The importance of mentoring and supportive leadership

13 November 2014

I was asked at a breakfast meeting recently, by someone I had not met before, how hard it was to become Kingsley Napley’s Senior Partner.  After a moment of hesitation, I replied that it was actually relatively straightforward.

I am not blasé about it and whilst I have worked hard over the years, I never thought of myself as ambitious but I took my chances when they came.  The question did, however, make me think about it subsequently and at some length.  Perhaps the biggest motivating and enabling influence on my decision was my former Senior Partner and immediate predecessor at Kingsley Napley, Christopher Murray. 

I never had a formal mentor throughout my career.  In fact, the demand for mentoring is something that I have seen increase relatively recently and the need is for women who have made it into senior positions to mentor junior female colleagues or peers.  In my case, it was the fact that Christopher believed that I could do the role that gave me the courage to reach out and take it.  Having been at the top of his profession for over 40 years, and in some of the biggest criminal trials in English legal history, and then having led the firm as its Senior Partner for over 6 years, he was uniquely placed to offer that encouragement and empower me to follow him into the role.  Had it not been for his quiet but determined encouragement of me, I might have hesitated and lost out. 

I would like to replicate and repeat what he did for me for my own junior colleagues.  For junior women, for sure, but as men still make up some 75% of the top jobs across professional services, notwithstanding recent advances, we need to prevail upon them to make the time to also encourage and empower women. It is their support as leaders and acting as mentors that will be far more effective in increasing the percentage of women at the top than the introduction of quotas.

One of my senior male colleagues at Kingsley Napley heads a team of 30 and he sees each and every one of his team members for lunch or a coffee every six months to provide them with an opportunity to give feedback and seek support from one another.  It is no surprise that his team is one of the most profitable and successful year on year.  Mentoring does not have to be overly formal or structured, but it should be regular and visible, honest and open, and it should be a regular part of our working lives and culture. 

I have done some mentoring for the Law Society and hope that I was able to help develop the confidence of the young barrister with whom I worked. Personal and professional growth and confidence in our own ability to succeed are key and we are fortunate at Kingsley Napley to have an open and supportive culture where everyone is encouraged to strive for their best, whether they be women or men and regardless of their religion, race, sexual orientation or social background. It is perhaps therefore no surprise that we have one of the highest female to male ratios in the legal sector (with our partnership being 52% female) and with female Managing and Senior Partners.

Additional information

Jane Keir became Kingsley Napley’s senior partner in May 2013. She joined the firm in 1989 and was made a partner in 1992.  Prior to her recent appointment, she led the family law team for fourteen years and was joint managing partner from 2004 to 2007. She maintains her family law practice, acting in both financial and children matters, and she is also a qualified and practising collaborative lawyer. She previously won the Legal Services category of Women in the City’s Women of Achievement Awards and she is recognised as a leader in her field in the UK’s leading legal directories, Chambers UK and Legal 500 UK, as well as SuperLawyers London and Citywealth Leaders List.

Jane has also recently been shortlisted for the Citywealth Power Women Awards 2015, in the categories of “Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year” and Kingsley Napley has been shortlisted in the “Company of the year: Female Leadership (Professional services)” category.

Voting for the Citywealth Power Women Awards 2015 is open until 28 November 2014.

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On November 13th 2014 Deborah Hall commented:

Thank you for posting such an inspirational article... it shows the importance of mentoring and supportive and positive leadership.

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