Following on from Shoosmiths LLP sponsorship of the first TLC: Talk, Listen, Change ball, I was interested to know more about our sponsor.
Often, it's easy for large and medium sized companies to throw money at charities in order to tick their Corporate Social Responsibility boxes. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't oppose this kind of donation. For years I've fought hard on the side of large corporate donations and things such as celebrity ambassadors - if benefits the charity and it benefits them, everybody wins!
However, when I started at TLC, I knew this kind of charity required a slightly different approach. It's a charity that is not only all about relationships, but is growing so quickly, expanding staff teams and partnerships on a daily basis... we have to get these right. We have to get like-minded values and ethos right from the beginning, across our whole organisation.
Enter Shoosmiths LLP. Shoosmiths LLP are an award-winning national law firm who throw out the old-fashioned ideas traditionally associated with law firms, in preference for collaboration and creativity. Their Manchester office hosts a Family Law Department, who TLC have been naturally forming a partnership with for awhile. Head of the department, Anita Shepherd, has been a long-standing supporter of our charity, even before the re-brand, having developed a strong professional relationship with our Family Mediator, Victoria Hill.
I attended the Shoosmiths LLP Manchester office to interview Anita and understand more about Family Law and the partnership.
What’s it like working for Shoosmiths? What is their ethos and style?
I would say it’s very liberating. Their culture is about inspiring their staff and putting in place the best possible working environment to be able to improve yourself. It allows you to operate at your optimum.
Traditional law firms have senior hierarchy sat in offices behind desks and even if they say they have an open-door culture, they often don’t. Whereas here, even the managing partner of Manchester doesn’t have his own office, we’re all open plan and it’s all about having private spaces, quiet spaces, collaborative zone.
Staff here are more productive, more approachable and everyone is respected. The receptionists are just as respected as the managing partners – what they do is just as important, they run the ship!
It’s very different to other law firms.
I know you have to maintain confidentiality, but are there any cases or clients that are particularly memorable in your career?
I did once have a male client who was incredibly wealthy, but sadly he was born with a brain stem injury. In his 40s, the stent he had put in as a toddler began to leak, resulting in brain injury and severe disability.
After this, I represented him in his divorce whereby his wife wanted to keep all the assets, arguing that he should rely on social services and benefit support. He ended up with a trust fund of 5 million which allowed him to have a fully adapted property and round the clock support on a private basis.
Sadly, he passed away 8 years after I finished his case, but that was 8 years he had in excellent care.
Wow. That sounds like an emotional case. Was exposure to these kind of cases the sort of thing that inspired you to get involved with TLC?
My interest in supporting TLC: Talk, Listen, change is mainly because of the great work they do in terms of helping families and relationship breakdown, which fits in with what I do. I think they provide a very supportive service to families going through that process and for me, providing the legal advice, I could see the synergy between TLC: Talk, Listen, Change and Shoosmiths.
How did you go about obtaining the sponsorship?
Well, when I started on my journey of bringing TLC: Talk, Listen, Change to the attention of Shoosmiths, I was very new to the firm. I had to learn who to speak to, who to make a pitch to, but I did and when they truly understand the charity, they were very much on board. Everyone is now completely invested and really excited about the partnership.
How did you come across TLC in the first place, was it through family mediation?
Yes. I’ve been involved in referring to meditators now for the past 15 years, which is a legal necessity before divorce proceedings and have worked with Victoria Hill (TLC Family Mediator) for a number of years and I’m really impressed with the quality of support given.
I would send clients to mediation thinking “they’ll never sort that out” and clients would think it wasn’t going to work, but they would return and they’ve either solved all their issues or narrowed the issues so they are legally manageable.
What do you think of TLC?
I really like the new branding. I think moving to an independent charity is a very brave move and the right move. I think their new style is positive, modern and says a lot.
So you recommend TLC services to clients?
Yes, absolutely. It’s really important to me that whoever I recommend my clients to, has the same values as myself and Shoosmiths, it’s about building trust. It’s important when they seek support from these places, they are good experiences. I always get this with TLC and we have that level of trust.
My support for them will continue beyond this event into the future.
Are you going to the ball?
Of course we are! We've got a table and we're all very excited.