Browne Jacobson Appoints New IT Director

Law firm Browne Jacobson has announced that it has appointed Abby Ewen as its new IT Director.

Working closely with Iain Blatherwick, Managing Partner, and the Firm’s Executive Board, Abby will head up the firm’s award winning IT team.

The role will see her utilising her extensive strategic and operational expertise in developing and driving forward the firm’s technology strategy and spearheading an effective IT service, focused on delivering business efficiencies, technology driven solutions and exceptional client service for both end users and clients.

Abby will be the firm’s first female IT director, following on from Caroline Green’s recent appointment as the firm’s first female Senior Partner. Abby’s appointment increases the number of women on Browne Jacobson’s Executive to five of the eleven members.

She joins from law firm BLM where she was IT Director for more than six years. Prior to her time at BLM, Abby held various senior IT and change management positions over 10 years with law firm Simmons and Simmons.

As well as being a regular speaker at high profile industry events, Abby actively promotes the technology sector as an attractive career option to school children in her role as a STEM ambassador. She is also a Director of LITIG (Legal IT Innovators Group) and a member of the advisory panel at DELTAS – a group that promotes diversity & excellence in legal technology and security.

Speaking on her appointment Managing Partner Iain Blatherwick, said:

“We are delighted to have someone with Abby’s experience join us.

“She will play a crucial role in helping us to deliver our vision and strategy, drive business performance and create a high-performance culture and environment where talented people from diverse backgrounds are motivated and thrive.

“Abby’s appointment is a real coup for the business.

“She has an impressive track record and she will be joining a strong team that has been core to helping to meet the current and future commercial needs of the business.”

On joining Browne Jacobson, Abby Ewen commented:

“It is a really exciting time to be joining Browne Jacobson.

“I have been really impressed with the investment the firm has made in recent years and their vision for placing IT at the heart of their strategy for future growth.

“I am looking forward to using my experience to develop a best in class IT team and take advantage of the technological developments in the market to provide a truly unique experience for both its people and clients.”

If you would like to find out more information, please visit: https://www.brownejacobson.com/

The Dos and Don’ts When Designing a Law Firm

With millennials expected to comprise 75 percent of the workforce by 2030, law firm design trends are being driven by an evolving culture that prioritises individual workplace experiences, health and well-being and ubiquitous technology.

The future of law firm design is rooted in change. Designers are not just designers anymore—they’re change management consultants.

Architects and contractors often work with law firms’ human resources teams, facilities managers and the lawyers themselves to align the existing workforce culture with a realistic design approach.

Recruitment and Retention

Just because you build it, doesn’t mean they will come, and one size does not fit all. It boils down to getting to know your people, recognising the culture and understanding the aspirations of young attorneys moving up in the workplace before applying something across the board.

For example, the idea behind open office workstations for attorneys is rooted in thoughtful cost reduction, however there are many factors that influence whether that may or may not work, including the ever-present client confidentiality factor and requisite privacy.

Junior-level attorneys still view the location and size of their office, and migrating from a smaller to a larger office, as a reflection of professional progress. They aspire to the highly coveted “corner office” or larger office. It seems that private offices, whether varied in size or a universal size, are a permanent fixture in law firms for myriad reasons.

Workplace Experience

While the value proposition of a dedicated private office is still strong in law firms, attorneys appreciate having choices or offices available to them outside of the four walls of their office. If the technology is available to support them, attorneys are placing more value on breakaway spaces in which to work in a collaborative setting or in an environment that is still solitary but in a different footprint, such as a comfortable-yet-functional indoor “lounge” space or outdoor space for mild weather.

It has become necessary to provide law firm attorneys and staff with options to show consideration of the individual workplace experience.

Given the tremendous pressure placed on attorneys to maximise billable hours, the more opportunities they are given to leave their desks, work solitarily in a different room surrounded by something different on the wall or a different colour, with different acoustics or even meet in a small room or hang out in the café, the better.

Health and Well-being

Wellness is paramount for overworked law firm attorneys and staff. While the legal industry has historically been a slow adopter of modern office trends, it’s taking a step forward in wellness. Law firms are showing greater sensitivity to nutrition through a fresh market kind of approach, offering fruit, yogurt and different water options as opposed to soda and candy bars in vending machines.

Many new law firm offices feature yoga and retreat rooms, which are only starting to be featured in other markets.

Perhaps most significantly, many law firms are creating a director of well-being role, charged with cultivating a healthy work environment and helping drive work life balance initiatives. Well known for their long hours and the struggle to maintain work life balance, law firms, beginning with office design decisions, must adopt more sensitive and thoughtful initiatives that contribute to the well-being of their people. This will help to avoid the increased trend of younger associates burning out and leaving the industry for good.

