bckr | Blog Large Image Whole Post
page-template,page-template-blog-large-image-whole-post,page-template-blog-large-image-whole-post-php,page,page-id-18956,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,select-theme-ver-1.7.1,vertical_menu_enabled,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-6.4.2,vc_responsive

Blog Large Image Whole Post

The British Acupuncture Council seeks lay director – legal expertise welcomed

The BAcC is the leading self-regulatory body for the practice of traditional acupuncture in the UK. We are a member-led organisation with just over 2,500 traditional acupuncturist members, governed by a Governing Board. The specialist staff team deliver membership services and support members to maintain professional standards. We provide our members with a wide range of services to facilitate their practice and we also act for the traditional acupuncture profession as a whole.

The BAcC was one of the first organisations to become a Professional Standards Authority (PSA) Accredited Register. The Accredited Register scheme is designed to recognise that an accredited organisation maintains high standards of training, safe practice and professional conduct where the operational sector is not covered by statutory regulation.


The role

The British Acupuncture Council are seeking to recruit a lay director to join our Governing Board, replacing a director who retired at this year’s AGM having completed their term.

The Governing Board (GB) is made up of five practitioner members and four lay members and is ultimately accountable to the BAcC members.

Our directors are responsible for ensuring that the BAcC continues to flourish, for setting strategy and policy, and for overseeing the effective management of the BAcC through the chief executive and committees.


Who they’re looking for

We are looking for professionals with director-level and board experience, who are clear strategic thinkers with sound judgement and the ability to think creatively. The GB conducted a skills analysis recently and determined that ideally we would like individuals with one or more of the following:

  • regulatory experience
  • risk management experience
  • some legal expertise

Additionally, we are looking for candidates with strong diplomacy and listening skills. The successful applicant will also have a keen interest in acupuncture and a passion for promoting it as a valid healthcare choice.


Please click here for further information.

Large Surgical Charity seeks new Trustee with legal experience

The Board of Trustees of the Association of Coloproctology of Great Britain and Ireland is seeking a new non medical Trustee with legal experience to complement the existing Board of Trustees.

What will you be doing?

The current Trustee Board is mainly made up of clinicians and has a small number of lay trustees who provide wider expertise. We are all keen to recruit a person with a legal background to advise the Board on legal issues encountered by the ACPGBI. Current examples relate to issues of equality and diversity within the organisation as well as issues related to charity law.

Charity trustees share the ultimate responsibility for governing the charity and directing how it is managed and run, and they remain entirely independent of those involved in the day-to-day management of a charity.

The main remit of the Trustees are: –

  • To provide robust governance to ensure that the Association is fulfilling its charitable aims.
  • To receive and approve an annual statement of accounts ahead of its presentation at the AGM.
  • To ensure a timely return to the Charities Commission.
  • To review and agree the Association’s strategy and assist the Executive Committee of Council with its development.
  • To formally approve recommendations from Council, ahead of their presentation at the AGM, for changes to the Constitution of the Association.

The role would involve scrutinising documents and commenting on the contents where needed. The Board meets roughly 4 times a year. Recently, these meeting have been by Zoom, which has proved very successful and an efficient way of conducting the business of the board.

What are we looking for?

We are looking for someone with wide experience within the private sector to complement the existing Trustees, most of whom have a background in the Public Sector. A legal background is necessary for this role and it would be very helpful if the person had experience of charity law as well as equal opportunities. As the Board of trustees conducts its work by e-mail and on-line meeting, the location of the person is not important and the Board will often hold meeting out of office hours to accommodate as many of the Board as possible. The time commitment required is not large, perhaps amounting on average to a couple of hours a month.

What difference will you make?

The Board currently lacks a member with a legal background. Having a person with such a background would be of benefit in providing an opinion on legal matters and advising the Association where issues would require professional legal input. In addition, the board would benefit from having alternative, non-medical opinions to balance the opinions of trustees with a medical background who are either current officers or past officers of the Association.

You would be joining a diverse group of trustees who work well together. You would gain experience of how a large professional association works and also insight into Colorectal Surgery in the United kingdom and Ireland. Your advice would be invaluable to the Board of trustees and the Association and help strengthen the organisation and help it maintain its position as one of the most important professional surgical bodies in the UK and Ireland.


Please click here for further information.

Ministry of Justice: Court of Protection General Visitor

You will visit our clients and those acting for them, and report to the Public Guardian or Court of Protection on the client’s needs, wishes and best interests and on how the deputy or attorney is managing their affairs. You will be asked to assess the client’s capacity to make certain decisions and be expected to consult with associated agencies such as Social Services, Residential or Nursing Care Home Managers, providing accurate and concise written reports within a designated time scale and in accordance with agreed targets and standards.

You will be engaged on a self-employed basis and will be responsible for paying your own tax, national insurance and having professional and public liability.

