Your opportunity to build an exciting career in a rapidly changing legal landscape

Mark Haywood - Your opportunity to build an exciting career in a rapidly changing legal landscape

This informative, inspiring speech was the keynote address at LawCareersNetLIVE Manchester 2018.

My name is Mark Haywood. I am a real estate lawyer and the head of the Manchester office for CMS.

We are a global law firm, the fifth largest in the world with over 70 offices in over 30 countries, and a turnover in excess of £1 billion. We work for clients in a range of sectors – real estate, energy and infrastructure, life sciences and healthcare, Financial services and consumer goods to name just a few. We are proud to have more FTSE 100 companies as clients than any other law firm in the UK.

But this isn’t about CMS. It’s about something much more important – you.

So, I’m not going to talk about CMS. In fact I’m only going to talk about one important thing – your opportunity; opportunity to build an exciting career in a rapidly changing legal landscape; opportunity to work when, where and how you like. So, opportunity for you personally.

The composition of law firms is changing faster than any time in history. Despite my own appearance, it can no longer be said that the typical lawyer or law firm partner is ‘male, pale and stale’.

I walked into a London law firm in 1988, the son of a train driver, born in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, educated at a comprehensive school. But this is far from being some sort of ‘struggle against adversity’ story. On the contrary, while my entry into law firms and my social background might not have been typical of the time, I have to say my experience has been of a challenging, demanding but always meritocratic job. And things have moved on exponentially since then.

My entry might not have been typical then. I might have been a bit of an outlier. I’m not any more.

More and more a modern successful law firm looks like any other dynamic company, comprising people from just about every social class, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Is there more to be done? Yes, for sure, but great progress is being made. 

And this is the case across all law firms; the so-called magic circle firms, the global elite, and the best UK and regional firms. CMS’s own female senior partner would want me to trumpet our own diversity - our LGBT, our trans-gender, our ethnicity inclusion initiatives – but we are not alone, and any law firm worth its salt now holds these things dear. More than ever before, a career in the law is open to everyone. Law firms actively value diversity.  

Opportunity for you to work where you want   

I said just before that I walked into a London law firm in 1988. That was what you did. That’s where the best work was to be found and where the best lawyers worked. That’s where the greatest opportunities for career development existed. That’s certainly what they told me. Not necessarily so now.

There are a few factors at play here. Central to this is an ongoing change in the social, economic and talent pool balance of the UK. For the first time in decades movement away from the South East is mirrored by a resurgent and vibrant northern economy.

Look at Manchester: the second most populous urban area in the UK, with 1.4 million people working in 105,000 businesses. and 7.2 million people within 60 minutes of the city centre. The fastest growing city in the UK. The second largest digital, creative and media sector in Europe. A student population of 105,000 supplying 30,000 graduates annually. The GVA of Greater Manchester is estimated at £566 billion. And it was recently voted the most liveable city in the UK.

A fortnight ago internet giant Amazon took space to relocate 600 staff in Manchester. Just last week, telecom Talk Talk announced the relocation of pretty much all their operations to Manchester also, bringing around 500 people up from London. Our friends at PWC tell me that in addition to their 1,000-strong offices in each of Leeds and Manchester, they are now going to build a new hub in … wait for it … Bradford.

It’s not just Manchester either. After the BBC relocated much of its operations to Salford Quays, Channel Four has recently decided to relocate to Leeds – consider the boom to the creative industries in Yorkshire this will nurture. I can think of several other examples of massive companies, significant brands deciding to relocate to the north. You don’t get many sexier brands than McLaren and Boeing – both of these have recently opened factories at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Sheffield.

It’s a growing and noticeable trend.

The Evening Standard last month reported Centre for London think tank findings under the headline “A record millennial exodus from London” as the number of people living and working in the capital aged 25-34 fell for the first time in a decade and by the greatest amount in 20 years.

For CMS, in the UK alone, you could work in London, Reading, Bristol, Manchester, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen. And we are not alone. The point is you have choice. In a world where in recent times Clifford Chance acquired Carillion’s legal services in the North East, Latham & Watkins, Clyde & Co, Fieldfisher, BCLP and Freshfields all opened in Manchester, Reed Smith has opened in Leeds, Taylor Wessing announced a Liverpool opening, Norton Rose announced a target headcount of 100 in Newcastle – you have choice.

And that’s leaving aside the powerhouse northern practices:Addleshaw Goddard, DWF, Walker Morris, and the local offices of Pinsent Masons, Eversheds and Squire Patton Boggs. Nobody says the best lawyers doing the best work are necessarily in the South East anymore.

Opportunity to work in new sectors

In those far away 1988 days, lawyers pretty much did corporate work or property work or commercial work, or litigation. That was it.

Times have changed tremendously and you guys – at the start of what I hope are exciting and successful careers – have so much more opportunity.  

Just take a look at the modern law firm – sectors will routinely include TMT (technology, media and telecoms) and IPC ( infrastructure , projects and energy); you will be engaged in the digital economy , advanced manufacturing, the life sciences, renewables. You will be practising law in areas of business that didn’t exist when I started my career, but which will shape your world.

Opportunity for you to work as you want to work

In my London law firm in 1988, it was simple. You worked in the office – and if you weren’t there, you left a jacket on the back of your chair to pretend you were.

Now we – and most firms – actively champion agile working, working from home, flexible working, the ability to buy additional holiday and take sabbaticals.

Opportunity to be part of a changing industry

Again, back to that London law firm in 1988.

It’s almost impossible to recognise it today. Back then we didn’t have a computer, blackberry or iPhone. Urgent matters were dealt with by fax. We all worked in cellular offices. There was even a tea lady. Our incoming post was read by a partner, our outgoing post was approved – or thrown back at us – by a partner.

This was the way it had been – the change from quill to pen aside – for a couple of hundred years.

There is now a tsunami of change, and if I know two things that are irrefutably true, it is these:

  1. The legal industry is changing at a faster rate than at any time in history. I’m not talking incremental, iterative change. I’m talking revolutionary, reshaping change. I’m talking change like when we stopped weaving by hand and the Spinning Jenny was invented; change like when we stopped unloading goods from ships by hand and discovered container traffic; change like when we stopped buying vinyl albums and moved to tape cassettes before abandoning them to CDs and then giving all that up and downloading from Spotify.   
  2. And the second thing I know? That how it’s changing and what that means, is up for grabs – specifically for you to grab.

    Yes, you.

So you will be the new architects of the profession, working with artificial intelligence, prediction technology, legal analytics, process mapping, digital dictation, e-discovery, automated drafting, helping meet client demands for more innovation, imagination, more research and development, more products and more effective solutions.

In summary then, the opportunities are laid out for you. You can take this skill set, this business of being a lawyer, and work how and where you want, in new and emerging sectors, in an egalitarian, meritocratic profession.

I hope it’s an exciting prospect.

Mark Hayward is the head of the Manchester office of CMS.

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