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Gardner Leader – Going from good to great

Award winning law firm, Gardner Leader based in Newbury, Thatcham and Maidenhead, has been on a major recruitment drive to align with its continuous rapid growth, as it welcomes several new people into the firm including Michal Freeman-Shor as Senior Associate in the commercial team.

Other recent appointments include Madia Aslam as a post-exchange assistant, Javeria Tahir as a support assistant in the conveyancing team, Nikki Hitchinson as the firm’s new finance manager, Sarah Sharpin, as paralegal in the dispute resolution team, and Anna Thorn as marketing executive.

The firm has also made several promotions within its team of more than 125 staff including Lynn Digby to HR Director, Andrew Shipp to Senior Associate in the dispute resolution department, and Julia Brown to Quality Director. Several trainee solicitors have also recently qualified to solicitor, and three paralegals and one conveyancing assistant are now trainee solicitors.

These appointments and promotions come at a pivotal time for the business, which has seen expansive growth from £3m turnover in 2012 to a projected figure of £7.7m for 2017-18. The firm provide a range of privately funded legal services to support business owners and individuals including legal services in corporate & commercial law, commercial property, employment, family, litigation – mainly commercial, property and contentious probate – inheritance protection, and residential conveyancing. In last year’s Legal 500 Directory, Gardner Leader was described as a firm which ‘exceeds all expectations’ and ‘punches above its weight’.

In 2014 the firm embarked on a continuous improvement programme called Evolve to bring the benefit of constant review and improvement to the delivery of excellent customer service. Evolve is still in place today and provides a means through which the firm can react to learning points from client feedback. Evolve cycles are run regularly, several times a year looking at a range of issues. Team members present proposals to the firm, gaining skills and everyone is given the chance to take part.

Derek Rodgers, Managing Partner at Gardner Leader, said, “Aside from wanting this to be a business in which people enjoy working, we subscribe to the theory put forward by Harvard Business School and others that there is a direct connection between staff engagement, client experience and profitability. By drawing teams from across the firm to look in a structured way at improving aspects of our operation, we achieve a better client experience and drive staff engagement through active involvement of people at all levels in the running of the firm – this culture is at the heart of our success.”

The firm’s engagement levels are consistently high. “Everyone within the firm is responsible for delivering an exceptional client experience. By valuing each other and working as one team, we aim to make every part of our business better every day,” added Derek.

The commitment, engagement and enthusiasm of Gardner Leader’s employees is evident every day but not only in the way they go about their normal work but in their contribution to their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities.

Last year the firm raised just shy of £7,000 for the national blood cancer research charity, Bloodwise, which funds world-class research into all types of blood cancer. Every year the firm agrees on a charity to support following staff charity nominations, and Bloodwise has been the firm’s chosen charity partner for the last 12 months.

“Bloodwise is a charity that resonates with a lot of our staff after sadly, the husband of one of our solicitors passed away from blood cancer,” said Jo Hemsley, Head of CSR at Gardner Leader. “Over the last year everyone in the firm’s Newbury, Thatcham and Maidenhead offices have been busy, getting involved in some shape or form to help raise money for this incredible cause.”

Running marathons, hosting various raffles, organising dress down days, ‘Bake Off’ cake sales, running quizzes and silent auctions, are just some of the activities that staff have organised and taken part in, to raise donations and to help make a difference in beating blood cancer.

The silent auction involving several local businesses in Berkshire, raised nearly £1,000 alone. On 3rd May John Campbell, award winning chef and owner of The Woodspeen restaurant and cookery school in Newbury, paid a visit to Gardner Leader’s offices to judge the firm’s ‘Bake Off’ competition, and last September the team in the Maidenhead office ran the Maidenhead half marathon, with Matthew Adamson, corporate and commercial solicitor, dressed as a giant dinosaur.

Nicci Wilson, Regional Manager for London and South East at Bloodwise, said, “We are incredibly grateful for the support of Gardner Leader for raising a fantastic £6,925 during the past year, for Bloodwise. Blood cancer kills more people each year than breast or prostate cancer, so every penny counts in ensuring we can find kinder and more effective treatments that save lives and reduces the harsh side effects currently experienced by patients.”

Jo Hemsley added, “We hope these funds will go a long way in helping Bloodwise in its mission to make patients’ lives better and in stopping blood cancer happening in the first place.”

Gardner Leaders’ charity partner for 2018 to 2019 is Swings and Smiles, a West Berkshire based charity providing recreational facilities and services for families with special needs.

Derek continued, “The feedback we get from our charity and business partners, clients and others who we deal with demonstrates that the qualities of our team are evident not just to me but to anyone who encounters them, creating the best possible impression of our firm.

“I believe that this success stems from the approach that we take to our staff – fairness, openness, friendliness, supportiveness – and from our determination only to recruit people who will value what we have here.

“It is only because of the loyalty and commitment of our staff that we have been able to do things which I am most proud of such as winning several major awards including the LawNet Law Firm of the Year Award in 2016, achieving record turnover figures year on year for the last few years, and which we acquired in October 2014 and then moving to new offices last year on Frascati Way in Maidenhead. It’s therefore important to us that we recognise and reward our employees’ achievements whilst continuing to recruit as the business grows, which is why we have made a near record number of promotions and appointments this year.”

Gardner Leader runs a variety of events and workshops covering various aspects of the law to support business owners and individuals. For further details on these events, please visit gardner-leader.co.uk/latest/events