Our job is to give peace of mind to the client”.

Darryl observed that the reasons for the different law firm culture are threefold:

  • To give lives back to lawyers so they can design their own lives and enjoy their profession as they grow their businesses, instead of being slaves to the practice.
    They actually earn more and learn about business.
  • To create a much better service for clients, judged by the Net Promoter Score (NPS) benchmark. This is consistently showing the firm to be ‘outstanding’ with a score of 84+ in contrast to the industry standard which is 19.
  • To not be judged on ‘profits for partners’. Instead the aim is to give back to the community.

Darryl also suggested we are among the luckiest people who have ever lived and we have a responsibility to look out for those who are less lucky. We have the time to reap the rewards of giving back, and as entrepreneurs we are the people who can get things done and philanthropic strategies do enhance business.

Next to speak was Rachel McCrystal, senior fundraising manager at the Seashell Trust’s Transforming Lives Appeal. Rachel took to the stand next with her talk on how the landscape of CSR or working with a charity has changed, highlighting the key benefits. Beginning with a little history on Seashell Trust, Rachel began by stating it was founded in 1823, in Salford by two businessmen, Robert Philips and William Bateman, who wanted to establish help for deaf children and set up a special school. Now based in Cheadle Hulme and a national charity, they work with over 40 local authorities across the UK working with the most profoundly disabled children in the country. The ethos is around education and realising a child’s potential through communication.

With 15 years’ experience, Rachel worked for Barnardo’s, Red Cross and many others before moving to Seashell Trust where she helped to build the Transforming Lives Appeal which is geared to build a £45million new school. “If you want to exist as a company in the future, you need to go beyond CSR and philanthropy”, she said. It’s all about shared objectives, making a positive contribution to support charities in a win-win partnership, where lives are transformed. Referring to Darryl’s comment about working with charities being good for business, Rachel illustrated this with some statistics. A business engaging with a charity can typically increase market value up to 4% and increase customer commitment by 20%. Globally 67% of companies say it’s important that the brands they choose make a positive contribution to society and, 88% of consumers say that they are more likely to buy from a company that engages in and supports charities. Overall, customers staff and stakeholders will work with you or buy from you if you are contributing to making a difference to society.

Rachel suggested the key benefits of supporting a charity are:

  • Improving employee satisfaction – so many skills can be put to great use.
  • Improved public image – where you are actually making an impact and not just ticking a box.
  • Improved customer loyalty – people want to buy from companies who look further than making a profit.
  • Improved networking – charities can connect people. Many trustees are serial entrepreneurs.

Rachel delivered her top tips for starting out in working with charities:

What do you want to get out of working with charities?
Think carefully as some charities aren’t geared up to cope with some big ideas. Think about goals and plans – in a transparent way so that success can be measured for everyone. Ensure that everyone is on board – not just the ‘doers’ but the senior management too. Buy-in at this level is so important so that meaningful relationships can be formed. Appoint champions. Make the right people accountable.

Broad partnership beyond fundraising – how can you develop your people? What does success look like?
Rachel rounded off with many examples of successful engagement methods at Seashell Trust. Seashell has 25,000 hours of volunteering which is equivalent to £170,000 with people doing all sorts of expertise including law firms, gardeners, painters and those who can mentor. Seashell also has sponsorship which allows companies to align their brands with special events. Facility usage, e.g. use of offices for free. Work experience placements for Seashell students where they learn and gain skills that can lead to paid employment, e.g. AstraZeneca, Sambro, Hilton and many other massive brands.

For further information please contact Amanda Manson, Events Organiser on 07754 069 829  amanda.manson@k-club.co.uk