Workplace Leaders
HR Director

Kirstie MacLennan

Embedding engagement strategies into a firm’s culture involves actively listening to team members and acting accordingly. This is especially important in the legal sector, where lawyers are often time-poor and therefore can’t easily find time to engage in non-client work. 

Kirstie MacLennan, People Engagement Director at Brodies LLP, sat down with Chris Mansfield, Co-founder of GoodCourse, to discuss how she embeds a culture of learning and growth into the firm’s values, her methods for people leadership, and her career so far. 

Kirstie's Journey

Chris: Could you please introduce your current role and institution? 

I am Kirstie MacLennan, the People Engagement Director at Brodies LLP. Brodies is a Scottish-based law firm, although we do have an office in London too. We’re the biggest independent law firm in Scotland. I have been at the firm for 22 years, so I’ve seen it grow from a single small office in Edinburgh to the size we are now. 

Chris: What brought you to people leadership?

I have always had a passion for it. Back in college, I did a qualification in business studies and went on to do human resource management. It’s only really when you see people's engagement in practice that you understand the true depth and opportunities in the role you can perform. I can see how people genuinely are the most important asset of any organisation. Being in the heart of that and playing a crucial role is phenomenal.

Chris: Given your tenure at Brodies, how has the remit of HR in the firm and the legal profession more broadly changed over your career?

I joined Brodies from an accountancy practice, so I was aware of how partnerships work. In that scenario, as business support, you are often seen as secondary to the partnership members. But at Brodies that has never been the case. There is a true understanding of the value HR can bring to a firm. Now, we’re expected to drive and influence the firm’s culture. We have a strong influence over the direction our people practices take. We have always had a place, but it has become more significant over time. 

Chris: You play a key role in delivering the Well-being At Brodies strategy. How do you get team members to make the most of the support available to them?

Our approach is to listen to what our colleagues want. Pre-pandemic, we recruited someone to do MOTs of our colleagues to understand what their well-being needs genuinely were. We had to know what they needed and also ensure that there was a framework of support. Involving colleagues in developing our well-being strategy has set us up for success. They understand that it’s important and the framework of care we have is driven by them. It is embedded in our firm; we have a culture of care. 

Chris: How do you foster a culture of inclusion and belonging in the workplace? 

I refer back to our values and the contract that we have with our people. It’s about being collaborative and collegiate and ensuring we behave in line with that. We need to foster an inclusive workplace with well-established network groups which have actively influenced things like our family policy and how we work with communities. We have revamped our employer brand and website to reflect our values, too. We have things like a belonging at Brodies seminar programme where we bring in external speakers, spotlighting issues that maybe people weren’t previously aware of. 

Chris: Lawyers are famously time-poor. Have you had any successes or techniques to help them find the time for things that aren’t exclusively client work?

Obviously, our lawyers are focused on chargeable hours targets, but we have set that relatively low to enable our colleagues to get involved in other things, like networks. This helps drive forward the culture of our business and our strategy. We look at how team members have contributed to our values. The response from colleagues has been really positive. 

Chris: What is your top tip on how to foster a culture of learning and growth?

We have openly told our colleagues that every role will have a purpose. We have listened to them on what their training and learning needs are and developed our programmes accordingly. We have a contract with our people, and excellent values, and we ensure that it is embedded. 

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