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Success story: Excellent work

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  • Alex Hatchman

Alex Hatchman joined Fletchers Solicitors as a non-executive director in 2016, and in 2017 joined the business full-time as its Chief Operating Officer.

In October 2018, Alex was the first person to win the Law Society’s Excellence in Practice Management Award. We asked her about the changes she’s introduced and challenges she faced.

During your time at Fletchers, profitability per person has grown by 138 per cent. How did you achieve this?

Our responsibility as leaders is to create the conditions for people to succeed. In simple terms, we’ve created conditions where our team members – known as Fletcherians – can give their best. Some of the initiatives that we implemented included putting new leadership in place, restructuring several of our teams, implementing robust management controls and processes, and setting clear objectives for both individuals and teams, supported and driven by a comprehensive set of weekly and monthly key performance indicators (KPIs).

There is no quicker way to undermine a new culture by having a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach

Alex Hatchman

In the last few years we have undergone a significant period of growth, and now have more than 440 team members. To enable both our existing and new team members to grow in productivity, we invested significantly in their development and in the tools that they rely upon to serve our clients.

At every step of the way I had the support of our CEO, Ed Fletcher, and Chairman, Rob Fletcher, which enabled us to successfully make significant changes quickly.

What challenges did you face?

When making changes, there have been two challenges in particular that we have experienced.

Alex Hatchman receiving her Excellence Award in practice management - October 2018

Alex Hatchman, Fletchers, receiving the Law Society’s Excellence in Practice Management Award in October 2018.

The first has been facing into the challenge of having lawyers who are masters in the field of law but often students in the fields of business and leadership. We are on a journey to augment the skills of our talented lawyers, so that in the future they can expand how they define themselves: as a lawyer, as a business person, as a leader.

The second challenge has been around removing hierarchy in some areas in order to build a cohesive and collaborative team where every Fletcherian is valued, regardless of the role they perform. For some this has required a change in mindset. In my way of thinking, recognising another person’s value does not diminish mine and only serves to strengthen the team.

What do you see as the most important change you’ve made at Fletchers?

It’s difficult to say, there are a few big-ticket items that come to mind. As a person who believes in the power of teams, one of my favourite changes that we’ve made has been in resetting the tone and expectations of our leaders and managers.

Recognising another person’s value does not diminish mine and only serves to strengthen the team

Alex Hatchman

Last year we introduced new leadership attributes based upon the themes of wisdom, kindness and strength. These attributes specify what we expect of all those in our business who have the privilege and responsibility of managing others.

We chose these attributes as there is no point having strength, if this is not complemented by wisdom and kindness. In fact, individuals with an unmoderated dose of this trait can be enormously damaging to an organisation. There is also little point having wisdom and kindness, if it is not supported by the strength to follow through. Lastly, there is limited point in having wisdom and strength in a people-oriented business – often serving clients at some of the most difficult times of their lives – if you lack human kindness.

How did you set about embedding a new culture within the firm?

Over time, I’ve learnt that successfully embedding a new culture is best done by following three steps.

  1. Define and clearly communicate what you wish the new culture to be and how you wish it to make team members feel.
  2. Check that your people mechanisms (such as performance management, reward and recognition, and learning and development) are properly aligned and reinforce the new culture.
  3. Crucially, you need consistent role modelling by all the people leaders and managers in your business. There is no quicker way to undermine a new culture by having a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach.

What do you see as the greatest challenges currently facing litigation firms? (And what actions should firms be taking to tackle these?)

There are a number of disruptors on the horizon. The key challenges are the client’s desire to be served more quickly, conveniently and cheaply, also the government’s plans to extend fixed fees into an increasing number of legal services. I understand and empathise with the drivers of both of these, though we need to ensure that extending fixed fees does not result in certain clients losing their access to the justice system.

In terms of tackling this, businesses need to reinvent themselves to provide the best service they can at the cheapest cost possible. Saying this, and writing it, is of course easy; the magic comes in doing it!

Nominations for the 2019 Excellence Awards will open in February 2019.

 

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