Sacco Mann Talks to Kimberley Barrett-St. Vall

Client: Napthens Solicitors

More than ever, we understand people are looking for support and collaboration. We work together to provide solutions through clear communication and practical, relevant advice.

We’re not a ‘stuffy’ Law firm.  Our people are experts in what they do, but we are approachable and willing to listen. So whether a client needs guidance on planning organisational changes and corporate strategy, needs Legal advice on a family matter, Conveyancing for a house move or support on a dispute – we’ll take the time to know our client and understand their needs.

What initially brought me into the Legal Sector? Watching Ali McBeal only joking, but shows my age! I thought I would be a good Lawyer. Finding solutions, being tenacious to get to an end result, persuasion and negotiating and working with people, were all skills I possessed which I believed I would be able to excel in.  I also liked research and learning new things and knew that with Law, you would constantly be learning!
Kimberley Barrett-St. Vall - Partner - Napthens Solicitors

What brought you to Napthens in the first place?

I trained at Napthens as a Trainee Solicitor and left on qualification to a large city firm.  It was a hard decision because I really enjoyed working with the people at Napthens but there was not, at that time, a role in the area which I wanted to specialise in which was Employment Law.  When I returned to Napthens back in 2010 the main reason was that the role presented an exciting opportunity because the Head of Department was looking to introduce an offering / product that I considered would be of real interest to clients and really believed in it.  The team at the time was small and I believed I would be able to offer something / add value. I also thought it was a really exciting time to join a department which was progressive and innovative.

What was your route to becoming Partner of Napthens?

  • I did a Law Degree at Durham University where I attained a 2:1, I then did my LPC at the School of Law in Chester.
  • I did some Paralegal work at Halliwells before I went travelling round South America.
  • I then started my Training Contract with Napthens in 2005.
  • I then left as an NQ and worked for another firm (DLA Piper in the City of Liverpool).
  • Then in 2010 I returned to Napthens as a Solicitor and then was promoted to Senior Associate around 2012 and then Partner in 2016.

What are the greatest changes have you seen to Napthens in the last few years?

Our current strategic plan is in place to take Napthens forward to 2025 with a Vision to be the law firm in the region known for outstanding relationships.
  • In my department, we have moved towards fixed fee and focus on client service.
  • A reduction in Tribunal work around 2012 and an increase in Tribunals again only very recently.
  • The amount of competition in the market place, not just from other Law Firms but consultancies.

What makes you feel proud about working at Napthens?

The people and the firm’s values.  Everyone has a voice, if you have a good idea and it “stacks up” you are given the freedom to run with it.  The firm is progressive, it is always ahead of the curve.

How would your team describe you?

Dependable, knowledgeable, kind, logical, organised and trustworthy (I asked some of my team to complete the Johari window anonymously. I am not full of myself!)

Who has been the most influential person in your career?

My parents for always instilling in me that I could achieve anything I put my mind to. My old boss at DLA- Mark Dale who allowed me to grow in confidence and believe in my own ability; and my current boss, Head of Department Chris Boyle, for giving me so many opportunities to progress and develop. 

What’s the most challenging element of your job?

Getting a balance between home life and working life.  Having 2 young children and working full time as a Partner can be challenging, making sure your time is split sufficiently to do the things you want to do for your family whilst achieving and delivering the standards you expect of yourself at work.

What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago on how to make Partner/shape your career?

Seek out your own progression, be accountable, seek out opportunities - don’t wait for them to be presented to you.

So far what has been your career highlight? Was there a defining moment in your career?

Becoming a Partner in 2016 at the age of 34 and choosing to come back to Napthens in 2010 was my defining moment in my caeer.

What do you really enjoy about working at Napthens?

The people! The progressive and innovative approach to the legal sector, and also the fact that we care about what we do and the people we work with (whether that be colleagues or clients).

What does the Napthens Career Development Pathways currently look like/involve?

Criteria is set for all roles so individuals know what is expected by way of behaviours and experience to attain each role.

What qualities do you look for in potential candidates hoping to join Napthens?

  • Passion for the Law.
  • A dynamic outlook on the Legal Sector.
  • Someone who challenges the status quo.
  • Commerciality.
  • Pride in their work.

Overall, what do you think makes Napthens stand out as a firm in the North West? What does Napthens do well?

It delivers competent technical and pragmatic advice in a no nonsense and understandable way.  It cares about its clients and understands to add value in the advice it gives, it needs to fully understand the needs and goals of the business.

What is your “vision for the future” for Napthens?

To grow, but continue to be true to what drove the growth in the first place- client relationships and great working relationships between colleagues.

When is the right time to start building your network and how is best to achieve this?

As soon as you are a trainee - even before, at university! You only need a small network but a meaningful one.  

How do you see the Legal profession changing as a result of COVID-19? Do you see this being a positive step for the Legal profession?

  • Increased client demands on turnaround times and availability - accessibility 
  • It has probably had the result of speeding up the likely involvement of AI in the legal sector because of the above.
  • Remote working- but subsequently impact on having access to a larger talent pool outside just your local area
  • Has impacted the way business development will be done on a longer term basis

How will flexible and agile working impact law firms?

Positively, ensuring client needs are fully met but allowing this to be a sustainable achievement of Lawyers as they seek to maintain a work  /life balance.

What obstacles do law firms need to overcome in order to succeed in today’s environment and beyond?

Accept we deliver a service.  Just like other service providers, ensure we are listening to our clients and always strive to achieve excellence in delivery of the service.

What is your one big prediction for the Legal Industry?

Clients’ expectations will go “full circle”- I think there will be a move to a greater place for AI in the engagement with the client, although perhaps not in my career lifetime. However, this desire will change some time thereafter where clients will probably want a human who they have a relationship with (as they do now!).

What is the future of legal service delivery?

  • Driven by clients- focus on service standards and being an extension of our client’s business.  Being a one stop shop for all your client’s needs.
  • Advanced technology will undoubtedly have a large part to play

What technology do you anticipate will revolutionise the industry by 2025?

Client engagement tools, automation (AI)

How can Lawyers and firms ensure they are at the forefront of progress and innovation in the Legal market?

  • Understand their market and understand their client’s needs.  Understanding clients by ensuring that feedback is obtained rather than making any assumptions.
  • Focus on what you do as a firm rather than what other firms may or may not be doing.
  • Accepting there is no end goal, the market is constantly moving and changing, what you did yesterday may not be sufficient to get you through tomorrow so to speak.

Sacco Mann understands Napthens strategic goals and works with us to achieve those by finding us the right candidates for our business.  They actively update us on market trends and check in with us on a regular basis to ensure they are doing all they can for us whilst continuing to source the market in the background, keeping an eye out for...

Kimberley Barrett-St. Vall - Partner - Napthens Solicitors
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