Over the last few years Wollen Michelmore’s strategy has seen a mix of geographic expansion through merger/acquisition plus organic growth of departments and development of new and niche services.
The firm has grown substantially and developed into a strong regional practice with a turnover of £7.5 million. We now have five offices throughout Devon – Torquay, Newton Abbot, Dartmouth, Barnstaple and Bideford – and we are the only law firm with offices in both the north and south of the county – offering a “coast to coast” service and network of offices employing 130 staff.
Growth and profitability are central to the ongoing plans for the firm; however, we are also determined not to lose our sense of identity borne out of private client service to generations of families across Devon.
The 2016 DASLS awards very much exceeded our expectations and recognised our successes, when we were shortlisted for 6 awards in December 2015. The excitement created a tremendous ‘buzz’ in the office as we anticipated how the evening would evolve on the night of the awards in March.
The evening commenced in great style with the Royal Marine Band and Joshua Rozenberg opening the evening ceremonies. Next was the first presentation of the night, the 2015 DASLS Challenge Cup and Wollen Michelmore were crowned the champions. This was the culmination of staff members participating in 6 various sporting events along with a quiz, throughout the previous 12 months. This was the first time Wollen Michelmore had won the award outright and it really did give us the perfect start to the evening.
Little did we know that the evening would progress with us winning a further 3 of our 6 shortlisted categories!
Our first celebration was for Rachel Carter who was awarded Solicitor of the Year. Rachel specialises in complex care proceedings involving allegations of non-accidental injury. She has considerable expertise in acting for parents, carers and other family members, dealing with cases in the County Court, High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. She is a member of the Law Society’s Child Panel. As well as running a heavy workload, she also tries to assist families going through proceedings by providing medical and legal information on her blog: www.parentsaccused.co.uk
Rachel says “It was wonderful to be shortlisted at these prestigious awards and great fun to attend with so many firms from across the county. The entertainment was great and for the firm to receive three awards on the night was such an achievement. Celebrating the work of our profession is important especially when we often face daily battles of some kind. This kind of recognition makes the job feel very fulfilling!”
Then it came to the announcement of the winner of the Client Service category. We had two tables of staff, many who were sat with fingers and toes crossed hoping and waiting for those special words to confirm the hard work over the past 12 months had really paid off….
“and the award for Client Service in 2016 goes to Wollen Michelmore”. Yes we cheered, yes we clapped and yes we whooped ! It was a very significant moment for the whole team to be recognised by the Devon and Somerset Law Society for providing excellent Client Service. Following three mergers we had experienced some conflicting cultures and standards with regards to our customer service across our offices. After identifying the specific weaknesses we then drove change through training to improve the firm’s culture and behaviour of our staff.
The areas of weakness and improvement were;
• Unanswered phone calls
• Lack of engagement
• Simplifying the paperwork
• Confusing costs structure
Our mantra is now “great service, every lawyer, every time.”
In conclusion, we have seen great improvements since we started on this programme of improving our client service and are very aware that it’s a continued part of our growth. Our client feedback reflects that our clients are very positive about the changes we have made.
The evening then got even better when our Chief Executive, Chris Hart was announced as Leader/Law Manager of the Year.
Chris said “Winning 3 awards at this fabulous event was so exciting for everyone in the firm. I personally see how much effort people put in to working with our clients and providing the best levels of service and it’s not always an easy job. But the team really make a huge effort to get it right time after time and these awards reflect that.
Also we have to thank the Devon and Somerset Law Society, all the sponsors and DC Media for the superb event they organised. Everyone enjoyed the evening and I’m sure the 2017 awards will be equally as successful.”
Chris’s nomination told the story of how he first became Managing Partner at Wollen Michelmore at the age of 36. Under his management his drive has been to create a more modern, profitable and dynamic law firm, whilst not losing sight of the firm’s heritage and long standing client relationships. Whilst growing the services that the firm offers he emphasised that the firm must also focus on compliance and behaving with integrity.
Wollen Michelmore has a vibrant team of managers who have all been encouraged to contribute to the business by Chris, allowing them to think freely and challenge the status quo. He firmly believes in “getting the right people in the right job” and recruiting managers from outside the legal sector has been a significant attribute to the business.
Chris works extremely hard, always representing the firm and developing relationships with potential clients. He always goes “the extra mile” supporting external organisations across the region and leads campaigns that will ultimately benefit the business community.
We truly believe that our successful involvement at the DASLS awards in 2016 are a true indication of what the DASLS awards represent, reflecting the many varied attributes across the diverse organisations in the region.