Tapestry – Developing Business Resilience
- About us
Law is an old profession. Whilst it has progressed recently, it still has a way to go before fully incorporating progressive business models. Tapestry is leading the industry regarding forward-thinking working practices.
Since inception, Tapestry challenged traditional structures; allowing agile working arrangements, as well as embarking on a journey from traditional partnership, to Alternative Business Structure, finally becoming 100% employee-owned. All shares previously owned by the founders were sold to an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT), so all employees (support staff, finance team and lawyers, approx. 30 total) own the business together. This is a unique business structure for a law firm setting us apart from our peers.
Whilst a small Yorkshire based boutique law firm, we are a challenger firm, competing directly with large top-tier global firms through our expertise, offering creative technology solutions and cost efficiencies.
- Issues and Opportunities
Making changes to any business structure presents challenges. Making changes to business structure in the midst of a global pandemic, comes with more! However, after planning for a couple of years, we decided our team were resilient and so pressed forward despite the pandemic. We wanted to make the most of the opportunity, ensuring the continued success of the business, as our founders took a step back.
Throughout 2020, Tapestry worked with specialist advisers on the transition, ensuring the new management team received the necessary training, as well as supporting the establishment of effective governance.
Discussions concerning the transition involved everyone including lawyers, finance and administrative support, with an internal working group established to represent and report back. Internal communications included workshops and consultations with the whole team.
We developed new lead roles for senior staff, supported by the existing management and external training, including the EOA’s excellent course on ‘How to be an effective employee director/trustee’.
These processes gave senior lawyers a voice in shaping the business and opportunities to broaden their knowledge in strategic areas, further developing their careers, enabling them to take on more management roles.
Throughout the pandemic, we remained strong; we delivered for our team and our clients (having one of our most successful years ever), as well as completing our transfer to employee ownership.
We built a resilient team that already worked in an agile way, so were able to adapt quickly.
- Our business response
As the world moved to homeworking, our team communications structure (built up through the transition), ensured Tapestry was in a strong position to deal with enforced changes.
Tapestry’s first responsibility was ensuring everyone in the team had the necessary technology to perform their role. We were flexible with our use of software, switching between the best platforms to support requirements, keeping channels of communication open, both internally and externally: from online instant messaging to maintain the ‘office’ feel, meeting platforms for client work and upgraded technology to provide more innovate webinar solutions. As a small, inclusive business, we adapted quickly; communicating with video technology from day one, to remain connected.
It became apparent that the added pressures of home life for some, meant that usual business hours were not realistic. Tapestry allowed for the flexibility to work around any external pressures. The strength in the business, and employee ownership mentality, meant that it was possible to support adhoc working schedules without impacting individual salaries or affecting the service our clients received.
Whilst lockdown remained uncertain, Tapestry immediately put in place processes and encouraged behaviours that took into account the wellbeing of our people. Nearly every day, we held virtual interactions from Elevenses on Monday, Yoga and breathing exercises, the weekly team ‘Huddle’ on Wednesdays, Thursday Breakfast get-togethers and Friday drinks.
Buddy systems between senior and junior members maintained career development; whilst our weekly team meeting addressed knowledge sharing, strategic issues and team updates.
The support network that we developed whilst structuring the EOT meant that during these challenging and uncertain times, we continued (as close as possible), with business as usual.
- EO values and culture
Tapestry was established with an ethos of flexible working practices (location and hours). Since inception, we have shown global clients that whilst honouring our commitments to agile working, we could deliver first-class client service.
We believe our people should be able to enjoy a long and successful career, working for a top tier firm, with global clients, on challenging matters. Our founders recognised the difficulties experienced by many lawyers, especially women, who struggle to thrive in private practice and to gain a stake in the business, whilst also having full lives outside of the office.
Moving to an employee-owned structure was a natural progression for Tapestry; enabling employees to share in the success they create. We are committed to the principles of inclusion and the EOT has demonstrated a tangible positive impact of that commitment.
Traditional structures indirectly discriminate against those taking career breaks or working part-time, often preventing them achieving Partner status. The EOT addresses this issue. Everyone in the team has the opportunity to be an owner in the business. One of our Legal Directors (Partner status), works part-time and another is registered blind. Such promotional opportunities would not be readily available in traditional firms. Our progressive approach allows support for those seeking to excel in spheres outside of work (Olympic athletic hopefuls, hang-gliding at the British/World championships, becoming a yoga instructor), whilst having a successful career at a top ranked firm.
We are proud to be 100% employee-owned and will celebrate with the EOA on 25 June with an extra day’s holiday for the whole team!
- The impact on employee-owners, the business, and our clients
Investment in management training, with a supporting rotation of leadership, has ensured the day-to-day running of the firm remains unchanged. Clients continue to receive expert advice and industry-leading client service. They are impressed that we are ‘walking the walk’; being employee-owned whilst advising others on employee ownership!
Our chosen model means all employees are equal owners of the business (‘partners’, to junior members of support staff), reinforcing the team approach.
Since forming the EOT, the firm has continued to gain momentum and had our best ever Q4 results. Also, we had the highest number of delegates (86) attend our Certificate in Employee Share Plans training this year (Tapestry’s accredited professional qualification), testament to the team’s hard work completely restructuring the course to be virtual, to accommodate current circumstances. Reviews from candidates have given us our best feedback scores to date!
Throughout these challenging and uncertain times, we protected our team. They, in turn, took steps to show market leadership, ensuring our clients also weathered the storm. Our clients could see we were there, helping them navigate the crisis. This is reflected in our recent, fantastic performance and wonderful client testimonials.
Tapestry is one of only a handful of legal firms which is employee-owned, our structure is quite rare, when contrasted to the usual law firm model. The pandemic presented some challenges, but through our business structure changes our exceptional team continued winning clients and we’ve had one of our most profitable years since we were founded.