Shakespeare Martineau announces major structural update

05 May 2020

TOP 55 law firm Shakespeare Martineau has announced a major restructure of its senior leadership team.

Effective 1 May 2020, the firm has made significant changes to its organisational structure to support its ambitious plans for growth, increase collaboration across the business and create a more agile operational model.

Key updates to the structure include the introduction of business unit managing directors and super team leaders as well as introducing regional heads across West Midlands, East Midlands and South. Together, these form a new growth board for the firm.

Sitting on the main board alongside CEO Sarah Walker-Smith and business unit managing directors, will be the newly appointed chief transformational officer (CTO) Karen Walker and recently promoted Ben Buckton as chief marketing and people officer (CMPO).

Heading up the West Midlands region for the firm will be Joanna Deffley, supported by Richard Wrigley, Neil Gosling and Andrew Smith who will be taking on the roles of office head for Birmingham, Solihull and Stratford, respectively.

Sarah Walker-Smith said: “We remain focussed on long-term growth and keeping clients at the heart of everything that we do.

“We recognise that the best way to do this is through collaboration and taking a market-led approach to our service areas. So we’re introducing three business unit managing director positions to the main board, who will be supported by super team leaders. By uniting teams, rather than segmenting them, we are able to provide a more holistic service to clients.”

The new structure was launched internally in February 2020 and comes into full effect from the new financial year. It will see the multi-disciplinary firm launch three business units: life and business – led by Victoria Tester; litigation services and dispute resolution – led by Mark Beesley; and infrastructure and specialist markets – led by Alex Smith. Each business unit encompasses a number of ‘super teams,’ with ‘super team leaders’ responsible for the growth of each service area.

The organisation’s eight offices across the UK will collaborate as three specific regions; East Midlands, West Midlands and South; with regional heads responsible for raising the profile of the firm in those areas and aligning growth plans with the overarching business strategy of bringing services together to benefit the needs of clients.

Joanna Deffley, West Midlands regional head, said: “I am delighted to have been appointed West Midlands regional head for the firm.

“Like many businesses across the West Midlands, Shakespeare Martineau has faced a number of external challenges in 2020, but we are strengthening our business resilience from the inside out and I am confident our new structure will help us to succeed in our strategy for growth.

“Our clients and our people are central to everything we do, our aim is to always exceed expectations and uniting our teams under this new structure enables us to do that.”

2020 has proven to be a considerably challenging year for all businesses, with many still facing growing uncertainty in the wake of Brexit and more significantly; COVID-19. In a recent survey conducted by Shakespeare Martineau of its people more than 89% were confident in the resilience of the firm following the coronavirus crisis, with 94% confident in Sarah’s approach to leadership.

Sarah said: “No one could have predicted the impact of coronavirus on businesses across the globe. However, for us it has only compounded the need for increased agility, collaboration and strong, supportive leadership, which our new structure delivers.”

Shakespeare Martineau is the only UK law firm in the top 55 to have a non-lawyer, female CEO and the new organisational structure has resulted in the firm’s board being made up of an even split of both genders and both law and non-law professional backgrounds.

“We talk a lot about putting ‘round pegs in round holes’,” added Sarah.

“When the members’ board took the unorthodox approach to appoint a non-lawyer as CEO it demonstrated to the market our commitment to ensuring that the priority for us is business growth and providing the best service to our clients, above out-dated traditions.

“To ensure decisions are made with the whole firm in mind however, we also have a ‘shadow board’ that is made up of around a dozen of our exceptionally talented team members from across the business who regularly challenge the main board and help provide a firm-wide view on strategic initiatives.”

As part of the organisational changes Shakespeare Martineau welcomes Karen Walker to the firm; previously change and infrastructure director at Browne Jacobson, Karen will oversee the operational evolution of the business as chief transformational officer.

With a view to bringing HR and marketing closer together Ben Buckton, previously marketing director for the firm, will be stepping up as chief marketing and people officer.

Ben said: “Our people are our brand – and it’s our clients who benefit from our investments in them. With our people and clients so intertwined, we knew it made sense to strategically unite them.”

There have been no redundancies made as a result of the organisational restructure.

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