five hundred magazine > Interview with: Jessica Roland > Greater than the sum of our parts

Greater than the sum of our parts

Mourant Guernsey’s managing partner on not being tied too closely to the traditional law firm model and why leadership is a collective responsibility

What’s the main change you’ve made in the firm that will benefit clients?

As managing partner of our Guernsey office, one of my proudest moments in the last few years was completing our move from old offices in two buildings to one, single site, bringing all of our people under one roof.

Since early 2018 we have all been in state of the art offices in the heart of St Peter Port, housing all of our almost 150 people, plus a two-floor rotunda area complete with client entertainment suite and learning, development and staff break out areas.

These offices befit our reputation as one of the foremost offshore law firms in the world. They also befit the quality of work that we do and the people we employ. The space we have enables us to work in partnership with our clients to bring them thought leadership and bespoke seminars as well as a convivial place to spend time with them!

What does innovation mean to you and how can firms be better at it?

It’s no secret that law firms tend to be more risk averse, but as the world we live in is changing, our clients’ needs are changing too. We choose to drive innovation through client-focused service development. This means embracing change, adapting quickly, and thinking and working differently to ensure we maintain a genuine understanding of the challenges and opportunities our clients face.

More than ever, I think it’s important to not be tied too closely to the traditional law firm model – to work with fluidity across practice areas and time zones to make sure we deliver the best possible service for our clients, wherever they are based in the world. It’s also about finding ways to maintain a competitive edge – for example, in 2018 we became the first and are still the only offshore law firm to achieve the rigorous ISO 27001 information security certification. This gave us a further point of differentiation that helps us to win clients and further expand our market share.

What are the biggest challenges facing offshore firms?

Regional and international geopolitics continues to bring about exceptionally high levels of volatility, complexity, and uncertainty in the trading environment. This poses a challenge for all businesses, including the offshore firms, and makes medium to long term strategic planning more of a challenge, but also more important than ever.

In the offshore world the competition to recruit has never been stronger, with firms in our market competing for the same small pool of people. In this context we aim to be consistently recognised as an employer of choice and to attract and retain top talent. We invest heavily in our employer proposition, taking a market-leading approach to career direction and development, and are committed to the professional growth of all our people; helping them to excel and to reach their full potential.

What do you think are the top three things most clients want and why?

There are certain things that every client expects from a leading firm, like responsiveness, value for money, and sound commercial and technical judgement. Where you can really add value is by going above and beyond, finding what truly makes you stand out and building on that. At Mourant, we do that with connected thinking and by taking a truly global perspective. We act as one firm: bringing our collective insights to each of our clients, wherever they are in the world. This is what clients tell us differentiates us in our market.

Is technology changing the way you interact with your clients, and the services you can provide them?

Yes it is, in a number of ways. Clients can communicate with us via various methods – solutions such as Jabber means our clients can speak to our lawyers at any time regardless of location, with enhanced video conferencing facilities enabling more face-to-face communications. We can easily exchange large volumes of information via our Mourant portal and have recently implemented solutions that enable us to more efficiently on-board clients, reduce the turnaround time in producing client documents and provide accurate regulatory reporting. We are also leveraging our current technology portfolio to provide more bespoke and innovative solutions for our clients.

What do you do differently from your peers in the industry?

Our all-equity partnership/single profit pool is unique among the major offshore firms, and underpins our global, ‘one firm’ approach and collaborative culture. We also recognise that we are far greater than the sum of our parts. Clients working with us often comment on how our teams will ‘go the extra mile’ for them; this is as a result of our shared ambition for our people, our firm, and our clients. It’s a hallmark.

What have you found is the best way to retain talent?

We do everything we can to create an environment that enables our people to excel and grow in their careers, so that they feel fulfilled and enjoy their work. In my opinion it’s important to provide a clear career path and a professional learning and development programme, so that everyone understands how they can continue to progress forward and achieve their full potential. As a firm, we believe passionately in having a shared ambition; a strong sense of common purpose, where every member of the global team is clear about our goals and the role they can play in helping to achieve them.

Since becoming managing partner what’s surprised you most about running a firm?

Just how much leadership is actually a collective responsibility. A big part of the role of managing partner is to support and enable those around you to perform the best they can. Listening and building trust is more effective and important taking an authoritarian ‘top down’ approach and just telling people what to do and how to act. This means that when everyone around you is in alignment and truly understands the firm’s core objectives and how they can help you to achieve them, they start making the right decisions in line with your strategy on their own. You know that the choices they will make are the right ones.

As an employment lawyer, is the collection of human skills necessary for this practice area (perhaps as distinct from being a dealmaker) helpful when managing a law firm?

I think it gives me some advantages as it means we don’t go blithely into matters that can cause employment law issues but whether it is because I am an employment lawyer or because the skills were ones I have had or developed as I have matured as a person who has worked in law offices for 25 years, it’s difficult to say! As well as an employment lawyer partner I am also a partner in our litigation practice so the strategic thinking involved with big case management has also been helpful.

How has your role/involvement in client-facing work changed since becoming managing partner?

I still very much enjoy client-facing work and also believe that my role as managing partner has been incredibly helpful in advising my employment clients. I have to walk the walk of running a big complicated business with a large number of employees as well as talk the talk!

What advice would you give to the next generation of partners ready to rise the ranks?

Not to lose sight of the importance of protecting and nurturing a culture and values – they touch every area of your business and are just as important as your strategy. Your culture and values should have real meaning, acting as a guide for internal behaviours that ultimately help you be the best you can be for your clients.

What are your firm’s policies on diversity and inclusion?

Diversity and inclusion is one of our key business priorities and we recognise the importance of fostering an inclusive environment. Clients care about what you stand for, and they want to work with firms that have firmly established a culture of dignity and respect in the workplace, with a diverse range of people bringing ideas to the table and enhanced decision-making. It’s really important to us to nurture a culture of inclusivity and mutual respect, because this is so vital to enabling and empowering each individual to meet their full potential, as well as ensuring that we can continue to provide our clients with the best possible services and solutions.

What has been your greatest achievement, in a professional and personal capability?

In a professional capacity: being made managing partner and I hope being a good role model to those I work with. Personally: sustaining a happy marriage and children while maintaining my career.