Tees Businesswoman of the Year Jane Armitage brings an end to seven “fantastic” years as managing partner of Jacksons Law Firm this summer.
We caught up with Jane and the man stepping into her role, Tony Wentworth, as well as Jacksons’ incoming head of corporate and commercial, Peter Robinson, to see what the future holds.
Jane Armitage, outgoing managing partner
You must be so proud of what has been achieved since taking on the role in 2014…
“When I became managing partner, there were a lot of things that needed improving, our case management system was out of date and we didn’t have efficient management structures in place.
We were a big business and we urgently needed to run ourselves like a big business.
“The firm had also become a little lazy about its profile, resting on its laurels, so I have worked hard at re-addressing that and also on enhancing our engagement with the community and with local charitable organisations.
“However, I can’t claim the credit for doing all of this myself. Being a managing partner is not about being on your own. It has been a team effort between myself, my fellow partners and all of our staff. We have made all these changes together.
“The firm looks completely different from how it was when I took on the role, even more so than when I first joined the firm in 2004. I do feel that has been a journey we have all gone on together. It has been a team effort.”
Why is now the right time to retire from the Limited Liability Partnership?
“Less stress! I have just turned 60 and my husband, Paul, has just retired, so it has been my intention for some time to work slightly less at this point.
“I will still be involved. Jacksons is like a third child I can’t let go of and it is getting harder to let go as this month goes by. But I also recognise that every so often a business needs new ideas and new blood. I will be stepping down still loving the job and that is important.
“I have elderly parents in the south-west and kids in London, so it’s time for a bit more family time and walking in the countryside. I would love to travel more too, if restrictions rules eventually allow.”
It sounds really important for you to stay involved…
“The people of Jacksons mean a lot to me. Tees Valley and the North-East means a lot to me. I don’t want to give that up. I don’t want to completely retire and whatever I can do to help Tony going forward is important.
“I will be staying on as a consultant three days a week, working with clients, maintaining relationships and making sure those remain strong. I will provide management support if I am asked to and technical support to the commercial property team.”
Tony Wentworth, outgoing head of corporate and commercial and incoming managing partner
You became a trainee at Jacksons Law in 1988 and a partner six years later. What does it mean to step up?
“We have known for some time that Jane would be stepping back from her current role and so we’ve had plenty of time to plan and prepare for it. Continuity has been the biggest factor in our decision making. I have worked more closely with Jane over the past years than anyone else in the firm and I have learned a lot from her (and I would like to think that she’s learned a little bit from me!) and so it makes sense for me to pick up from where Jane leaves off.
“The development process under Jane’s leadership was one of evolution, not revolution.
“We have identified areas in which we could do better and then worked on addressing them, and that will very much remain the theme.
“What I’m most excited about is working with the next generation. When Jane became managing partner back in 2014 we were a partnership which was entirely of the same generation and was becoming a little bit long in the tooth. I will now be the last partner of that generation.
“We have completely restructured our business leadership, firstly to create a younger partnership with energy and ambition, and secondly to expand its field of expertise. We are no longer the traditional partnership comprised only of lawyers.
“We have partners from finance and marketing backgrounds who have brought an entirely different perspective to what we do. These are the people who will take this firm forward for years and years to come and I’m looking forward enormously to working with them.”
What do you hope you can bring to the role and achieve in the future?
“I’ve been with Jacksons for over 30 years and so the first thing that I can bring is a huge amount of knowledge of the firm. I’ve learned an enormous amount over that time, not only from the things that we, as a firm, have done well but also from the things we’ve got wrong. I can bring all that experience with me.
“Another thing I bring – and this is key to our ideal of continuity – is my relationship with the people here. We are a very inclusive organisation in terms of our management structures and decision making. I know all of the people here incredibly well and they know me and I know that, together, we will be a very, very strong team.
“As mentioned above, my theme will continue to be evolution not revolution. I will not look to reinvent the wheel from day one. I have learned a lot from Jane and I am not going to throw that away. We’ll continue to take things one step at a time in a proactive and imaginative way and without ducking difficult issues. It is like the old Liverpool FC boot room – you take the best bits of what you have – don’t throw it away – and develop. I will also be keeping my eye on the client-facing work and doing a certain amount of fee earning.
“The handover from Jane to me has been in progress for some time now, so the transition will be almost seamless. It will be business as usual from a client perspective and that is important.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge. Hopefully, as Jane has been able to do, I’ll be able to look back in a few years and see the full picture of what I’ve helped to achieve.”
Peter Robinson, incoming head of corporate and commercial
Why have you decided to join Jacksons?
“Jacksons is a different firm and has become quite dynamic and progressive. What attracted me is the openness and willingness to listen to new ideas and the fact that there are different people, from different backgrounds, on board as partners. The firm has worked hard on developing that culture in the last few years and in doing so has built a great team for the future. I’m really excited to be joining that team and helping them develop.”
What will you focus on?
“I’m looking forward to taking over as head of the corporate and commercial team, getting to know the team, getting to know the business community on Teesside and developing existing relationships alongside my own. Our main focus will be continuing the business development and growing our corporate service offering, supporting the team and developing them and through that helping the overall business.
“Altogether, the team can bring a huge amount of business experience and technical know-how to help clients, and we aim always to become trusted advisers to our clients – part of their internal board if you like. I’m looking forward to being part of that and helping that grow.”
For more information on Jacksons Law Firm, visit jacksons-law.com.