Sacco Mann Talks to Kathryn Taylor

Client: Gordon Brown Law

At Gordon Brown Law our friendly, approachable team of Solicitors, Conveyancers and Support Staff understand how stressful a property transaction can be.

Our ultimate aim is to ensure that Clients have a dedicated Case Handler who will guide the Client through every step of the way. Our team are regulated by the Council for Licenced Conveyancers which means that across all levels of the business we pride ourselves on excellent client care, communication, efficiency and professionalism.

What do I enjoy most about Gordon Brown Law? For me it is 100% the staff I work with. We have a lovely office culture where everyone gets on with one another, there are no office politics, and we pull together as a team.

Kathryn Taylor - Head of Gordon Brown Law - Gordon Brown Law

What initially brought you into the Legal Sector?

From an early age I was determined to work within the legal sector, however I found it extremely difficult to break into the profession as I had no family or personal connections to help me get a foot in the door. After almost a year of unsuccessful training contract applications, I chose the paralegal route. In my eyes this allowed me to put my degree to use and gain knowledge, experience and confidence. Once those skills had been developed, I was able to successfully apply for a trainee solicitor position. However, it is important to remember that the traditional route to being a solicitor is not the only route into the profession. We have a number of Solicitors who have gone down non-traditional CILEx routes, which allows for a more inclusive approach to the law. There are also a number of alternative options e.g. Conveyancing Technician, Licensed Conveyancer etc.

What makes the business the success it is today?

We are a Conveyancing firm who understand the importance of customer service. We are all dedicated to giving our customers honest, straightforward and pragmatic advice at all times. We are real people, but are also really great Lawyers, Conveyancers, Managers and Support Staff, who aim to treat each individual client as we would want to be treated ourselves. We pride ourselves on not taking our clients for granted and like to build and retain professional relationships – both internally and externally. 

I am personally very open, down to earth and honest, an attribute that is occasionally lacking in the legal profession. I strongly feel that, when it comes to this industry, people buy from people, and a down to earth, no-nonsense attitude and approach can help you go far.  I’m a stickler for quality over quantity; the current economic landscape has altered the relationship between client and solicitor dramatically and service, like in any sector, is more important now than ever before.

What differentiates Gordon Brown Law from other legal practices, that you are aware of?

I think there are a number of differentiators between ourselves and other Legal Practices.  The most common that spring to mind are:

  • All staff, no matter what level they are recruited at, are profiled on our website, allowing for a feel of inclusivity whilst also promoting equality.  This is a very important element of our culture.
  • At Gordon Brown Law we have a strong focus on work life balance, well-being and a culture of support / collaboration at all levels across the business.  We have mental health trained first aiders, offer a valuable employer assistance programme and also implement a number of well-being initiatives, via our well-being champions.
  • Our ‘real people’ campaign – we like to bring our people to life by sharing our stories whilst also communicating the real person to the outside world.
  • Our willingness to share ideas, be collaborative with staff through periods of change and our zero tolerance of bullying or harassment.
  • By providing meaningful benefits via consultation with all of our staff, via annual surveys.
  • By conducting annual staff surveys we can constantly give our employees a voice.  After all they are an integral part of our business.  The surveys allow us to make any necessary changes but also ensures that our staff know their opinions are valued. 
  • By implementing meaningful performance and development reviews (‘PDRs’) we provide a formalised structure for career development.
  • By implementing a formalised career path, we can ensure that both solicitors and Non-Solicitors can forge a meaningful career path.

Who has been the most influential person in your career?

Whenever I’m asked this question personally or professionally the answer is always the same and that person is my mother. Mum was a university graduate and medical professional who was struck down with the dreadful disease Multiple Sclerosis when I was 11 years old. She had to retire from work early but always instilled into me and my two sisters the importance of a good education, hard work and having a career. Mum heavily steered me towards the law and was a steady rock for me right through my university education and legal training. She sadly passed away in 2011, the year I first became a Partner. Whenever I come across a complicated issue in my personal life or career, I always remind myself of her motto which was ‘there is no point in worrying about issues you can’t control, take a deep breath and face them, it’s all you can do’. That advice has got me through may years of management and most recently during the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges this has brought to all businesses.

What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago on how to progress your legal career?

I would say to myself don’t spend the first two years out of university thinking you have failed just because you haven’t secured a training contract. Get into a law firm via the Paralegal route, work hard, prove yourself and your career will follow form that.

What could you see yourself being or doing if you had not pursued a career in the legal sector?

I was accepted to study history and archaeology at university but chose the legal rote instead. My real passion is gardening and I would have loved to have a career that involved being outdoors in gardens in some way.

What do you really enjoy about working at Gordon Brown Law?

For me it is 100% the staff I work with. We have a lovely office culture where everyone gets on with one another, there are no office politics, and we pull together as a team.

What do Gordon Brown Law’s Career Development Pathways currently look like/involve?

