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Careers Focus: An interview with Helen Marsh

As part of our Career Focus series, we’re speaking to members of our team about their careers to date and to get their thoughts on the future of the legal profession. Today we’re talking to partner and specialist commercial property solicitor, Helen Marsh…

Photo of Helen Marsh

How long have you been working with HRC Law and what was your career before that?  

Having taken a slightly less traditional route into the legal profession by opting for four year sandwich degree with one year spent working as an undergraduate ‘at the coal face’ in a Top 20 law firm, I gained first-hand experience of what it might be like to actually be a solicitor.  Although it’s not quite like an episode of ‘Ally McBeal’ it’s proved to be a hugely satisfying career choice.  I’m now a partner and specialist commercial property solicitor at HRC Law LLP, based in the centre of Manchester. With over 15 years’ experience, I was headhunted from KBL Solicitors in Bolton to set up, lead and grow HRC Law’s new commercial property department. That was four years ago – and although it feels like it has gone in a flash. I’ve steadily and stably grown the department over time backed by a strong team and strong client relationships.

What are the top three challenges you’ve faced as a leader and how have you overcome them? 

  • Being a leader and not a do-er:
    As a solicitor, you are encouraged throughout your career to account for your day in six-minute increments. This leads to a mindset of fee-earning work being the best way to spend your time.  As a leader, I also have to be completely focused on where that work comes from, why clients are attracted to our firm and how to keep it that way, as well as getting out there meeting potential new clients – on top of everything else which goes with running a business!
    I am still totally hands-on with legal work for clients but I have also had to learn to spend time training others, mentoring, building relationships and business plans and  taking time to look up from my desk and make sure the ship is still on course – and not to see that as ‘not real work’.
  • Starting from scratch:
    Being invited into the partnership to build the commercial property department and its infrastructure from scratch has been a challenging and liberating experience. Surprisingly, bringing in clients wasn’t too difficult a task –The Fragrance Shop and THE Chinese Buffet followed me to HRC Law LLP from day one – hard work, marketing, reputation and recommendation did the rest! We are now proud to have expanded our client-base vastly with recent transactions including advising Søstrene Grene on their Altrincham store opening, the latest lease for Charlton Manor Estates Limited’s Tanzaro House and SpaMedica’s latest premises.
  • Doing it all at once:
    All working mums juggle a career with family life but becoming a partner of a law firm, single-handedly managing a new department and recruiting a team whilst maintaining a busy school schedule and potty-training a two year old was particularly challenging!  It has been a roller-coaster and I am absolutely thrilled that the hard work has paid off as I now have a successful team and haven’t lost any children along the way!

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?

Work hard. That’s it.

Honesty and integrity go without saying but my motto is that you only get out of life what you put into it.  It takes hard work to make something successful and I’m pleased to say that the HRC Law LLP team are all grafters!

Having the freedom to shape the department from day one has allowed me to build a framework and team that contrasts traditional law firm models and works much more efficiently. We are a close-knit team of hard-working professional property professionals, and I’m pleased to be mentoring them through their legal careers to show them that the sky (not a glass ceiling) is the limit!

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry? 

Go for it. Flexibility and glass ceilings have historically been a challenge for women in the legal profession and, of course, still exist in places. That said, within firms such as ours, which are built on 21st century values and embrace flexible working, there are more options than ever before. Gone are the days when women have to choose between having a rewarding career and having a family – you really can have both! 

How do you maintain a work/life balance? 

I’d say I ’ve achieved a perfect work/life blend! My role at HRC Law is a mix of leading clients and leading the team and that doesn’t fit perfectly into a traditional working day, it’s as simple as that. This can, however, work in everyone’s favour – in the same way that none of my entrepreneurial clients crowbar their working day into a 9-5 regime, this means it’s absolutely acceptable to respond to emails out-of-hours or answer a call on a weekend because, on the flip side, I can do the school run and run some errands when my workload is lighter.