As two of the oldest law firms in Scotland we each shared a long history and heritage, as well as a remarkably similar outlook. Nevertheless, we feel privileged that Stuart & Stuart chose us to be the new home for their clients and their people.
The easy part of a merger is making the decision to get together. It’s like any other marriage – when you know, you know. In practice, however, combining two workforces, each with their own cultures, views and beliefs, needs more than a few successful first dates to achieve a great relationship in the long term.
One of the main challenges, in my experience, is to make sure everyone knows who we are as a business, why we’ve chosen to go down this route and how it will affect them. The perception of going from a family firm to a large, full-service business can be daunting, but being part of a big firm like ours is exciting – the opportunities are many and varied and we have some great training and mentoring programmes in place to help our people progress.
Before any of our new colleagues physically moved over to our offices, our management team visited Stuart & Stuart to answer any questions they had face-to-face. Like many other businesses we have embraced agile working, but it was vital to us that these meetings took place in person
For those who feel more comfortable on a one-to-one basis, individual meetings were arranged, and we have introduced a buddy system to ensure our new colleagues always have someone to consult. In my opinion there is no such thing as a stupid question but offering people a safe space to ask about whatever is on their minds is crucial to addressing any concerns. We additionally arranged a session where colleagues who themselves had joined Thorntons following a merger, shared their experiences.
Another challenge is that all our people are still, quite rightly, focused on ensuring that client service is maintained. The very fact that both firms are so client-centric is one of the key components of a successful union. Stuart & Stuart’s client base will benefit from our diverse range of business and commercial law services while Thorntons clients will have increased access to high quality residential conveyancing, estate agency, wills, trusts, executry and family law services.
So, we have been taking things slowly, organising team lunches and extending the invitation to our summer festival to foster relationships. The feedback to date has been positive and exciting times are ahead as we work towards our goal of accelerating growth in the Central Belt.
Making a success of mergers is a journey. As a firm, we are certainly not perfect, but we recognise the importance of respecting people’s feelings and acknowledging there are many views of the changes ahead. We are already discussing with our new colleagues what worked and what could have been better. It’s important to us that our hearts and minds are as open as our doors, and we are working extremely hard to ensure that everything we do reflects our inclusive approach.
Shirley Phillips, Director of People, Thorntons Solicitors