Workplace Leaders
Chief Operating Officer

Katherine Milliken

The key to creating an effective workplace is attracting the right talent — but this doesn’t necessarily happen by itself.  A big part of recruitment and retention is about breaking down the barriers between talented individuals and the company, something Katherine Milliken, Chief Operating Officer at Macfarlanes LLP, and her team have been working to do.

Katherine sat down with Chris Mansfield, Co-founder of GoodCourse, to speak about the initiatives she has been a part of at Macfarlanes to make the legal sector more accessible, as well as how she creates opportunities for social mobility and success.

Katherine's Journey

Chris: Can we start with an introduction to your current role?

Let’s start with some background. I began as a private practice lawyer qualified in corporate law.  I worked as an associate and then moved in-house, where I remained for ten years.  I often travelled for work and got to experience a lot, but travelling that frequently wasn't really for me, so I left that role and came to work for Macfarlanes, a leading London-based law firm. Macfarlanes is predominantly a single-site firm, we also have an office in Brussels that looks after EU law, but the majority of our work has an international element. 

From here, I knew that I wanted to diverge from my current career path. I enjoyed working in the legal sector, but I moved into the business services side of the law and took on an operational role.  When the managing partner stepped down last year, it felt like the right time for the firm to introduce a COO role — which I gladly stepped into.  I have now been in that role since last May.

Chris: From that experience of seeing both sides of the law firm, was there anything in particular that interested you?

Being a corporate lawyer, I have worked a lot on the practical side of things and always really enjoyed the business elements of the deals I was involved in.  Now in my operational role, I get to see different skill sets come together. That is what's great about being a COO, you see amazing teams sharing skills.  

The more people you talk to, the more people you learn from, and bringing out the best in others is one of the most satisfying things about my work.

The people we work with are at the core of what we do.  Creating a great working environment is such a rewarding part of this role.  A huge pleasure of working in an industry for a number of years is seeing people progress through their careers — that’s been one of the big joys of my position. The more people you talk to, the more people you learn from, and bringing out the best in others is one of the most satisfying things about my work.

Chris: I’d love to hear more about the Macfarlanes Scholarship and how the firm is working to make a career in law more accessible.

In business and legal, we are all about talent and people.  In October 2022, we launched the Macfarlanes Training Scholarship in partnership with Brunel University Law School in London. The scholarship supports three first-year law students every year, covering tuition, paid work experience, a paid placement at the firm, and mentoring from senior lawyers.  The scholarship is designed to support students through university all the way through to becoming qualified solicitors. 

We also offer bursaries, recognising that there are a lot of factors relating to social mobility and barriers that different people face.  The bursaries are for students at any university, not just Brunel. We focus on technology access, paying for missed work if it’s for job opportunities and other things that bridge the gap between aspiring lawyers and our firm.

Chris: What kinds of initiatives has the firm been working on regarding inclusion and belonging?

We focus on fostering a workplace where people can come in and be themselves. With this in mind, we try to shape opportunities for people in the firm to share stories about aspects of their lives so that we can work to break down barriers. Our staff networks help support this.  For example, REACH — our network focusing on race, ethnicity and cultural heritage — runs events that are open to everyone in the firm.  We put on lunches to mark religious festivals, where, for example, we get together, enjoy the food, and have the chance to meet informally to begin meaningful conversations.

We also have a number of initiatives to help support our gender and ethnic diversity partnership targets. Our Legal Women's Network, which works to support women through their legal careers, is led by female partners and is open to women at any stage of their legal career.  Macfarlanes also runs a reverse mentoring programme where senior leaders are paired with mentors aligned to our staff networks. In this way, the reverse mentoring covers race and ethnicity, socio-economic background, neurodiversity and health conditions, the work-life blend and a host of intersectional topics. This programme creates a dialogue of learning and sharing.

Chris: How do you help your busy staff make the time to engage in behaviour-changing work?

I think it comes down to tone and the importance this work is given in the wider workplace.  If you have an environment where engagement is encouraged and make it clear that people should be engaging in this kind of work, then people will make the time. 

3 Quick-fire Questions

Chris: What is your most important piece of advice for anyone going into the legal sector?

Remain open-minded.  Don’t restrict yourself to one career path.  In my career, law was my foundation to take different paths. Taking opportunities, how and where they come, is always a good thing.

Chris: Who do you admire the most in the legal sector?

My first boss when I went in-house, Roy Williams. He was the Company Secretary and he welcomed me into the company with kindness, wisdom and encouragement. He gave me so much that I take with me in my career.  I always aim to pay that encouragement forward in my work.

Chris: What is the most important book you have read?

How to Survive a Plague by David France it’s a book about how activists campaigned for the creation of drugs that helped manage HIV.  It had such an impact on me, and reminded me that I lived through that period of time which I can now revisit with a fresh lens.

Curious to see what the future of training looks like?
Chris Mansfield
Client Services
Chris is one of the Client Service leads at GoodCourse, dedicated to helping institutions better engage their audience to create a more inclusive, safer, and more successful environment. To request to be featured on the series, get in touch at

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