Ruth Davison joined Intelligent Office as Operations Director in May 2021, having previously held a number of HR and secretarial management roles at law firms including Kirkland and Ellis, BLP, Pinsent Masons and Simmons & Simmons. As the founder and leader of the Legal Manager’s Forum, Ruth’s unique insights into law firm support perfectly positions her to spearhead the charge of transforming legal support operations. Ruth is excited to share these insights with IO’s new Legal Office and Facilities Forum and drive cross-sector collaboration to design the next generation of legal support services.
Here, Ruth tells us what’s on the horizon for law firms and how Intelligent Office is working in partnership to deliver the next generation of legal support.
WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO JOIN INTELLIGENT OFFICE?
I’d been familiar with Intelligent Office for a number of years before joining and knew them as the market-leader for outsourced secretarial and document production support when my own firm were looking for support solutions. Through interactions with the business and its people I could tell they were a very well-run organisation, they had strong and realistic growth plans, and the leadership team were keen to look for new ways of doing things.
Intelligent Office were looking to bring in new talent to support these growth plans, and since I’ve been here the team has further expanded with Marcella Rich and Pat Fox joining the Leadership and Operations teams, respectively. Knowing what IO had planned, I was excited to join them and to use my experience within law firms to further benefit their culture of continuous improvement and people development – two things I’m very passionate about.
HOW HAS YOUR PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE BENEFITTED YOU IN YOUR ROLE AS OPERATIONS DIRECTOR?
My strongest link into my current role at IO is that I have over 25 years’ experience in operational management within law firms, and the opportunity to bring this experience to a high-level role was too good to miss. Having the ability to understand the partnership culture, the collaboration and relationships, and also having worked in law firms gives me a great footing when working with IO’s clients and redesigning their support solutions. In my first year at IO, I’ve been able to utilise my knowledge and skills to better the account management process, implement successful restructures and develop their management teams with monthly training opportunities. I loved working in law firms, and my current role at IO gives me the best of both worlds!
THE PANDEMIC HAS CHANGED THE WAY THAT LAW FIRMS ARE WORKING, WHAT OPERATIONAL TRENDS ARE YOU SEEING CURRENTLY IN RELATION TO SUPPORT SERVICES?
Fee earners have always needed more flexible support, but it wasn’t until COVID hit that many firms started to think about how they could adapt this support to meet changing needs. For most fee earners their 9 to 5 is consumed by client meetings, and their productive hours are in the morning or the evening; homeworking and hybrid working hasn’t changed this, but it has enhanced the need for a flexible, agile support model. The main trend I’m seeing is that the need for this agile support is no longer being ignored and at IO we provide this support so well. We’ve helped many firms transition their support services to a combination of on and offsite solutions that meet their needs, and are now seeing more than ever a much higher demand for this.
AND WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL BE THE NEXT BIG FOCUS FOR LAW FIRM SUPPORT?
I head up the Legal Managers Forum which brings together over 60 senior leaders and managers from 30+ legal and professional services firms, and there are two key things on everyone’s minds right now; the first is culture. There’s no doubt that hybrid working has impacted organisations’ cultures, some for good but for many the collaborative environments have fallen by the wayside as face-to-face interaction is reduced. It’s easy now for support services to not feel a part of the business, or for fee earners to not feel part of a team, and that connection between the business and its people has been lost. There will be a big push on re-establishing company culture or integrating new cultures as people’s priorities have changed.
The second focus I think will be on artificial intelligence, the automation of processes and the speed at which the support can be delivered. IO is always innovating and as part of this focus we’ve invested in a new role, Chief Transformation Officer, fulfilled by Alison Bilgin, who will lead the charge of leveraging technology to benefit firms. Couple this with IO’s new Legal Office and Facilities Forum, and we’re really leading the charge for transforming law firm support and it’s exciting to be a part of this.
INTELLIGENT OFFICE SUPPORTS A VARIETY OF CLIENTS FROM TOP 50 FIRMS TO SME AND SOLE PRACTITIONERS – IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT DO CLIENTS LOVE ABOUT IO?
The biggest thing I think clients love about IO is that we have the personal touch; we aren’t faceless and we are always open and honest. From the first conversation we have with firms, we make it our priority to understand their needs and tailor a support solution that will positively impact the firm and their people. As an outsource provider, one thing that sets us apart from others is the focus we place on training and developing our people, they’re the ones who deliver the service and ultimately their happiness leads to our success. We’re proud of our inclusive culture and we aren’t just a supplier, but a partner, and that feeds through to our teams who are just as much a part of the clients’ firm as the fee earners.
In addition to the people side of the business, we’re always striving to discover the next best thing and bring that value add to our clients – another thing they love about us!
YOU RECENTLY ATTENDED YOUR FIRST INTELLIGENT OFFICE LEADERSHIP WEEKEND – WHAT DID YOU MAKE OF THE EVENT?
I’ve been to many conferences and one thing that struck me about our leadership weekend was how inclusive and highly interactive it was. Every element was carefully considered to ensure that our speakers connected on a personal and professional level with everyone in the room, that the workshops were engaging and fun, and that everyone had the time and ability to network with their peers.
The key part for me was the awards ceremony. Seeing how much our people and also our clients love the event, it really reinforced the inclusive culture we have at IO and was great to see everyone enjoying themselves after a challenging few years.
AND WHAT ARE YOUR KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM THE LEADERSHIP WEEKEND?
The importance of lifelong learning – the weekend really inspired our people to find their strengths and continue to strive to be the best they can be, but with the key message being to do it for themselves and to have that drive to want to be better. One of the most exciting things to come out of the event is the enthusiasm for mentoring and the recognition of the benefit this provides to individuals and to our succession planning. I’ve already been asked to be a mentor for a couple of our managers and team leaders, and I’m very excited to have the opportunity to pass on my knowledge and experience to benefit the next generation of IO leaders!
LEGAL OPERATIONS AND FACILITIES FORUM
We are bringing all our experience to our new Legal Operations and Facilities Forum. With operations experts from Hogan Lovells, DLA Piper, Linklaters, and Gowling WLG on the advisory board, it’s a forum for fresh thinking and sharing ideas about how, where, and when legal work is done, and the facilities and support needed to make this change happen.
Join us at our launch event on 12th July at Kingsley Napley’s London office, where you can hear from the KKS Savills workplace design team, our own Chris Bull – author of The Agile Law Firm – and law firm leaders. Click here to sign up, or contact Jo Styles to find out more – firstname.lastname@example.org or on +44 (0) 7753 497 940.