This position may be combined with other work commitments, paid or unpaid.
General Visitor Job Objectives

Organise and manage visits to Clients, court-appointed Deputies and others on behalf of the OPG or Court

Prepare and submit reports for the Public Guardian and Court of Protection within agreed timescales, ensuring that all relevant issues are addressed and are presented accurately and objectively

Work closely with staff within Supervision and other teams in the OPG to ensure that the Visits service is efficient and effective. Liaise with other Visitors to co-ordinate work effectively across the regions

Liaise with Deputies, carers and other agencies and partners, e.g. Local Authority Social Services Departments, Primary Care Trusts, etc to ensure effective provision of the Visitors

Maintain files, data, spreadsheets and reports, ensuring confidential information is securely held

Communicate by email, internet, telephone and other means with Deputies, agencies and the OPG, as required

Maintain and develop your knowledge of the Mental Capacity Act

Take reasonable care for your own health and safety and for the safety of others in consideration of OPG Health and Safety procedure

To apply for this post or access further information, please visit the public appointments Cabinet Office website using the following link:  where you can download an application form and candidate pack.

Please send your completed application forms by email to opgvisitorsrecruitment@publicguardian.gov.uk or by post to Visits Team, Office of the Public Guardian, PO Box 16185, Birmingham B2 2WH. If you need more information about the roles, please email us using the above address.

Person Specification

Eligibility criteria

Candidates for the OPG General Visitor post who are employees of the OPG may apply but would need to resign their current position if they were appointed.


We are seeking self-motivated individuals who can demonstrate their professional knowledge, experience or qualifications in social care or health, or areas related to finance or law (e.g. health profession, social work, law, finance, etc) to work as a General Visitor. Please, see application form for further details.

You must have an excellent understanding of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and be willing to travel extensively within your region.

This is a statutory appointment under Section 61 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.


Knowledge of the following would be desirable:

Best Interest assessments
Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards
Ability to conduct Mental Capacity Assessments
Basic knowledge of finances


Please click here for further information.

Family theatre festival ‘Big Dreamers’ seeks new Trustee – employment law expertise welcomed

Big Dreamers is a theatre festival for families and young audiences in Worcester. We curate compelling stories that are accessible to audiences regardless of circumstance, providing high quality formative theatre experiences that build creative citizens.

Conceived in 2018, to date we’ve engaged with over 2000 families across the region. We are now looking to form a board of trustees to support our future development.

We are looking to recruit an inaugural trustee/NED board of up to 10 members, including a chair (or co-chairs). Members would be asked to commit to quarterly board meetings with the potential for optional subcommittees all conducted remotely. Board terms will be set by the new board, but are expected to be 3 years.

We are particularly looking for those with experience in: theatre for young audiences, outdoor arts, fundraising, artist development, HR and employment law, community engagement, youth and family work, education (primary, secondary, FE and HE), access and inclusion (in the widest definition), organisational development and touring theatre.

We are looking for members from across the UK and welcome people for whom this is their first trusteeship.

Please click here for further information.

Pain UK seeks new Trustee with law expertise

Pain UK, established in 2012 (and CIO from 2020), is an umbrella for charities working in painful conditions, to help improve the charities’ efficiency and to ensure pain is seen as a condition its own right.

What will you be doing?

The Pain UK Board is seeking new trustees. In particular we would like trustees who would volunteer as honorary treasurer. (There is very little to do! It’s a bit of bookkeeping.) We are also interested if you have experience in law, lobbying or PR, in SEO and analytics…

What are we looking for?

You will be interested in improving life for people living with pain, but this charity is not a “hands on” charity. As an umbrella organisation our members are themselves charities. We signpost individual requests to the appropriate charity. We respond to government consultations, we advocate for improved pain services.

Occasionally we need advice on specific fields. So you will have experience in law. If that experience is in charity law, this is even better.

What difference will you make?

Pain UK hits high for such a tiny charity. Currently it has five trustees and this means we do not have the range of expertise that we would like. You will be helping the charity to get ahead and do more activities aimed at improving live/services for people with a wide range of painful conditions.

Please click here for further information.

Pain UK website


Organisation for commissioning arts for outside spaces seeks new Trustees

UP Projects curates and commissions public art with a mission to support artists to make new work that has social relevance, engages communities, encourages learning and enriches the public sphere.

At its simplest, the role of the board is to have responsibility for the governance, Management and strategic direction of UP Projects, making sure that its activities are charitable and for the public benefit. The board of trustees must act as a group and not as individuals. UP Projects’ Trustees and Chair are appointed for a three-year term and are eligible for re- appointment for two additional three-year terms. This role requires a minimum of 4-6 hours per month.


  • Ensure that UP Projects complies with its governing document (its Articles of Association), charity law, company law and any other relevant legislation or regulations
  • Ensure that UP Projects applies its resources exclusively in pursuance of its objects.
  • Contribute actively to the board of trustees by giving firm strategic direction, approving policy, goals, targets, and evaluating performance against agreed targets
  • Safeguard the good name and values of UP Projects
  • Ensure the financial stability of UP Projects

Please click here for further information.