Ubiquitous Tech

In order to achieve work-life balance, law firms must create and follow through on work-remote policies. To successfully support such a policy, firms need a strong technology infrastructure. Ubiquitous technology is the idea that attorneys and law firm staff can be technologically supported both internally in the workplace and externally outside of the office.

Although client confidentiality concerns preclude certain platforms and technologies from being stored on the cloud, ubiquitous technology holds law firms accountable to make investments on speedy infrastructure previously limited due to operational cost controls.

In 2005, large law firms invested in technology in their conference centres, but not on the work floor. Now they are spending more throughout their spaces on AV because it’s critical to their business. Tenant workplace investment has shifted away from high-end finishes, millwork and stone to greater investment in technology and glass facades that introduce light to the interior desks sitting just outside of the perimeter office landscape.

Future-Proofing

Future-proofing a law firm is more possible than ever, but it requires clients to spend a great deal of time planning and analysing what role the workplace will need to serve seven to eight years into a lease term. Firms must budget accordingly to accommodate the impact of fool proof flexibility.

Potential growth, staff increases, space decreases, infrastructure concerns with shifting technology and future density must all be taken into account to minimise capital expenditure over the lease term.

If possible, companies should utilise a modular approach to allow for inexpensive future changes, budget accordingly and plan for what-if factors. Firms must consider the repercussions of changes; for example, what elements would be costly to move if a wall comes down, such as a sprinkler system, and which are more flexible, such as lighting?

In Metro Detroit, a Newly-Opened Powerhouse Law Office

In the metro Detroit area, Jehan Crump-Gibson and Ayanna Alcendor have teamed up to form the formidable law company Great Lakes Legal Group PLLC. Beginning in 2018, the minority women-owned law company will provide one-stop assistance to a variety of clientele.

Crump-Gibson has a wealth of experience thanks to her three times selection as a rising star by the Michigan Super Lawyers Magazine. Jehan graduated from Michigan State University with a double bachelor’s degree in political science and English before pursuing her juris doctor at Wayne State University Law School.

Crump-Gibson spent some time operating her own law company after graduating from law school, C&G Solutions, before partnering with Alcendor. She won the Martindale Hubbell® Client Distinction Award in 2015 and 2016 and was named one of the “40 under 40” by the Michigan Chronicle. Crump-Gibson was admitted to practise law in Michigan and before the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in 2017, and in that same year, United States Senator Gary Peters appointed her to the Michigan Senate Judicial Advisory Committee.

Few Local Boutique Law Firms

Alcendor also boasts a wealth of professional expertise. Alcendor, who graduated from Western Michigan Thomas M. Cooley Law School in 2013, worked as an intern at Crump-Gibson’s legal counsel, C&G Solutions. She also worked as an intern for Judge Mark A. Randon in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, as well as for the Wayne County prosecutor’s office, the state appellate defender’s office, and a few local boutique law firms.

She worked for Ernst & Young in the Detroit office as a client servicing associate. Prior to joining Crump-Gibson, Alcendor established her own practise, Allied Legal Consulting, PLC.

We had the chance to talk with these two vivacious women about what motivated them to found their own business in the metro Detroit area. We touched on the distinctive skill sets that they as a team collectively contribute to the firm as well as the services that their new firm will specialise in. View the interview below and leave a comment below to share your thoughts on this minority-owned, women-owned law practise.

Minority Women Owners

The change you wish to see must start with you. This is why we believed that establishing the company was so crucial. Minority women are still underrepresented in equity roles in law firms and across the board in the legal profession.

A law practise like Great Lakes Legal Group, which is majority-owned by women of colour, is ideally situated to support the ongoing efforts to redress this gap. Diversity in the legal profession is essential, and minority women serving in such important leadership positions are essential. The communities we serve are directly impacted by this diversification.

We are accountable for these roles. You must leave the door to the room open so that anyone entering behind you can enter, as crucial as it is to command a seat at the table. We accomplish this by keeping the pipeline fed. The industry may be more diverse by hiring talented young women of colour and giving them exposure opportunities in businesses.

Conclusion

In the heart of Metro Detroit, a new legal beacon shines brightly. The Powerhouse Law Office combines a diverse team of legal professionals, a client-centred approach, technological innovation, educational initiatives, and community engagement to redefine the practice of law. As the firm continues to make strides in the legal arena, it is poised to not only achieve its mission but also set new standards for legal excellence in the region. As Detroit evolves, so does its legal landscape, thanks to the powerhouse that is the Powerhouse Law Office.

Great Lakes Legal Group PLLC Information:

You can learn more about the owners’ histories, our services, and the regions we serve there in detail. To stay in touch with us, you can subscribe to our newsletter on the homepage. Our social media handles are @gllegalgroup on Twitter and @gllegalgroup on Instagram.