Tom Leahy, CEO of BDM Boylan Solicitors, emphasises the importance of a client-first business model and making sure your service matches their needs.
Q. What are your main priorities and goals in your role?
Create a shared vision for the future that is client, people, market and performance centric. Assist in putting the building blocks in place to deliver on our ambitions. Then ensure things happen through clear responsibility and accountability for delivery while also providing the required coaching and development to ensure people have the competence and capability to deliver their best.
Q. What are your biggest challenges as a CEO?
Building a culture that seeks to put the client first and delivering on same when multiple levers are outside your control. Keeping alignment between the agreed ambitions of the business and the actual day-to-day activities of the team. Staying focused and disciplined on the end goal when multiple activities, non-anticipated events seek to blow you off course. Also bringing pace and urgency to delivering outcomes for our clients.
Q. How do you keep your team/staff motivated?
With continued engagement and communications, sharing best practices and great stories, keeping our ambitions real and in the moment, thanking people and providing one-to-one coaching where required.
Q. What are the challenges facing your industry going forward?
LawTech, in whatever form it hits the sector, will be disruptive in a profession where chance is not necessarily embraced to the degree required to remain relevant. Competitive landscape, digital disruption, war for talent, etc. will hit our industry, as it does many others. Building flexible thinking and working into the ‘new model’. The firm will require resilience and focus for future success. While I don’t see the ‘uberisation’ of law, I do envisage multiple disruptive activities that will drive how law firms deliver for their clients.
Q. What new trends are emerging in your industry?
Digitalisation of workflows, commoditisation of practice areas, artificial intelligence and technology in general which is bringing new solutions to old ways of working and delivering for the client… which is a good thing overall.
“Like every sector there are good firms and bad firms but the ones that seek to place the client at the centre of what they do will be the ones that will grow and succeed in the changing landscape.”
Q. Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?
Nothing of a significant nature but small incremental steps that improve how we deliver to our clients through the court system are always welcomed. Like every sector there are good firms and bad firms but the ones that seek to place the client at the centre of what they do will be the ones that will grow and succeed in the changing landscape. Bringing pace and urgency to executing for clients has become more important as digitalisation, globalisation, etc. impacts on the expectations of today’s clients.
Q. As an employer are you finding any skills gaps in the market?
Not at the moment. We take people in early to the firm and assist them in building the necessary skills to do their job. It’s an advantage to have diversity of talent across the firm together with a ‘tech-savy’ workforce to help us meet the needs of our clients while also ‘future-proofing’ the firm from a technology perspective.
Q. How did your strategy develop in the context of the banking crisis and economic crisis?
Like most businesses we reviewed our cost base and removed any excess fat from the business that we could while also seeking to keep the bulk of our people to help rebuild the firm for the future. This is an ongoing part of what we now do as a crisis is a great time to refocus the business, adjust priorities and be more disciplined around all aspects of the business, particularly around supporting the needs of our clients, many of whom were severely impacted by the banking and economic crisis. This required us to build stronger mediation capabilities to assist dispute resolution and deeper insights into how banks had to change, given their regulatory requirements. These changes across the banking landscape have had a significant impact on their funding models for SME businesses. This is now a core competency of the firm which we use to support our SME clients in terms of their business strategy, funding and finance requirements.
Q. How will Brexit affect you, or have you started to feel the effects already?
I would expect little impact on us directly as we are a regional-based firm where the bulk of our engagements take place within the internal market of the Republic of Ireland. However, many of our SME clients will be impacted as a lot of them deal in the agri-food sector and export to the UK. We are helping them prepare their business for the future utilising the available tools and frameworks provided through local LEOs, Enterprise Ireland, IBEC, banks and various professional firms.
Q. How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?
Achieving the results you set yourself/the firm through the efforts of colleagues and the achievements of our clients. It’s all about the team, the efforts and the outcomes achieved together… and there has to be room for fun and enjoyment on the journey. Watching our clients succeed in their ambitions, our colleagues growing in confidence and capability, and generally just believing that I can make a difference and add value where I contribute are the drivers behind my desire to succeed. If/when I fail, I review reasons, learn the lessons and move forward.
Q. What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?
If you dream it, believe it, action it… you will achieve it. There will always be failings but the key is to seek to understand why, learn (share) the lessons and move on with renewed ambitions.
Q. What have been your highlights in business over the past year?
Bringing a strong focus on the business of law while underpinning all we do with an empathetic approach to client needs within an appropriate commercial framework. Helping to build the confidence and ambitions of the firm while also supporting the ambitions of clients and colleagues.
Q. What’s next for your company?
Deliver more services/solutions to our existing clients, seek to grow our client base through acquisition of new clients and new talent, and optimise the benefits of technology to assist us deliver better outcomes for clients through working smarter.
Q. What opportunities or plans for growth do you see in 2017?
As detailed in the last question, I believe that the marketplace has a requirement for firms, like ourselves, who can provide the necessary legal solutions backed up with strong business advisory capability that seeks to understand their needs and ambitions.
Q. Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?
Continue on our existing journey to become the number-one regional law firm for service, trust and advocacy and enjoy the experience with colleagues.