How the greatest innovations can come from the simplest places

Ed Whittington Top Image

Edward Whittington is the Managing Partner of Moore Blatch, a firm demonstrating that putting people first makes great commercial sense. In the last decade the firm has reinforced its emphasis on diversity and work/life balance, resulting in one of the highest female to male partner ratios in the country, while simultaneously doubling turnover and winning a catalogue of awards.

We met with Edward to learn:

  • Why this emphasis on work/life balance is so important to the organisation.
  • How that manifests itself within client relationships and the working environment.
  • Why innovation doesn’t always involve technology.

 

Moore Blatch seems to be on a bit of a role with awards, from innovation to business development. What’s the Moore Blatch brand all about?

I wouldn’t pretend to be an expert on brand but I do feel that it’s fundamentally a very simple thing. It’s about having the self awareness to understand who you are as a group of people and the kind of work you enjoy doing, and the discipline to stay true to that.

For us, the common thread that ties all this together is simple – it’s about people.

“The brand must tell a single story”

This has always been a big thing for me. I remember spending a bit of time after university working in the city. I just didn’t get on with the culture. I wasn’t afraid of working hard but I wanted to be part of a culture that valued its people. I wanted to build real relationships and work with people who shared that ethos, whilst also striving for top tier professional and commercial excellence. In my view there shouldn’t be a choice to make between either/or.

That’s what drew me to Moore Blatch. They had emerged out of a consolidation of High Street Offices and had always had an emphasis on the people they served, both internally and externally.

My job as Managing Partner is to ensure that the market is aware of that message and that everything is joined up, from the website and social media to the office and culture. The brand must tell a single story.

 

Can you give some practical examples of how this is brand is embedded within the fabric of the organisation:

  1. Our clients

In my mind, brand is about where you focus your time and energy. And one thing we don’t focus on is working with large, faceless corporations.

Instead, we work with entrepreneurs, family businesses and any other individual with complex personal or business affairs. We help them with these challenging requirements for the long term, through the good times and bad.

The relationships we build with these people define who we are as a business. They are the kind of relationships we simply couldn’t replicate in a large corporate context.

 

  1. Encouraging a work/life balance

We understand that work is just one part of our employees’ lives. They have families, hobbies and interests that make them who they are as people, and we consider these assets rather than distractions.

We want to encourage our employees to be the best they can inside and outside of work, and ultimately that helps them to connect with our clients, who are also people with busy, varied lives.

“We understand that work is just one part of our employees’ lives”

From a practical perspective this is achieved through a variety of mechanisms. For a start we encourage people to work a day a week from home, but perhaps more significant has been our emphasis on part time work, even for partners. Consequently we have an unusually high proportion of mothers at partner level. Some may come back full time when their kids go off to school. Some remain part time. It’s about whatever works for them.

Again, this simply wouldn’t be possible if we worked with larger corporate clients. There would be an expectation that our staff would be working 6 days a week and available at all hours. But because our staff and customers can relate to one another, it’s actually a huge strength.

Part of this process has been to create an all equity partnership (as reported in Business Mag and Insider Media), so there are now 47 partners rather than just 22. It’s making a statement that this is a level playing field for all. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a part time mum or only recently joined the firm, if you reach partner then you’ll receive a share of the annual profits.

 

3. Empowering our best people

As with any challenge as leader, the single most impactful thing you can do is empower others. One particular success story is Amandeep Khasriya, who has led the charge in promoting both diversity and gender equality not only for Moore Blatch but the industry as a whole. She has been featured in both the Law Society and Law Gazette, and recently appointed as committee member of The Law Society’s Women Lawyers Division.

Again, this comes back to clarity of message. By being clear on who we are and what we stand for, we attract brilliant people like Amandeep who in turn reinforce that message and help us communicate it to an ever growing audience.

 

  1. Our work environment

Our predominantly regional locations have always meant that our people tend to live in beautiful areas with affordable homes, avoiding the frantic city life or long daily commutes endured by most legal staff, but when we moved into Gateway House, we knew it was an opportunity to take this a step further. We wanted it to be somewhere that people would enjoy spending time, so we included a subsidised cafe and loads of open, informal space where people can meet with their colleagues and friends for whatever purpose they choose. Unsurprisingly, you find that by creating a working environment where people want to be, they will actually, by their own discretion, work harder.

Perhaps the most unusual example of this, however, has been at our Lymington office, where we are turning part of the garden into allotments for staff members. If they’re having a tough day, which we all do from time to time, they can go for a potter outside and tend to their vegetables.

“By creating a working environment where people want to be, they will actually, by their own discretion, work harder”

In the digital age I think we often assume that every problem needs a digital solution, but sometimes it’s the simplest things that have the biggest impact. Needless to say that the allotments don’t appeal to everyone, but it just makes such a statement about the kind of firm we want to be.