Mindful business equals happier lawyers equals better client service at Burness Paull
“If you set about designing a job to maximise levels of workplace stress, you might just end up with a role that looks like that of a lawyer,” says Burness Paull’s Managing Partner, Tamar Tammes.
The renewables and real estate expert has a valid point. Seldom do people telephone their lawyer for a relaxed chat about their weekend plans. More often than not it’s a rushed telephone or Zoom call, or a hurriedly typed email, subject-lined URGENT, highlighting an important issue that needs dealing with immediately, regardless of the time of day, night or even weekend.
On taking over as Managing Partner at Lex Mundi’s Scotland-headquartered member firm Burness Paull in 2018, Tamar was determined to do something positive to alleviate the pressures that often accompany being a lawyer delivering world-class legal services to a national and global client base.
She was ultimately playing the long game, considering how she could guarantee the best possible working environment for her current crop of over 650 employees, and position Burness Paull as the legal employer of choice for the next generation of legal talent entering the UK’s highly competitive legal sector.
“As Managing Partner, it is the cultural piece that keeps me awake at night the most,” says Tamar, who leads Burness Paull alongside Chair Peter Lawson. Becoming the first Scottish firm to sign up to the Mindful Business Charter was one of her first duties after taking over as Managing Partner.
“The Mindful Business Charter was launched with a view to removing unnecessary causes of stress and promote better mental health and wellbeing in the workplace,” Tamar outlines. “Being a lawyer can be hugely rewarding but it comes with multiple stresses – how we run legal practices, time recording, managing multiple clients, handling heavy and complex caseloads, client pressures, colleague pressures – there is so much that we all have to take on as legal advisors. Signing up to the Charter seemed like a positive step towards better managing those issues within our firm. It has clear benefits for our people and by extension our clients."
We led the way in appointing a dedicated inclusion and wellbeing manager around three years ago and the impact has been amazing.
Tamar Tammes Managing Partner
Developed by Barclays and two global law firms, The Mindful Business Charter primarily consists of four key pillars that signatories commit to abide by as they aim to re-humanise the workplace. Those key pillars are Openness & Respect, Smart Meetings & Communications, Respecting Rest Periods and Mindful Delegation.
As Tamar explains, these pillars have been rolled out across Burness Paull since the firm signed the Charter and it began playing dividends quickly: “It was very positively received within the firm and there has been a noticeable change in behaviour, with greater respect for rest periods and reduced email traffic outside of office hours.”
This hugely positive step was just the first in Burness Paull’s wider respect and inclusion strategy which, since 2021, has been overseen by Emma Smith, who was appointed to the newly created role of inclusion and wellbeing manager – a first for a Scottish law firm.
“We led the way in appointing a dedicated inclusion and wellbeing manager around three years ago and the impact has been amazing,” Tamar says. “Emma was originally in our HR team, but we saw the value to our business of having someone take on this new wellbeing role and who is empowered to drive our respect and inclusion strategy forward.”
It's a strategy that brings significant people and wider business benefits, not least in improving diversity and the attraction, development and retention of talent at a time when these issues are top of many law firms’ agendas.
For something that affects 50% of the population, menopause is a strange issue to be taboo. We’ve sought to create a really inclusive culture where it’s easy and comfortable to talk about menopause, and we were delighted that the assessors recognised that.
“I see the role of Managing Partner as being to facilitate the success of others,” Tamar asserts. “Our people are our most important asset and the more we can create a supportive environment that helps maximise the potential of everyone in the firm, the better the outcomes we can deliver for clients and the more successful our business will be. It’s a virtuous circle and core to our human and high-performing ethos.
“There’s absolutely no doubt that greater diversity results in better commercial outcomes so removing barriers, creating opportunities and the promotion of a workplace culture where all our people can be themselves and succeed is not only the right thing to do – it’s good business. We're not perfect. But we believe in always trying to be better.”
That commitment to being better has seen many initiatives to improve LGBT+ inclusion, social mobility, racial and ethnic minority representation, and gender equality implemented under Tamar’s leadership. A key milestone for Burness Paull was when it became the first Scottish business, as well as the first UK law firm, to be independently accredited as a menopause-friendly employer.
“For something that affects 50% of the population, menopause is a strange issue to be taboo,” Tamar points out. “We’ve sought to create a really inclusive culture where it’s easy and comfortable to talk about menopause, and we were delighted that the assessors recognised that.”
As a Lex Mundi board member, Tamar is sharing her insight and experiences of Burness Paull’s respect and inclusion journey with fellow managing partners at various Lex Mundi events and breakout sessions. She particularly values the annual Managing Partner’s Conference as one of her key events in Lex Mundi’s busy events calendar.
“Within the Lex Mundi membership there are a huge range of firms of all shapes and sizes, and it is so valuable as a managing partner to have access to that global peer group. The managing partners in other firms are my eyes and ears around the world, which enable me to keep up with latest practices so I can keep our firm moving forward.
“I was honoured to be asked to join the Lex Mundi board in 2020 for a four-year term and we feel privileged to hold that position as, again, it offers us a lot of insight and the opportunity to build even closer ties with other law firms committed to remaining independent while offering a truly world-class legal services.”
It’s doubtful that the job of a lawyer will ever become 100% ‘stress-free’, but if Tamar and her colleagues at Burness Paull can continue to spread the positive impact that their respect and inclusion strategy is having then maybe, just maybe, things will change for the better for all lawyers.