As markets rise and fall, it becomes clear that a company's greatest return on investment can be found in the talent, dedication, and potential of its people. This understanding is at the heart of the work done by Martin Lewis, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Taylor Wessing, who has helped to drive forward one of the UK’s most forward-thinking law firms.
Martin sat down with Chris Mansfield, to discuss topics including Taylor Wessing’s award-winning culture, initiatives to attract a diverse pool of talent, and prioritising employee wellbeing in a time of economic uncertainty.
Taylor Wessing is an international law firm. We’re based out of London, but we have operations across seventeen different jurisdictions. We have a focus on the technology and life sciences sectors, particularly in the venture space, and we also specialise in high-net-worth individuals, real estate, and intellectual property. I serve on the board as the CFO and COO, so I have a responsibility for the economic stewardship and the operational integrity of the business.
I’ve always had a personal sense of synergy with it. Professional services is all about people, and I’ve always been drawn to working with and influencing people. It’s an environment that suits my character and it’s something I really enjoy doing.
I view it like our people are the family in the house, and the economy is the weather outside. The weather will change, and the rain will pass, but the family inside are the constant. At my age, I have seen plenty of economic cycles, and I’ve learned that above all you need to develop your people. Here at Taylor Wessing, we are committed to supporting our people and teaching them how to learn and grow. But it goes beyond our employees: we’re committed to building an environment that is inclusive, sustainable, and treats everyone in a decent way. People are the core asset of a business, and you need to nurture them. Aside from being a commercial imperative, it’s just the right thing to do.
Well, I’m getting to the twilight of my career, and over that time I’ve had the privilege to experience different cultures in several professional services firms, from law to real estate to accountancy. And I can say without a doubt that Taylor Wessing has the most engaging and appealing culture of any organisation I’ve been with. Although it’s a demanding and high-performing environment, there is a warmth at the heart of it which treats people fairly. That culture is sincere and genuine, and it’s something that everyone here at the firm always talks about. It encompasses everything, from the way we communicate to how we understand and support each other. Culture is a nebulous concept that can be difficult to define, but when it works well you can really feel it around you.
We invest heavily in wellbeing. We want people to get the balance right between life and work. So we try and stay flexible because we understand that people have other commitments which need to be accommodated. It’s something that really matters to us, and we want to get behind our people no matter what. And that extends to physical well-being too, with healthy catering offerings, support for sports clubs, and our e-bike scheme.
I’ve been around for a long time, and I’ve definitely noticed that awareness of inclusion has increased massively over the last twenty years. It’s not just talk: it’s something real, and it’s becoming ingrained into the culture. Here at Taylor Wessing, there has been a lot of focus on gender, especially in reaching gender parity at senior levels. That’s been very successful, and we have launched some other programs too. For example, our Hedge Start program creates opportunities for aspiring solicitors to come into the firm. We’re also thinking about who is applying to join us, and we’re always developing new ways to attract a more diverse range of people.
It’s certainly a challenge. We’re operating in a market where time is a valuable asset. But we have a phenomenal number of lunchtime activities, and Teams allows people to dial in from anywhere. We also bring in external speakers to talk about issues, and we’ve seen great turnout from our staff. Whether it’s forty minutes or an hour, the hybrid approach allows people to come away and learn something without disrupting their normal workflow. People value these opportunities, and they talk about them with their colleagues, and that helps to build culture and understanding.
Look inside yourself. Find out what you’re good at, and then pursue it. Work out who you are and what your strengths are, and find the role which fits that. It’s far better to have a career in something you enjoy than to try and be someone you are not.