It seems fitting that as Evolve Family Law marks its first anniversary as an employee ownership trust Friday 23 June is EO Day, promoted by the Employee Ownership Association.
In this blog, founder and family law specialist, Robin Charrot, takes a look back at the last 12 months and assesses what being an employee-owned company has meant for Evolve Family Law and its employees and clients. As one of the first law firms in the North West to become an employee-ownership trust, he also answers some of the frequently asked questions on the benefits of employee-owned companies.
What is an employee ownership trust?
The simplest way to explain employee ownership trust to our clients is that Evolve Family Law is the ‘John Lewis’ of the legal world; all our employees are owners and partners in the business. Each employee still gets their salary each month but every member of the team is incentivised to make a success of the firm that they part own. If the firm does well, all of the employee-owners benefit financially. That applies to everyone; whether they are a family law solicitor, private client paralegal, or legal administrative assistant.
Does employee ownership trust bring any benefits to clients?
The ethos of Evolve Family Law is excellent client service with the client put first and foremost. Evolve did not convert to an employee ownership trust lightly as we wanted to make sure it would add value for our clients as well as to our employees. It has, because although we were always a friendly bunch of people, everyone now has a direct interest in the long-term growth and success of the firm, and the best way to succeed and grow is for everyone to treat our clients well, to make them feel valued, and to get great results for them at competitive prices.
With employee ownership trust status there is a real buzz about the office. There is confidence and ambition in the air. When we achieve success for a client, and particularly when they add to our collection of 5-star Google and Trustpilot reviews, the whole office feels a sense of achievement.
With everyone being an owner, we can all speak up and suggest improvements to the way we do things. That may not sound very progressive but it is a cultural sea change when our legal assistants can be at the forefront of driving change to make us more efficient in our client service. It makes sense that our apprentices are coming up with great ideas as they are the future of the firm and know, from doing the hard work, how we can improve our systems and services for clients.
Working for an employee-owned company
Over the last 12 months Evolve Family Law has rapidly expanded with the recruitment of 3 extra family law solicitors to meet the growing demand for our services. We think that employee ownership trust status has helped us recruit some great new solicitors who were interested in joining Evolve partly because of the opportunity of working in an employee-owned company where their voice would be heard and they would not just be a ‘pen pusher’ but an owner with a future in the firm.
One of the things that family law clients hate is if a solicitor leaves a law firm and they have to change solicitor. We hate that as well although accept that sometimes people have to leave us for family or other reasons. We believe that becoming an employee ownership trust helps gel us as a team and that one of the significant benefits for both Evolve and our clients is staff retention as everyone has a say, makes a difference in the business, and financially benefits from the firm doing well. That isn’t something that you get in most law firms.
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A founder’s perspective on Evolve converting to an employee ownership trust
Evolve was founded by solicitors Louise Halford and Robin Charrot in 2015 after both decided that they wanted to set up a niche family and private client law firm with a difference. After both working in large commercial law firms in Manchester and Cheshire it was a refreshing change to start from scratch to create a firm that they were both immensely proud of.
Robin Charrot says ‘ Evolve was rather like my fourth child – carefully cossetted with vast amounts of time spent in helping it grow. As a founder member with Louise, it has been a privilege to watch Evolve develop into the firm it is today. The easiest thing would have been to have done nothing – just stay as the ‘bosses’ and not ‘evolve’, or ‘sell out’ to a bigger law firm, or Private Equity. We knew that wasn’t the best option for our clients or the firm’s loyal employees. The last 12 months have been transformative for all of us. I no longer see Evolve as ‘my baby’ but as the product of co-parenting by the team at Evolve. The decision to become an employee-owned company has secured Evolve’s long-term future as one of the premier North West law firms and we have the Employee Ownership Association to thank for helping us on our journey to becoming an employee ownership trust’.
Louise Halford adds ‘ When you set up a law firm you feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to your employees and your clients. That’s why becoming an employee ownership trust was such a big deal to me. I wanted to secure the firm’s future so that in 20 or 30 years the sons and daughters of our current clients can come to us for their prenuptial agreements and estate planning advice. To me, the best way to secure the future of Evolve and make sure that we adapted to change was to trust our employees. The last 12 months have proved that we were right to place our trust in them and the support of the Employee Ownership Association’.