‘Yorkshire is a really resourceful region’

Mills & Reeve has a new head of office in Leeds. TheBusinessDesk.com sat down with Paul Johnson to talk about why the firm is optimistic for the future thanks to a combination of its expertise and a changing environment.

Johnson, an experienced corporate lawyer who started his career 25 years ago, explains that when he joined the firm seven years ago there was no corporate offering, however since then the area has grown with currently three corporate partners.

This growth journey of the corporate team isn’t alone with the whole Mills & Reeve office expanding, whether in the employment, litigation or other departments.

“We’ve brought in some really strong people which means the firm is in really good shape and it may appear sometimes we grow more slowly than some of our competitors, but I think that’s because we spend a huge amount of time getting the right people in.”

He added that getting the right people however leads to benefits.

“For us when we have the right people in the business we’re more focused on supporting them and helping them grow rather than looking for the next lateral hire with a client base that we can just bolt on.”

As he describes it, this “slightly different model” is seeing benefits with the firm noting nationally that its partner turnover rate is less than 2%.

Ultimately Johnson, who speaks passionately about Mills & Reeve’s points of difference, says that it was many of those points looking back now that attracted him to the firm, not least it’s “collegiate” approach to working.

But with a talent challenge in all sectors and much being made over recent months of six figure starting salaries the new head of office says that firms such as Mills & Reeve need to be “confident enough to say, if you want really good work, a really good culture to work in and competitive pay, then you should look at us.”

He accepts that there will always be the risk with the Mills & Reeve grow/nurture your talent approach that some will leave and be attracted by the bright lights and bigger salaries but he smiles as he says, “Oddly we’re actually very successful getting back the people we have lost.

“People who leave us sometimes come back and say we made a mistake, and of course we say yes because you learn things through those experiences that can make you grow as a professional.”

Johnson says he can understand the allure of London but that it was Mills & Reeve’s approach to pay which is “very fair and transparent” which attracted him when he joined.

Looking away from talent, Johnson who describes himself as someone who views the world as “glass half full”, remains optimistic about the future.

Discussing some of the sectors Mills &Reeve has been working in such as technology, healthcare and higher education, it’s clear to see where this optimism comes from, even against the backdrop of uncertainty caused first by Covid and now the Ukrainian invasion and cost of living crisis.

He said the region will ultimately have a strong economy as it benefits from “high growth sectors like technology and some of the creative industries growing alongside the more traditional strengths” found here.

“Yes, like everywhere we have our challenges, some of which area result of what’s happening globally, but Yorkshire is a really resourceful region and we’re seeing that with our clients and there is still a lot of money available to invest in good businesses.”

As we discuss those sectors, he notes there’s been some “really great regional deals ” but that the challenge is to ensure the benefits of these are recycled into the regional ecosystem.

He believes there is potential for a new wave of talent to come through, backed by entrepreneurs who were perhaps the ‘founding fathers’ of this new generation of tech and creative industries, who have made the money, done the journey and are now looking to support the talent which is coming forward.

As the conversation comes to an end Johnson notes that he’s excited to be leading this next phase for Mills &Reeve as it continues to build upon its success and be part of Yorkshire’s positive trajectory.

As we finish though the new head of office lets slip where his optimism for the future comes from, and like many it may be rooted in sport.

“Now that we [the region] have secured another season of Premiership football with Leeds United and we might still have The Terriers back up there with them, it feels very positive notwithstanding the various global headwinds and domestic issues.”