Ex-partner sets up business development consultancy
Meena Heath trained and practised at Slaughter and May before moving, firstly to Alsop Wilkinson (now DLA) and then to a smaller firm, where she became a partner. She enjoyed the business development role of her job so much, that in 1998 she decided to set up a company specialising in business development for law firms. She hasn’t looked back since...
mtl: Hi Meena, tell us about your legal career?
Meena: I qualified into commercial property at Slaughter and May and after a couple of years moved to Alsop Wilkinson. Having left the Magic Circle, I then decided that I might as well come right out of the City, so a year later I moved to a small firm in Kensington, where I became an equity partner. After three years there, it became apparent to me that my skills really lay in business development and that I should focus on that.
mtl: So, did you agonise over whether to leave law?
Meena: No, not all; I never really left the law, but moved into management at a very early stage in my career. I had become one of the primary work winners in my firm and spent so much time developing business that I had moved away from day to day practice. At this stage, I identified the areas that I enjoyed spending my time on.
I set up Genesis Coordination in 1998 and moved straight across to it. It seemed a completely natural progression to set up the company and I did it without hesitation or doubt, particularly as I am a natural entrepreneur and I had been involved in running a law firm already.
The focus of my company is to assist law firms with their strategic business development and client relationship management. This is achieved through raising their profile and identifying and developing key clients and target areas. I work for law firms across the board, from US firms, National and niche firms.
Somerville College, Oxford
CPE and Law Society Finals, College of Law, Lancaster Gate
Trainee and commecial property assistant at Slaughter and May
Assistant, Alsop Wilkinson
Law firm in South Kensington
Set up and left law to run Genesis Coordination
Strong communication skills and an interest in people are what make me good at what I do. I enjoy helping firms and people work out what they need and want and getting them to the point where they can achieve it. My role is one of facilitation, by being perceptive and understanding individual needs.
The business has evolved as I also qualified as an Executive Coach four years ago. I work with a colleague, who is the former managing partner of Tarlo Lyons and a trained Executive Coach. Working on your own can be tough and I love the stimulation of working with a like minded business partner; we complement each other well. A lot of our business development work is now achieved through coaching, either in teams or with individual lawyers. The aim is to help individuals recognise their passion for what they do. When you are passionate about what you do for a living, you automatically convey that to everyone you meet and developing your business comes more naturally.
At the moment I am coaching five managing partners and am now considered to be one of the leading coaches in professional services. Coaching is not remedial. If you are good at sport you get a coach to get better and in business it is often the high performers who are coached. Aside from for business development purposes, firms are also investing a lot of time and money in coaching staff at the moment because the cost of attrition is so huge, particularly in terms of recruitment fees and negative publicity and firms want to invest in the people they have chosen to work with them.
mtl: Any coaching tips, while we’re talking to you?
Meena: It may help to clarify what it is about what you currently do that you like and don’t like and develop a clear understanding of your own skill set. Is it the practice of law or your current firm that is putting you off, or are you driven by something specific that you would rather be doing? People often leave law because they don’t like it, but without really knowing why. Making sure you know why is the key to finding out what might suit you better.
Once you are clearly focused on what you want to achieve in your career then, for example, the mechanics of setting up and running a business are almost incidental. Lawyers have the necessary skills to run a business (and in fact need them in order to be partners in a firm) but might not be aware of this until they develop a framework for what they want to achieve.
If you find yourself in a working environment that doesn’t suit you, then work towards building the confidence to say what you need from your employer. Talented staff will be accommodated because the firm won’t want to lose them. Remember that it is not the firm itself that is doing anything wrong – it is your choice whether to work in a certain environment or not, so be clear about what you want.
It is time consuming and hard work to become a lawyer and a number of people go into it without looking at the practical implications of what they will actually be doing. However, it is hard at 18 or 19 years old to get a real feel for the work you will do on a daily basis and whatever decision you make is the right decision at the time.. If you find that you are in a career that you no longer enjoy, make a different decision; it’s your life and you are in control. You only have the present to build on and each step will take you closer to where you want to be. And after all, enjoying the journey is what it is all about.
Click here to see Meena’s website.
Meena is an executive coach and she works with individuals directly as well as through firms. Click here for further information. To see details of our featured careers advisers, please click here for our CAREER ADVICE page.
To read an article in the Gazette about coaching, click here.
If you know any other ex-lawyers who have gone and done something interesting or unusual with their lives then please get in touch.
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