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Brachers - making the case for Maidstone

21 Feb 2019

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A time for growth: an interview with Brachers’ Managing Partner, Joanna Worby

Having trained and qualified at the firm in 2013, Joanna Worby became Managing Partner at Brachers, and has led the firm through a period of growth and change as it celebrates its most successful financial year in 2018, with a record turnover. The firm saw exceptional performance across both its business services and private client divisions with every practice area experiencing some growth

The firm’s continued emphasis on nurturing all their stakeholder relationships, highly valuing their staff and clients and adhering to high quality standards with their dual regulation (SRA and FCA) has remained the key focus

As the firm enters the New Year from a position of financial strength, in this interview Jo reflects on the family ethos that has shaped the culture of the firm and their commitment to the region and looks ahead to celebrating 125 years of operation in 2020

Brachers has been around for 125 years next year. Tell us more about the firm and its history.

The firm was founded by Henry Bracher in 1895 as a family business. That family ethos still embodies who we are today and, although we have grown significantly since then, the core values and culture that were established by the Bracher family are still recognisable and remain at the heart of what we do. As testament to this, we’re proud that we have clients who have been with the firm for several generations and many of our staff have chosen to spend the majority of their career with us.

We were founded in Maidstone and we’ve remained here ever since; it’s the ideal location for us with transport links across the county, a diverse client base and an increasing pool of highly-skilled people from which to recruit.

125 years is a long time to maintain consistency in service delivery. How have you continued to meet the demands of your clients

The role of a lawyer has changed – it’s had to as the marketplace has become more competitive. ‘Our lawyers are experts in their field’ isn’t a selling point anymore; clients expect this as standard, and rightly so! As clients have increasingly looked for more than just legal advice from their lawyer, so our firm’s approach has evolved into a business advisory role. Excellent legal advice comes ‘as standard’ as part of our broader, holistic approach to helping businesses grow and succeed. We now take a much more strategic outlook when working with our clients, taking account of wider commercial issues and translating and applying that knowledge in a way that meets the long term needs of our clients

In order to deliver the best service we can we’ve also recognised and embraced the importance of our connections and contacts. In line with our business advisory role, we’ve taken a much more collaborative approach with our peers, whether that’s through direct joint working or streamlined referral pathways, which means the process of working with professional advisors is much more efficient and effective for our clients.

Of course, along with evolution comes innovation and we’ve always embraced improvements in the way we work, with technology being the big focus over the last decade or so. Whilst innovations to our systems and processes might not sound exciting, they are important; we live in a fast-paced world where individuals have very little spare time and expect real-time updates and interactions at a competitive price. By using technology we’ve been able to provide an improved and more efficient client experience.

What about the Brachers brand? How has this changed?

Marketing has become an important part of our operation over the years, as it has to all businesses, and part of this focuses on how we’re talking about Brachers as a brand, and where. The power of the brand relies on two things; the message and the medium. Our message has evolved, rather than changed, over the years, in line with the marketplace and the needs of our clients and, of course, as we as a firm have evolved ourselves. The medium has seen a more radical change; the lifting of the ban on law firm advertising in the mid-1980s being one, which enabled us for the first time to bolster our brand presence in the marketplace through traditional advertising methods. Similarly the dawn of digital marketing, particularly social media, has extended our brand reach to an audience that would have seemed almost impossible before.

However to this day we still find the most effective medium is word of mouth. We never underestimate the power of our two key brand ambassadors; our clients and our staff. Obviously we want all our clients to be an ambassador of the firm; we like to aim high! Our robust client relationship management and client feedback processes give clients the opportunity to directly feed into and impact the way we deliver our services, which in turn means we’re better informed to deliver the customer service and client experience they really want.

Our staff as brand ambassadors are key to the client experience we deliver; they embody our values and bring them to life. Our ethos is to be ‘with you all the way’ and our staff reinforce this message at every stage of a client’s journey with us; from their first telephone enquiry with our switchboard, to being met by our receptionists, to their dealings with their lawyer and our support teams. The consistency of this message and how it contributes to the experience of what it means to be a Brachers client, is invaluable.

Looking to the future, what can we expect over the next 125 years?

With the advances in technology and AI, there’s no question that where, when and how we deliver our services is going to change yet further. However, I think the fears that technology will replace people are disproportionate to the reality. I believe technology will become a much more intuitive tool that supports us in streamlining processes and reducing administrative tasks, which will enable our lawyers to spend more time on the added value aspects of the role; the strategic thinking and business advice.

In turn this will increase opportunity for improved co-creation with our clients. We’ve already seen the benefit of moving towards a partnership approach and I think there will be a continued shift toward true joint-working with clients, with lawyers being involved at all stages of the business lifecycle and embedded in the business itself as part of its advisory team.

This fits with a broader prediction that law firms will take a more holistic approach to delivering services, with firms becoming better equipped to deliver the ‘full package’ of business insight.

Of course, we can only speculate about what will actually happen in the future – hasn’t Brexit taught us that anything can happen?! However, we’re delighted to be able to celebrate over a century of serving our clients and the local community in 2020 and to kick off the start of our next 125 years as a leading law firm in Kent; it’s a very exciting time for us.

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