Great companies are not just built on products and services, but on a solid foundation of values that inspire and guide their every decision and action. In her role as Chief Operating Officer at DLA Piper, Jacqueline King has worked tirelessly to ingrain the firm’s values of being collaborative, supportive, and exceptional across all aspects of the business.
Jacqueline sat down with Chris Mansfield to talk about her career journey, the challenges of fostering a culture of learning and growth, and the importance of instilling authentic values at the heart of a company’s culture.
I’m the Chief Operating Officer for DLA Piper. I’ve been with the firm for about five years now. DLA Piper is a full-service global law firm with offices in more than 40 countries.
I've served as COO in a number of different sectors. For me, the most important thing is the ambition of a business. Then I ask myself how I can add value to that particular business. I’ve always been a curious person, so I had a natural interest in technology and engineering. I started my career in technology and operations, but I soon came to appreciate the people element. To understand how a business works, you need to get to know the people within the business; that’s everyone from the CEO to the guys in the postroom. You need to know the people before you can understand the culture.
When you’ve been in a senior technology and operations role for some time, you start to see similar challenges, regardless of the sector you’re working in. That might be anything from planning a strategy refresh to developing employees or improving efficiency through technological investments. But it doesn’t just help you identify problems — it allows you to find opportunities as well. In operational and people roles, it’s all about transferable skills. Everywhere you go, you will acquire different experiences which you can take into your next role and add value to the business.
In large global organisations, you need to embed values into the heart of your business. It can’t feel cosmetic or like something you are just paying lip service to. At DLA Piper, our values are built on four pillars: be supportive, be collaborative, be bold, and be exceptional. That’s understood by everyone who works here, because we’ve invested a lot of time to instil those values into every aspect of our business — from how we interact with clients, to how we run our teams and even the opportunities we create for our people. There’s an old adage that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”, and I’m a big believer in that. You can’t run a sustainable business strategy without having a people agenda running alongside it — the investment we’ve made in fostering a working philosophy among our people goes hand-in-hand with the success of our business.
For us, it’s not a case of hitting quotas or ticking boxes. While it’s beneficial to have a target, the journey towards that is more important. Diversity, equality, and inclusion are integral to DLA Piper’s values: our aim is to create a culture of belonging and inclusion so everyone feels like they are able to thrive. As part of that, we work with leaders across the business to help them understand their role in creating an inclusive organisation. As part of our continuous development strategy, we review all of our policies and processes to ensure that they are equitable for all — that includes recruitment, retention, and promotion. Our approach is highly data-driven, which allows us to make fair and equitable decisions as well as address outstanding issues and concerns. We put a lot of effort into attracting the right talent: not only lawyers but also business professionals from a wide range of backgrounds.
I think the pandemic caused a change in values. A lot of people stepped back and thought about their lives, both personally and professionally. So in 2022, we launched something called the New Deal: we had an open and honest discussion with our people to find out what they really want from their working lives. Their feedback was very clear — they wanted more flexibility, greater collaboration, and better development opportunities. They also wanted more chances to experience the international nature of the firm: we are fortunate to have a large global footprint, and we want our people to benefit from that. People want to belong to organisations which value them as individuals. Based on that feedback, we designed three principles: trusting people, valuing people, and investing in people. That’s been very well-received — we’re blessed with a very talented human resources team who have helped us to embed those principles across the business.
It’s vital for leaders to create an environment where people feel safe. People should feel comfortable being themselves and voicing their opinions. If people feel empowered to speak up, then it helps them feel like they belong.