All staff have an annual PDR.  As well as general induction training / annual compliance training we actively encourage staff to identify their own career paths via the PDR process.  We encourage this at all levels across the business.  A common question asked at the recruitment stage is “what are my prospects for development”?  At Gordon Brown Law we are proud to say that there are numerous prospects for development, whether that be an apprentice route through to Solicitor, via Conveyancing Technicians / CILEx routes or administrator through to Accounts Manager.  The opportunities at GBL are numerous and we are always keen to explore new avenues.

What qualities do you look for in potential candidates hoping to join Gordon Brown Law?

We recruit for attitude and train for skill.  It is essential to the management team to recruit people who wish to become ambassadors of the firm and to really drive the firm forward.  We look for people who match our own core values being – ‘friendly, efficient, fair, professional, approachable and honest’.  Whilst also valuing external relationships, providing quality and service commitment and above all a valued added service.  Integrity is the key to our culture.

Overall, what do you think makes Gordon Brown Law stand out as a firm in the region?

Gordon Brown Law are part of the UK’s largest conveyancing and property services group, comprising of Advantage Property Lawyers, DC Law, JS Law, Premier Property Lawyers and Cook Taylor Woodhouse as well as the lead conveyancing panel management and property services specialist Move with Us and My Home Move.  The Group are also part of the QualitySolicitors brand and marketing network.  Having built and established the Gordon Brown Law brand over the last 39 years, the move under the Group umbrella of Simplify allows Gordon Brown Law to focus on their core conveyancing business whilst looking forward to even greater successes in the future. The move under the large umbrella of Simplify will help better protect the jobs of the firm’s people going forward in an uncertain climate, whilst taking away some of the elements of worry that often exist in relation to the property market; as we have seen during Brexit, COVID-19 and possibly what we might see as the furlough scheme and the stamp duty scheme come to an end.

Whilst many law firms had to shut their doors during the COVID-19 pandemic, largely as a result of a lack of space for social distancing or as a result of sharing office space with other businesses, Gordon Brown Law have suffered very little in terms of their ability to operate both from home (being a fully paperless office) and the office.  Gordon Brown Law moved to new offices in Team Valley (12,500 square feet) which currently holds 50 employees but can effectively cater for 140 employees – with additional ability to cater up to circa 200 employees with some reconfiguration.  The newly refurbished offices provide a comfortable and relaxing environment for all staff to operate in a socially distanced and safe manner.   In addition to good transport routes the offices have 50 car parking spaces so that all current staff members can be guaranteed on-site parking.

What is your “vision for the future” for Gordon Brown Law?

Mine, and the management team’s, vision for the future is to look to double in size over the next 18 months, creating more jobs at all levels across the firm.  This expansion will allow team members greater routes to progression internally via a structured career path from apprentice through to solicitor.  Within the existing team members, a number of staff have risen through the ranks having started out as apprentices, progressing to become Heads of Department, Associates, Team Leaders, Conveyancers and Solicitors.

What do you feel are the most important traits/characteristics for a staff member of Gordon Brown Law?

Honesty, integrity, passionate, valuing relations at all levels (internal and external), service commitment, quality and a brand ambassador – whilst remaining a ‘real’ person who is friendly, honest, approachable and fair.”

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?

It is essential to constantly diversify.  We are doing this by building a training academy which will allow for both home-grown talent and ensuring the continued development of staff at all levels across the business.  We have diversified our business by ensuring that all sectors of law are now part of a bigger mechanism – thereby drawing strength from the umbrella networks and ensuring a secure future for the staff that we employ.

How will flexible and agile working impact law firms?

Being a paperless firm, we have the ability to adapt and work flexibly across many areas of the business.  Whilst our culture is that of office working and collaboration – a much needed resource to ensure well-being and the safety of staff both mentally and physically – we can continue to adapt as situations arise and develop.

What makes us successful is we are a conveyancing firm who understand the importance of customer service. We are all dedicated to giving our customers honest, straightforward and pragmatic advice at all times. We are real people, but are also really great Lawyers, Conveyancers, Managers and Support Staff.

Kathryn Taylor - Head of Gordon Brown Law - Gordon Brown Law

Working with Sacco Mann

Our Head of HR, Deb Tweedy, first established the relationship with Sacco Mann in 2013, shortly after joining the firm.  Deb and I were very keen to ensure that Sacco Mann understood the culture of the firm, why we were different to our competitors and what we looked for in our prospective candidates.
 
In 2018 Deb and I met with the Sacco Mann team over a boardroom lunch / presentation.  I thought it was important to show them a little bit more about our brand and our culture.  This helped cement the relationship further.
 
Over the years, Deb and I have worked very closely with the team at Sacco Mann to establish a strong relationship that has, over time, seen them placing a number of very strong candidates who have gone on to develop both personally and professionally.  We would highly recommend the team to any other candidates / businesses

 

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