Leaders List Interview: 60 seconds with Lois Langton, Howard Kennedy
Citywealth speaks to Lois Langton, Head of Family Law and Co-Head of the Sports Group at Howard Kennedy.
24 January 2022
Silvia Ricciardi interviewed some of the winners of the Future Leaders Awards 2021 to discuss about how successful leaders in the wealth sector are managing the workload in the present scenario.
Silvia Ricciardi, Citywealth new Deputy Editor, interviewed some of the winners of the Future Leaders Awards 2021 to discuss about how successful leaders in the wealth sector are managing the workload in the present scenario.
Citywealth wants to thank for their collaboration Partner Garry Manley, Lawyer of the Year IFC (company: Appleby), Partner Majid Hussain, Accountant of the Year (company: Smith and Williamson) and Senior Associate Christopher Cook, Lawyer of the Year IFC (company: Baker McKenzie).
Partner Garry Manley
Lawyer of the Year IFC (company: Appleby)
Relationship with clients. “We are currently working mostly on insurance transactions, whether it is about acquisitions or sales of insurance companies or transfers of insurance business between different insurers. During the pandemic we tried to keep everyone safe, including clients. Appleby on The Isle of Man gets about 50% of its work from the island and this is quite rare. We have some of our biggest clients physically based here so after the major restrictions were put aside, we were able to meet our local clients. The big difference that I have seen is with our law firm clients, US and UK law firms in the city, as a lot of people are still working remotely. I can see that 50% of the time if I have a call with two or more partners or associates at the same firm, they are sitting in their home offices on Zoom. I think in some ways this is even better than it was before. Nowadays you can better see their faces through technology and it is easier to connect, even if you live in different countries.”
Relationship with juniors. “Juniors get one day a week to work from home, except trainees and new qualified lawyers who are expected to work from the office. But we realised that if we allow people to work from home up to 3 days a week, generally speaking most people still have just one day. I have to say we are comfortable enough as a firm as both the team dynamic and the supervision, mentoring junior members of staff, have been adequate throughout the recent experience.”
A new and improved workplace. “The Isle of Man’s approach was quite similar to New Zealand’s. We closed the borders trying to keep the virus out. From an internal team dynamic prospective, we prepared quite well despite the challenges imposed by Covid19. We already had a ‘working from home’ policy in place before the pandemic came along, we allowed people to work from home once a week. Now people have two monitors, keyboards and a desk phone at home, so we have all the required infrastructure to efficiently work remotely. We are also very keen to promote people who have collected enough experience and I don’t think that has been affected in any way working from home.”
Challenges and changes. “The reduced flight schedule happening internationally is having an ongoing impact on flights to and from The Isle of Man where we are based, so getting off the island and then back has been quite of a challenge recently due to the reduced availability of flights. Another key challenge we have to face nowadays is the accessibility of relationships. Whereas before the pandemic we could have flown into London and most people would have worked Monday to Friday from the office, these days any given person might have his or her own schedule, working from home some specific days while preferring the office some others. We managed to arrange more online meetings and I think people appreciate we are spending time to adapt and react to new needs. We have launched quite early in the pandemic an email alert which consists of a summary of the different jurisdictions across the world in which we have offices we respond to. It also contains insightful articles, which cover different areas each week, for instance ESG investing or pieces centred around what is the role of private equity. Our goal was and is to produce new content every week, content people would like to read, but also update them on the latest developments happening in our jurisdictions. We saw that this was so well-received, we have got so many clicks through from the emails that are getting out, that we decided to keep it in place.”
Partner Majid Hussain
Accountant of the Year (company: Smith and Williamson)
Relationship with clients. “The biggest problem was definitely not being able to meet clients with your own team. Clients adapted really well, every firm we were in contact with shifted over to new technical resources, such as Teams and Zoom. I realised that for some clients it was more of a challenge than for others, when we had clients who felt more comfortable over the phone, we arranged phone calls, but I have to add that nothing can replace physical meetings.”
Relationship with juniors. “With our smart working policy we tried to reflect the team’s circumstances. We don’t want to go back to 5 days a week in the office, we are trying 3 days in the office, 2 days from home, but we always pay attention to personal needs. Everyone has a different comfort level and Covid19 has made people reassess how they prefer to work and we are open to have this discussion with all employees, including juniors. We are very flexible. We always try to think of the best way to ensure juniors remain engaged and they feel part of the team. We actively count on team updates and we were really good at generating platforms for our juniors to interact with senior members.”
A new and improved workplace. “We adapted to the new safety measures in place really well. We managed to shift to home working very quickly. IT infrastructure was up to speed to guarantee a smooth process. We implemented our internal guidance as a firm from the very beginning of the pandemic. First, we wanted to make sure that the company took responsibility for creating and supporting a safe working environment, but we also wanted to encourage employees to take personal responsibility. Our aim was to combine the two in order to help navigate the present situation in a responsible and respectful way. We also decided to keep our office open as we were concerned about people’s mental wellbeing. For some employees coming to the office and having a safe place away from home was quite vital.”
Challenges and changes. “From our prospective as leaders in the business we understand we need to be more proactive. We need to be able to use technology to our advantage, even when it is not planned and we have to rely on it as a last-minute choice. The other key thing that we do is to keep the lines of communication open with all employees so that no one feels alone. From our clients’ prospective, I believe they appreciated we managed to adapt so quickly to the present situation and we hope to keep meeting and even exceeding expectations.”
Senior Associate Christopher Cook
Lawyer of the Year IFC (company: Baker McKenzie)
Relationship with clients. “In the present era Zoom has been the real surprise. We used to have face-to-face meetings or phone calls, while now everything is done on Zoom. We have more face-to-face Zoom meetings with all our clients all over the world and it is working really well.”
Relationship with juniors. “I think juniors can learn a lot in a face-to-face environment with senior staff. When I was a junior, I used to be in the same office as my superiors. I believe it is crucial in the present situation to be sure not to forget about them. We have regular calls with them, I try to speak with trainees 2 or 3 times a day, check what they are up to, talk them through documents and to do all of this technology is quite good and reliable. We moved away from the old-fashioned mobile phone, we are now using Skype to share screens and you can actually see when somebody is online, busy doing something. The important thing is being in constant contact with everyone in the company.”
A new and improved workplace. “We shut the office before the country went into lockdown, so everybody went working from home. We put in place a special committee, the CRT (Covid Recovery Team), in charge of sending out updating emails to keep everybody updated on a regular basis on what the firm was doing. The company also sent IT equipment, monitors, chairs, whatever was needed without facing struggles as we already had an agile working policy in place, we were already working 1 or 2 days a week from home. In terms of updates, the firm’s policy in place now is the 2+2+1, which consists in 2 days from home, 2 days in the office and 1 at discretion of employees.”
Challenges and changes. “When I need hard-copy signed documents or when clients sign something and I need to get it somewhere, the logistics around physically signed documents represents quite a challenge. I think that the legal professionals should try to move away from signed documents. We have had laws that allow documents to be signed electronically in place for years, but nobody has ever really trusted them and used them, but I believe this is a required change that needs to be implemented.”