With over 2 years since their expansion into their London office, in this article we catch up with Lee Adams, Managing Partner (London) at JMW to discuss the success of this venture, as well as how they are able to keep their culture and values at the forefront of everything they do. As a top 100 law firm, JMW’s innovative and disruptive market positioning, strong set of core values and inspiring team of expert Lawyers have allowed them to achieve great success and excellent results for their clients.
Q: What makes JMW different from other full-service UK law firms?
A: JMW hasn’t lost any of its hunger as a firm to attract the best people, to disrupt, and to innovate. For us growth is a happy result of staying true to our values and isn’t something we chase for its own sake.
Q: In May 2019 you opened your London office located on King Street, in the Bank area of the City. From a commercial perspective, how has JMW benefited from having an office in the capital?
A: The firm always had work nationally, but the London office has turned JMW into a properly national firm and added an international dimension to many of its services.
Q: How did you find the process of opening the London office and building a reputation in the competitive legal market? What were some of the biggest challenges?
A: All the partners based in the London office have been hired from the London market. This sounds simple but by acquiring partners already successfully operating in London there has been no ‘breaking into’ the market, so those who have joined have simply brought their reputations and followings and become JMW. Helping to build JMW’s reputation from being a massively successful North-West firm into a national firm has been incredibly satisfying. Initially we embraced our underdog status in the market, although we can no longer claim that is the case now that we have established ourselves. The biggest challenge has been to take over 100 people coming from pretty much 100 different firms and forge them into one culture.
Q: In the first two years of the office opening, it grew from six people to over 100 members of staff and Partners, contributing over £15m of revenue to JMW. In your opinion, what are some of your greatest accomplishments through this process?
A: Staying true to our strategy of going out into the open market and acquiring the best people in ones and twos rather than whole teams has created equality of opportunity for everyone, and I am incredibly proud that we have a group of people who all work wonderfully together. On a personal level I hope that others will agree that I live our values relentlessly and that I fearlessly try to root out negative behaviour which can damage our culture in the long term.
Q: Since opening the London office, JMW has been recognised as a top 100 law firm. What do you think have been the main reasons for your success?
A: Saying yes to the right people and no to the wrong ones for JMW! Of the many things I have learned from our Senior Partner Joy Kingsley, I learned both the power of saying yes to candidates who are less outgoing but are quietly confident and reliable, and saying no to candidates who may well have large followings but have personalities which are not right for JMW but who will fit in somewhere else successfully.
Q: What are the culture and values that you work to maintain across the firm?
A: JMW’s values are based around TEAM (Teamwork, Experts, Aspire and Matters) and one of the ways I try to apply these is to be a role model and to encourage others to be role models. I don’t believe in ‘one rule for me, one rule for others’ even as the Managing Partner of the London Office and at 39 years old I still remember vividly what it is like to work my way through each level of a firm. If I can encourage others to be the sort of leaders I admire, then we will continue to be part of something truly special.
Q: How do you ensure that the culture at JMW remains collaborative throughout the offices?
A: By good old-fashioned manners! Namely seeing and speaking to people at all offices as much as I can and appreciating the job that everyone does at JMW, wherever they are located. I realise that at any large firm your contact time with each other can be very limited, so every encounter should be imbued with respect and kindness to leave a positive impression. By this I don’t mean ignoring issues, and in fact although some decisions are very hard, if it is for the good of the firm then I think most people respect and understand that.
Q: How has growth in technology changed the way you work and helped to improve processes at the firm?
A: It has given us options and ways of working that we didn’t have even two years ago. Whilst I believe in consistency in ways of doing things, I also believe that a certain amount of flexibility increases the chance you will disrupt processes which are in need innovation.
Q: How important is your marketing and social media strategy to create a uniform brand for the firm and Partners, across all offices?
A: It is important for those reasons but one of the things I love about JMW is it is not overly rigid about the way it wants to be seen, other than as a quality law firm with the best people! We are not constantly putting up blocks in front of people who want to pursue new ideas and get them out there on social media or at networking events. Some firms have long social media processes, which can stifle ideas and enthusiasm.
Q: What are the three most important attributes for a Lawyer to have, if they want to join JMW?
A: Judgement, empathy, and academic achievement. As lawyers we must exercise our judgement all the time, across all kinds of situations. We can’t rely on processes to get us through the day like in some industries so being able to demonstrate superb judgement is essential. Empathy not only makes a better lawyer it makes a better colleague. We also expect our lawyers to be technically excellent so academic achievement is important.
Q: Where would you like to see the firm in 2, 5 and 10 years time?
A: I don’t think anyone two years ago thought we would achieve what we have today, so I am tempted to say who knows? I would like to see the firm continue its strategy of acquiring good people and I can’t imagine our appetite for developing ourselves waning any time soon.
From everyone here at Interlink we would like to thank Lee Adams for giving such detailed and insightful answers to our questions. It has been a pleasure to work with Lee on this piece and we hope it inspires others with their legal future. We look forward to continuing to be a part of incredible growth of JMW.