As a business woman who has experience in both commercial property and the legal sector, I have found that both professions have changed considerably throughout my working career. I’ve witnessed change in relation to equality and nurturing the next generation, particularly within the legal sector which I thought was an important topic on which to reflect on my first anniversary as non-executive chair at Gillespie Macandrew.
A surveyor by profession, I have held a number of senior roles in the property industry as managing partner, then chair of Ryden LLP, and most recently had experience of the corporate B2B world as managing director of Millar & Bryce Ltd.
My role at the firm is to support the CEO, board and partnership in driving forward our plans for the continued growth and success of the business. My focus is to provide leadership and strategic direction and to promote the vision of Gillespie Macandrew, to our clients and future clients. I was delighted to be selected for the role and am finding it both very interesting and really enjoyable.
In recent years, the legal sector has undergone seismic change and my appointment is a key illustration of this. It is not long ago that law firms were run exclusively by partners and there were no non-legal personnel at senior levels.
Having experienced the property and legal sectors, there is a clear difference when it comes to equality – the gender work gap is one example.
Legal firms are much closer to gender balance with many women working as partners and in senior leadership roles. Conversely, the property and construction sector remains an area dominated by men, particularly in senior positions. I believe the opportunity for work and career progression should be more broadly accessible to people of talent and ambition. It makes business sense to nurture a talented team which values individual differences and welcomes breadth of thinking. It’s not just about gender and work is also ongoing to address inclusion and diversity.
As a mother of two, I did have some additional, domestic responsibilities in my early career but I chose to continue to work in the property industry, which I loved. I benefited from an influential mentor and was encouraged to take on a series of new roles, leading to the top job as managing partner of Ryden.
I welcome the changing culture in the professions to maximise opportunities for a wider group of people to develop their potential and achieve their ambitions. The introduction of shared parental leave, paternity leave and flexible working is helping employees and businesses flourish. There are also many more opportunities for personal development and training responding to the expectation and demand for these from new entrants to the professions. I firmly believe in ensuring the next generation of business leaders are given the right platforms and opportunities in the workplace to allow them to flourish.
Gillespie Macandrew runs its own development and training academy using a mix of internal and external providers, giving our people a great platform to become tomorrow’s leaders of the firm. Our training academy provides the skillset needed for future partners so that our lawyers are all-round business people who can interact and work well with clients in any situation. Clients appreciate a well-rounded business advisor who can speak on their level and work on a wide range of issues.
We recognise that it is not just having qualifications and technical ability that makes a good lawyer. Our academy focuses on client needs and helps our lawyers understand what we can offer as a firm that others cannot. The opportunity for responsibility also builds confidence and our people appreciate the chance to have a wider exposure to different areas of work and to grow their own profiles.
It’s so refreshing to see that the legal sector has developed and is expanding the boundaries that have previously existed in professional services.
Fiona Morton is the chair of Gillespie Macandrew LLP