Workplace Leaders
Walker Morris
Head of Human Resources

Tracy Foley

From attracting top talent to enhancing innovation and resilience, a sustainable and inclusive working culture underpins the very foundations of a successful organization. This understanding is at the heart of the work done by Tracy Foley, Head of Human Resources (HR) at Walker Morris, one of the UK’s most forward-thinking and progressive legal firms. 

Tracy sat down with Chris Mansfield, to discuss issues including sustainable working practices, advancing women in leadership roles, and the challenges of creating a culture of learning and growth. 

Tracy's Journey

Chris: Let’s start with a brief introduction to yourself and your institution. 

I’m Head of Human Resources at Walker Morris in Leeds. We’re a full-service law commercial law firm that employs just short of 500 staff. 

Chris: So what brought you to working in people leadership?

An accident, if I’m honest! I’d like to say it was part of some master plan, but I really fell into it. When I was at school, HR wasn’t really on the radar. Back then, it was known as “personnel”, and it didn’t go much beyond hiring and firing people. When I started out, I began with recruitment and training before getting into general HR. From there, people leadership was a natural progression. 

Chris: Walker Morris has recently won the Best Sustaining Culture award at the 2023 International Management Excellence Awards. What steps have you taken to foster productive, healthy, and sustainable working practices? 

Well, the first step was being honest about where we were: what we were good at and what needed improvement. So we worked with an external organisation to carry out a really extensive survey to find out what our people really thought about working here. Law is a high-pressure environment with high workloads and long hours, so we’re trying to make our work environment more sustainable for our solicitors. That led us to launch our Sustainable Careers initiative: we realised that we needed better pathways and development for our staff, especially our non-solicitors. We’ve also done a lot of work on the well-being side. That includes financial well-being, such as savings schemes and pensions workshops, and physical well-being, which includes things like flu vouchers and health check-ups. Then, there is the social side, which is especially important in the world of hybrid working. So we hold lots of training and social events to bring teams and departments together from across the business. We even hold a Coffee Roulette, where employees sign up to meet for coffee, but they don’t know who with. It could be anyone in the firm! Finally, there is the emotional side of well-being: we stepped up massively over Covid, and brought in more mental health support and specialist training for managers.

Chris: Your firm has taken measures to advance women in leadership roles. What does this look like in practice?

We’re highly interested in getting more women into partnership roles and sustaining them there. It’s about trying to find out what the barriers are so we can work to break those down. So we’re looking at measures such as part-time working, maternity support, and building up confidence. We’re also holding career progression workshops to try and demystify partnership: there are a lot of misconceptions about what being a partner means, and we’re trying to make sure people know the facts.

Chris: What initiatives have you been taking to foster a climate of inclusion and belonging?

Recently, we underwent a complete rebrand of Walker Morris. We reinforced that with values and behaviours which underpin everything that we do. We built on that with a Colleague Dignity and Respect policy that clearly states which behaviours are acceptable and which are not. We’ve built those values into our interview process to attract talent that aligns with our values. When new people arrive, we’ve developed training to show what inclusion and diversity look like in practice. In addition, we’ve held training sessions to raise awareness of key issues: for example, we recently finished a series on Trans and Non-Binary Awareness. Our commitment extends to all levels of the organisation: our training isn’t just mandatory for employees, but also for partners and members of the board. 

We also support all faiths in the workplace, and this year we held some events for Eid and Ramadan. Finally, we’ve established a new disability network and signed up as a Disability Confident Employer. That also includes a commitment to neurodiversity, and we’ve introduced new guidance for managers on how to make neurodiverse employees feel more included. We now have Diversity Champions who work across the whole firm to try and push changes through. That includes a whistleblowing component, so in the event that someone feels they can’t tell their supervisor, they have a way to report inappropriate behaviour. It’s an ongoing process, but we’ve made a fantastic start, and we couldn’t have done it without the support of our board.

Chris: Recent guests have been discussing the challenge of engaging all employees in diversity and inclusion initiatives. How do you make sure to reach everyone?

Our training and awareness sessions have been well-received, and we’re encouraging all employees to attend. Our staff who are involved are helping to spread the word quickly through the ranks. If you have a top-down approach, you need to support that with grassroots action across the firm. Half the battle is finding people who understand and support your values. We want to put our money where our mouth is, and if there is an incident of harassment or discrimination, we will jump on that. We have a zero-tolerance policy for any kind of that behaviour.  

Chris: What’s your top tip for anyone joining the legal profession?

Don’t think it will follow your expectations. Law still has something of an old-fashioned image, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. To succeed in law today, you need to be creative, modern, and ambitious. Just don’t expect it to be like Suits!

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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