A Q and A with Sally Azarmi, new chair of the small firms committee, reveals exciting plans for 2016 as she sets out her priorities and introduces the small firms division engagement programme.

Congratulations Sally on your election to the chair of the small firms committee. When did you first join the small firms committee?

Thank you.

The committee was established exactly a year ago. Our inaugural chairman was Paul Bennett, of Aaron and Partners LLP and former sole practitioner, while I served as vice chair. Paul brought a wealth of knowlege and experience of advising small firms on regulatory matters to the role. It was a brilliant start for the committee: he’s certainly a hard act to follow.

Looking back, what are your 2015 highlights?

There were so many! Mostly they involved simply talking and listening to my fellow small firms solicitors about their experiences, learning about the issues that really affect them as a community and hearing their ideas for improving things. So speaking at small firms hot topic networking seminars, chairing the London conference; hosting a business lunch for small firm members in Essex; attending the Newcastle Law Society dinner; being interviewed for the Law Society special feature on small firms - generally spreading the word about the great benefits and support provided by the small firms division. A very useful apprenticeship.

So, what are members in small firms saying?

That it’s tough out there! Yes, growth has returned but every pound is hard won. Entreprenuerialism and business acumen is the name of the game, however there’s a whole group of small firms that have literally had the rug pulled from under them in terms of the legal aid changes. The regulatory burden, PII, panel membership,dealing with the legal ombudsman and succession issues, can cause real problems for small firms and prevent us from making progress on crucial matters such as client care, marketing and business development work. It’s the committee’s job to ensure the small firms division provides small firm members with solutions to these problems.

What can small firm members expect from the small firms division in 2016 ?

I’m really excited about the small firms division engagment plan 2015-2016, building on the foundations and momentum gained in the inaugural year. The committee worked with the Law Society to create a strong programme of tailored events, networking spaces, webinars and content to support small firms. The engagment plan is a living document which we will update with information about new activities throughout the year. For example, committee members are keen to host thier own local outreach events in the areas they are based - so we’ll add the information on a rolling basis.

Do you have a personal manifesto as committee chair?

I do. I know as the director of my own small firm, as rewarding and positive as it is, along with it comes the responsiblity for everything that happens in and to the practice. It’s a lonely position and at times can feel overwhelming. Personally, I want the division to raise awareness for the specific needs and issues of small firms and help members acquire the so called ‘soft’ managment skills to deal with the everyday problems that come our way that can so easily throw us off course. It’s about the ability to prioritise, plan, change, review - and get on with the business.