Q&A - Emma Richardson, Lewis Silkin
I joined Lewis Silkin in January 2016 to develop and lead HR services to complement the well-established Employment and Immigration practices. We launched Worksphere in September 2016. I am an experienced HR Director with 25+ years of frontline practice across a range of industry sectors so I was able to use my knowledge and experience to bring together existing services and develop new offerings in order to launch. We are constantly looking at new ways to develop and provide new services within Worksphere.
I started my career in the hospitality industry – a great place to develop your customer service skills. I have also worked in the venture capital and media sectors before joining PwC in 2000. I worked in many senior HR roles within PwC, with an amazing three-year secondment to India setting up a service delivery centre. I feel I have left a real legacy at the delivery centre in India; a strong, future focussed HR team, who are well equipped to deal with ever changing customer needs. It was this experience that inspired me to seek the role at Lewis Silkin – creating and leading a business to operate alongside the firm.
1. What is Worksphere? How does it benefit clients, and what makes it different? Worksphere is a comprehensive HR service providing an holistic solution for our clients’ people needs. Our clients benefit from having a law firm who builds long term relationships, gains knowledge of the underlying culture and business goals, allowing us to tailor both our legal and HR advice and support. Our Worksphere services include client training, workplace mediation, HR consultancy, executive coaching, global cultural fluency, well-being programmes, HR & GDPR audits, a suite of services to support closing the gender pay gap and investigations.
2. What attributes do you look for in employees, from trainees to partners? Worksphere utilises both lawyers and HR Consultants depending on the type of work required. We ensure that everyone has a high level of professionalism and great customer service; we pride ourselves on being approachable and pragmatic. As an ex-HR Director I really have walked in our clients’ shoes, I hope this makes me a more approachable and empathetic person our clients can turn to.
3. Can you describe a typical day as HR Director at your firm? I would say there is no such thing as a typical day! I love the variety and on occasion the unpredictability. But a day could look like: A breakfast meeting with an HR Director to discuss their employment training needs, a 10am catch up with the marketing team to plan an awareness campaign of our services across Barrister’s Chambers, a quick call before lunch with an HR Consultant to describe a TUPE assignment that came in overnight, lunch with a member of the training team to evaluate feedback from our latest HR Academy, and then the afternoon preparing a proposal for mediation services. Then just when you think you can leave the office the phone rings and it’s a new client needing help and support for an investigation. Never, ever a dull day!
4. What are the key challenges you face in your role? It’s both a challenge and what keeps the job interesting – the unpredictability of the flow of work. Whilst the summer and Christmas might traditionally be quieter, it is often the time when clients have limited resources and they need our assistance the most. Friday afternoons can be my busiest few hours of the week.
5. What initiatives have you set up to recruit and retain talent? All the HR Consultants who are part of Worksphere, are known to Lewis Silkin or me. This ensures we can place the right HR professional at the right time to meet the needs of the assignment and fit into the client’s culture. It’s important that we have the utmost trust and confidence in the HR Consultants we place in order to strengthen our Worksphere offering.
6. What are your policies on flexible and agile working? Lewis Silkin has been very successful in supporting flexible and agile working. Within the Employment and Immigration team we have 35% of Partners and a total of 23% of all lawyers working on a flexible basis. The majority of our maternity returners come back to work on a graded return basis, often moving to part-time work. In addition we have our rockhopper service, a low-cost, fixed-fee HR support helpline, which is resourced by Lewis Silkin employment lawyers seeking a more flexible way of working, often because of being a working parent and having the flexibility to be based from home. This enables Lewis Silkin to retain talented lawyers.