10 years ago, I spoke to a client and told him that I was thinking of setting up my own firm. He said “about blooming time too!” I was 31 years old, in a new city without an established network but with one client to start me off and I was excited!!!
Hancock is my maiden name and I chose the name for the firm, rather than my married name, to please my soppy dad! I wanted the firm to appear bigger and more established than it was (whilst I worked from my box bedroom with my cats sat on my keyboard) and so I created a very corporate lawyer-type persona with a ‘.com’ web address and arms-length communications, you know the ‘Dear Sirs’ type letters sent by recorded delivery that you get from lawyers?
I spent two years building my network in the East Midlands with many early morning breakfasts and evening soirees and made some fantastic connections, most of which I am still in contact with to this day as clients, business acquaintances and friends (they know who they are).
In 2008, I was short-listed in the Chamber Awards for Most Promising New Business and Entrepreneur of the Year. I didn’t win but I was elated to be nominated, let alone short-listed. I discovered the day after the Awards Ceremony that I was pregnant with my first child, Jessica.
It was challenging balancing running a law firm and motherhood but you just have to get on with it, don’t you? I was responding to emails on my Blackberry within an hour of giving birth. I’m not pretending to be superwoman but just giving an insight into the reality of a self-employed mum.
14 months after Jess’ birth, my son Jamie arrived in 2010. That wasn’t in the plan! I prepared better for a few weeks’ maternity leave and appointed Claire as a Director in Hancocks to support me with the running of the firm. We had fun working together building the firm. She was definitely ‘bad cop’ and I was ‘good cop’! Our partnership worked.
Unfortunately, the legal landscape began to change with the deregulation of the profession which meant that it was easier for non-lawyers to provide legal services (sometimes referred to as “Tesco Law”) through alternative business structures.
In 2012, we lost a significant contract and the recession meant that small businesses were tightening their belts and attempting to deal with employment disputes themselves rather than instruct lawyers. I had to let Claire go. Although she still works for us as a consultant, she subsequently trained as a police officer and is now definitely a ‘good cop’!
2013 brought new challenges with the introduction of Employment Tribunal issue fees. This resulted in an 80% drop in the number of Tribunal Claims and meant that there was less work for employment lawyers. Employers were more confident about dismissals because the risk of a Claim had significantly reduced. Many law firms disbanded their employment law departments and work slowed down.
I knew that I had to adapt in order to survive and established a new brand, Your HR Lawyer (YHRL), alongside Hancocks to branch out into providing HR services. Tracey joined our team later than year. She was dual CIPD and solicitor qualified – a true HR Lawyer.
The intention was for YHRL to replace the Hancocks brand but it soon became clear that I needed both. YHRL provides the guiding, supportive arm around the shoulder approach to employers dealing with HR and employment law matters (the YHRL “cuddle”). Hancocks is the Rottweiler in the background, ready to defend or represent YHRL’s clients when things get contentious or complicated.
YHRL became the focus of my attention for the next 3 years. Despite the fact that I didn’t really post on social media, blog, network or advertise under Hancocks, we continued to build Hancocks through referrals. Networking works guys – look after your referrers!
Our team began to grow in 2015 with the appointment of 5 within 8 months.
2016 has been a busy rollercoaster of a year so far with the integration of a new team, office move, launch of new products and services, refreshing our brands and adoption of a structured business development and growth plan (thanks Maša).
This month we celebrate Hancocks’ 10th birthday. Phew, we made it! I remember listening to my friend Serena Humphrey of the F Word giving a talk during her Survive and Succeed campaign stating that only 20% of businesses reach their 10th anniversary. There were times that I wondered whether we would be one of the 80% that didn’t but I was never going to give up easily!
This year we’re going all out to raise our profile and reach out to East Midlands employers to let them know that they don’t need to lose any more sleep on employment issues; we are here to help them.
To celebrate our birthday, we’re offering all new employer clients a one-hour consultation for £10 (valued at £240). Existing clients will receive a free hour if they refer a new client to us (we don’t want to leave our lovely clients feeling unloved).
Call us on 0115 838 9719 to get your employment matter off your chest and book your consultation with us.
For more information regarding Hancocks Legal, please visit our website www.hancockslegal.com