Elizabeth Hyde – Eversheds Sutherland

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I’m a Solicitor-Advocate and was recently promoted to Principal Associate, which is a senior position just below Partner level. My role involves defending organisations being investigated and prosecuted for health and safety and corporate manslaughter offences. I also provide health and safety compliance and risk management advice. Alongside a Partner, I directly manage a team of lawyers in our Leeds office and supervise a wider number across our national team. My role involves business development, the supervision of day to day work and coaching and mentoring the team. Our health and safety team has been ranked at number one in the legal directories for over ten years.

How would you advise someone to stay ahead of the game in 2018?

The legal profession is evolving at a very fast pace; like many professions we are now in an era of social media, rapidly developing new technologies and a multi-generational workforce.
In my view it is critical that lawyers challenge themselves and their teams to stay ahead of the game by developing new products, services and technologies to provide better and more cost effective solutions to their clients. I am proud to work for Eversheds Sutherland which is renowned for its progressive attitude and has been acclaimed by the Financial Times for its innovative approach to providing legal solutions for major global corporate clients.
Taking a longer term view, law firms also need to work hard at attracting and retaining the brightest and most talented lawyers from the new generation entering the market in order to ensure the future pipeline. This means better understanding of the new generation of lawyers who are seeking, amongst other things, flexibility and agile working. Joining a diverse workforce will be taken as read by these young lawyers, and so those at senior management levels need to properly support gender and ethnic diversity along with social mobility.

What pressures remain for women when it comes to succeeding in the corporate world?

Most law firms now recognise that diversity is good for business. Nonetheless, research suggests that women still face a number of challenges in the corporate world including bias. Such bias may include people’s perceptions of good leadership being associated with male characteristics through to unconscious bias, which can result in those interviewing applicants appointing those who are similar to themselves – this of course poses a problem when you are faced with a large proportion of one sex at management level.
In addition, women tend to take the lead on childcare which often makes it very difficult to sustain a job that requires responding to urgent requests from clients, long distance travel or to put in the long hours required to reach partnership; there is a sense that only those women who have a partner who works flexible hours or women who have substantial help from other family members can really progress to a senior position. It is for many of these reasons that so many women leave the profession just as they should be about to embark on the partnership route.
Eversheds Sutherland recognises these issues and has been truly exceptional in taking steps to ensure a more gender diverse workforce and is leading the way in supporting women who wish to work flexibly. The range of different initiatives which have been put into place by the firm are making a real difference.
I took a career break from work to spend time with my two young children a few years ago. At the time, it felt like a very bold move to put my career on hold. Since returning to work I have been promoted to Principle Associate and reached the final 10 in London’s Women in the City Future Leader Awards – something which is very humbling and is due to the support and backing of Eversheds Sutherland.

Brexit is without doubt going to have a large impact upon many parts of the legal profession as it is still unknown how the law may change in many areas. It is a very interesting time for all lawyers; the challenge is being able to predict the changes that may be introduced in order to provide companies with the best commercial advice.

How do you approach leadership development for yourself and your colleagues?

As a firm we embrace a coaching and mentoring approach at all levels of the business which works really well. Promotions are all based on ability, merit, performance and business
need. Leadership and innovation are at the heart of Eversheds Sutherland’s culture and it provides the firm with a critical competitive edge.
I work with a fantastic team of lawyers and have learnt a substantial amount from the partners in my team and in the wider firm about what makes a great leader. In turn, I actively encourage junior lawyers in my team to think about their own career development, how to develop business in the areas that particularly interest them and how to develop their own leadership style.

What challenges do you expect for the industry this year?

Brexit is without doubt going to have a large impact upon many parts of the legal profession as it is still unknown how the law may change in many areas. It is a very interesting time for all lawyers; the challenge is being able to predict the changes that may be introduced in order to provide companies with the best commercial advice.
Other challenges which Eversheds Sutherland has already embraced include the need to offer alternative billing models and alternative legal service delivery models to clients along with addressing the needs of the new generation entering the workforce as I discussed earlier.

What is your performance philosophy? (maintaining high levels consistently)

Work hard, play hard. It is really important to me that both myself and my team provide an excellent client service. I want to ensure that at the end of every job each client feels that our lawyers have done a tremendous job and gone that extra mile and ultimately that they have achieved the best outcome. It is also important that the team has fun and enjoys coming to work each day; that way we can really give the client 110%.

What is your main focus and ultimate goal for the next year?

We are specialists in successfully defending PLCs and large corporates when they are investigated by the HSE and police following serious workplace health and safety incidents. As a team we also pro-actively help clients ensure health and safety compliance through carrying out high level reviews of their health and safety management systems in order to reduce the risk of them suffering from an incident. I intend to focus on the continued delivery of this service over the coming year as it is making a real difference in reducing the number of workplace accidents.

What do you think are the essential traits of growth for individuals and teams?

I would say that having a very strong work ethic, having good judgement, being trustworthy, listening to the views of others and having the ability to come up with great ideas are essential traits. In addition, having a diverse team is key, not only in terms of having a mix of men and women but also in terms of personality and skillset.

What personality trait or skill do you think tops the list when it comes to creating success?

There are too many to choose from! Aside from having great ideas, being humble is an important personality trait; to me good leaders do not make a lot of noise, they are not arrogant but instead look after their team and make their team
look good.

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