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Alison Lobb, Managing Partner of Morecrofts, describes her career path and gives great tips to junior and aspiring lawyers. Alison is Vice-Chair of the Liverpool Branch of the Institute of Directors (IoD) and chairs the Business and Policy Committee of the Liverpool and Sefton Chamber of Commerce. Alison was Woman Solicitor of the Year in 2019’s Law Society excellence awards and also President of Liverpool Law Society in 2015 -16.
I never set out to be a solicitor. I chose to pursue a law degree because I thought it would be an interesting pathway to possible careers. However, in those days applications to Law College had to be made in the first year of University, and “articles” applied for in years 2 & 3, so before I knew it I was on the path to becoming a solicitor. Not that that was a bad thing!
After University and Law College, I returned to Liverpool for my articles with a local firm, EAD Solicitors. I finished my training in the family department, guided by a great lawyer who taught me a lot about law, but also how to deal with people. I had an advantage over others when the Children Act came into force, having been taught it at Law College. I did the first ex-parte residence application in Liverpool County Court, loved advocacy, and really thought my future was in family law.
Jobs after qualifying
When I qualified, I moved to another local firm. That was when I discovered that family law wasn’t for me! I also experienced a very different management style which didn’t motivate me at all and left that firm after less than a year. I was totally demoralised by the experience, I had lost a lot of confidence and felt I simply didn’t want to be a solicitor.
I took a series of part time jobs, considered different career paths, and eventually secured a role at the Legal Aid Board as a legal auditor and case worker. I really enjoyed that job. I was trained as an auditor and travelled all over the North West, auditing solicitors’ firms. In the office I dealt with complex legal aid applications and appeals, and my role gradually evolved to include training. I became one of the key players in the implementation of the new computer system and the introduction of that to local firms.
Unfortunately, there was no real opportunity for career progression within the organisation. I had been there for 2 ½ years, wasn’t looking to move, but saw an advert in the local paper for a job, in the litigation team, at Morecroft Urquhart. This was a firm I had audited; I had liked the atmosphere, and the friendly welcome. I decided to try it and see whether a return to private practice was for me. To my amazement I was offered the job and once the offer was there, the decision seemed obvious.
I joined Morecroft Urquhart, on 1st March 1999, and was plunged into a caseload of child abuse claims, an area where I had little experience, but found fascinating. Over the years, I became the main PI fee earner, and graduated to associate, and then leader of the litigation team. At the time Morecrofts (as it had become) didn’t have a salaried partner role, and to be asked to join the partnership as a fixed-share partner was a hard-won prize. I was delighted to be offered partnership in 2005 and invited to join the equity two years later.
Board of Management to Managing Partner
Within a few years I joined the Board of Management, made up of three partners. The Managing Partner clearly had me in mind as her successor, and started taking me to meetings, and introducing me to contacts. She suggested that I apply to become a director of Liverpool Law Society, leading to my becoming President in 2015-16.
She encouraged me to take a Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice Management, with our Practice Manager and Finance Director, which was not only a valuable learning experience, but brought the three of us together as a team. The two of them are now partners in the firm and we form a close-knit management team
In 2014, my predecessor announced that she was retiring to take up a judicial appointment. She naturally assumed that I would be her successor. A partners’ meeting was convened where she asked, “so who will take over?”. There was silence, which eventually I broke by timidly putting my hand in the air. Everyone agreed, probably because they didn’t want the job themselves!!
I have led the firm through many changes, and today’s Morecrofts is very different from the firm I took over. However, we have maintained our “people first” ethos, which informs everything we do. I strongly believe that a happy workforce is a productive one.
Being Managing Partner is a roller-coaster. It can be exhilarating, nerve-wracking, terrifying, exhausting, and amazing, sometimes all on the same day. I have never been as happy as I am in this role.
My Top Tips
There are many lessons I have learnt along the way and which I try to share: For example:
More than anything I would tell people to speak up. If you don’t share your ambitions, you are unlikely to achieve them. I knew I wanted to be Managing Partner, but If I hadn’t put my hand up in that meeting, I may never have got there. No roof can stand on one column alone – and communicating with others is of fundamental importance when climbing the career ladder.
Alison Lobb, Managing Partner of Morecrofts