The Law Society

Established in 1825, the Law Society represents approximately 125,000 solicitors in England and Wales. It exists to help protect and promote solicitors and its remit includes a variety of aspects from negotiating with and lobbying the profession's regulators, government and others, to offering training and advice.

On the appointment of a new Chief Executive and in response to changes in the regulation of organisations which provide services to the general public, the Law Society entered into a three-year period of transformational change. The activities have been restructured to better serve solicitors’ and the public's needs. In conjunction with the transformation, the Law Society has also recently embarked upon a major change programme, seeking to introduce a more modern and commercially focused attitude to performance, service delivery and costs.

Rona Chester, Group Financial Director at the Law Society explains the challenges these change initiatives have brought to the financial operations of the Society and how the recruitment and selection of appropriate leadership has played a key role in ensuring the successful delivery of the outcomes. Chester also describes how Executives Online enabled her to quickly source an interim manager who possessed the necessary skills to help review and implement a major reorganisation of the whole financial accounting structure.

The Law Society has been no stranger to organisational change over the last three years. Following recommendations from its Governance Review Group and those involved in the review of the Regulation of Legal Services carried out on behalf of the Government, the Law Society’s Council took the necessary steps to separate its regulatory and representative roles. As a result, the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) and Legal Complaints Service (LCS) became fully operational as independently appointed governing bodies that are now responsible for the policy and operations of the Law Society’s regulation and complaints handling functions respectively.

"Nigel paved the way for us to deliver a much more modern and commercially focused attitude to performance, service delivery and costs"

Chester explains: "To complement this operational step change and introduce a more modern and commercially focused attitude to performance, service delivery and costs, the Chief Executive ensured that part of my responsibility as Group Finance Director would be to drive control and efficiency, as well as greater transparency and accessibility to users of financial reports. Another important aspect of this role included corporate policing whereby relationships between each of the three boards, including the SRA and LCS needed to be continuously managed effectively.

Due to the scale of the task and the changes that needed to be made to the financial operations of the business, we quickly identified the need to bring on board a highly experienced interim manager who could provide a rapid, hands-on approach to the business challenges we faced. Utilising interim managers was not a new concept for the Law Society. With access to a much wider and richer talent pool through its online acquisition model, Executives Online, was the obvious choice to source exactly the right candidate.

Working closely with Executives Online to convey our specific requirements meant that they were able to quickly deploy their resources to seek out exactly what we were looking for. This role needed someone with experience of leading and managing a finance function in a changing environment, as well as strong process management skills which could be deployed in what was considered at the time, as a disjointed environment."

Through its Fast Track Search methodology Executives Online was able to proactively search its global talent bank in order to identify whether an optimum match already existed. This process was complemented by a comprehensive digital search of candidates using its online acquisition engine and web search tools. This bespoke process meant that a high quality short-list could be rapidly assembled and the interview phase was quickly entered into. At this stage, the Executives Online team provided vital support, often setting up meetings at extremely short notice.

Norrie Johnston of Executives Online explains: “The priority throughout this project was on getting the right candidate for this particular role. In response to this we made sure that we allocated appropriate resource to understand where the organisation wanted to be in the future and aligned our approach to complement their aspirations. Following an extensive search and additional screening process which we conducted on behalf of the Law Society, Nigel H was offered the position of Interim Head of Financial Accounting.” Nigel, an experienced and practicing interim manager explains: “Working as a Chartered Accountant within the corporate world for the last 20 years I accumulated a breadth of experience that could quickly be utilised within the Law Society. The major change programme the Law Society had embarked upon also required an independent mind, open and honest approach and an ability to take charge without fear of ruffling feathers internally.”

Nigel’s remit was to support the Group Finance Director in implementing the necessary operational changes to the finance function of the Law Society. Specific tasks included: reviewing the existing capabilities, identifying and then implementing the required improvements, encompassing locations, personnel, systems. Being in an interim position, Nigel was also able to recruit his successor, train him and mentor him to enable a seamless transition, before moving on to his next role.

Since joining the Law Society, Nigel has overseen the consolidation of the financial accounting and transaction processing teams in the West Midlands; managed a fundamental change in the Purchase to Pay procedures; and introduced electronic expenses processing.

"For the past six months Nigel has also been able to mentor his successor who has now seamlessly taken over the reins following Nigel’s recent departure from the organisation," says Chester. "He brought a real sense of empowerment to the organisation and paved the way for us to deliver a much more modern and commercially focused attitude to performance, service delivery and costs. Executives Online’s responsive and supportive approach is a breath of fresh air in what is fast becoming a flooded and disparate recruitment market and no doubt we will be turning to the team when looking for our next senior level candidate."