Creative school and education charity ‘The Complete Works School’ seeks new Trustee – charity law expertise sought

We are an education charity and registered alternative provision with a 20-year track record, built on an ethos of creative and bespoke learning. We work with young people who are unable to attend mainstream school for a variety of reasons including mental health, complex educational needs, previous school exclusions, or medical conditions. Through a combination of group and 1:1 education, extra-curricular creative projects and holistic wellbeing support, we provide our students with a rounded and supportive educational experience, helping them to overcome their personal challenges and thrive in our school community. Since being founded in 1999, we have positively changed the lives of countless young people.

We are seeking new Trustees to join our Board and help to oversee the operation of the school. It is important that all Trustees share a passion for our work and our commitment to being a diverse, inclusive and creative educational provision. An understanding of and a willingness to train in the principles of good governance in the charity sector is essential. We are particularly looking for candidates with influence and authority, strategic thinking and sound judgement and the ability to be outstanding advocates for the charity. To complement the current board’s skills, we are seeking individuals with relevant experience and knowledge at a senior level in Human Resources, Finance and Charity Law.

We embrace diversity and wish to continue to extend the range of backgrounds and perspectives represented throughout the charity, and within our Board of Trustees.

The role of trustee is voluntary and involves attending a minimum of 4 board meetings a year. The position is unpaid, but reasonable expenses may be claimed.


For further information, please click here.

Bernie Grant Arts Centre seeks new Trustee with legal skills

Are you the new trustee we’re looking for?

An exciting opportunity has arisen for at least 3 trustees to join the Bernie Grant Arts Centre, one of the UK’s only Black-led combined arts centres, at a pivotal time in our journey.

About the Bernie Grant Arts Centre

The Bernie Grant Arts Centre is a state of the art, purpose built arts complex in the heart of Tottenham Green, North London.  We commission, co-commission and present groundbreaking new work by Black artists across all artforms, including theatre, performance, visual arts, music, dance, and literature.

Our mission

“The Bernie Grant Arts Centre develops and presents new and cutting edge multi-disciplinary work by Black artists. Supporting Black-led work in our programming and commissioning process is our priority; authentic engagement within our communities amplifies voices that wouldn’t otherwise be heard, develops new audiences and provides valuable career opportunities for those from underrepresented backgrounds.”

The next stage of our journey

Would you like to use your skills and experience to help one of the UKs only Black-led combined arts venues continue our upward trajectory and help to to reach our full potential?

We are particularly interested in candidates who will be able to support our strategic development as we ready ourselves for making an application towards becoming a National Portfolio Organisation.

We are inclusive, ambitious and believe in a world where Black-led work is given space, status and a chance to thrive.

We want a board that represents the lived experience of our audience, artists and local community.

We are particularly interested in trustees with experience with expertise in the following areas;

  • cultural venue management
  • legal affairs
  • HR
  • Fundraising

Please click here for further information.

The Mare and Foal Sanctuary seeks new Trustees – legal expertise sought

We are looking for people from a diverse range of backgrounds to join The Mare and Foal Sanctuary as Trustees to help make a real difference to the lives of horses, ponies and people. At the Sanctuary we provide life long, life changing loving care and support to horses and ponies who have been abandoned, neglected and abused.

Becoming a Trustee means you have one of the most important and inspiring roles within the charity. With the Chief Executive, you set the direction and priorities of The Mare and Foal Sanctuary and are ultimately responsible for ensuring it achieves its aims. Our Chief Executive Sarah Jane Williamson has created an ambitious and visionary five-year strategy to expand our work; We’re looking for professional volunteers to become Trustees to support her in leading this often underestimated charity and make a real difference to horses, ponies and people.

We’re known for our work to rescue horses and ponies which have been abandoned, neglected or abused and for the non-judgemental welfare outreach we offer to people struggling to care for horses and ponies for many different reasons. We’re less well known for how much we collaborate locally and nationally with the RSPCA and larger equine welfare charities.

We also provide alternative education and training through equine assisted learning, therapeutic riding and outdoor learning in nature with our rescued horses and ponies for children, young people, families and adults. We’re relatively new entrants as a provider of these services for people, but we’re already growing our reputation nationally and internationally for this work. This is thanks to our equine centred approach and its emerging positive impact on the people who come to connect with our rescued horses and ponies.

During 2020 we undertook sustainability benchmarking and have a clear sustainability action plan. As a landowner, The Mare and Foal Sanctuary is committed to exploring more sustainable and holistic ways to manage our land for the benefit of the natural world. We are restoring some of our traditional, biodiverse hay meadows and grasslands, ensuring our sites are a habitat for insects and wildlife alongside our rescued equines. We hope that the ways that we’re benefiting equines, people and the natural world will appeal to a broader range of people who may now consider joining us as Trustees to help develop our charity’s future.

Our commitment

We are committed to developing a diverse board and wish to recruit Trustees from a wide range of backgrounds including young people, people from minority and ethnic communities, people with disabilities and people who have lived experience of the difference that horses and ponies or outdoor learning can make to other people’s lives. We are embracing the evolution of remote working and welcome home-based Trustees who can commit to at least one in-person visit each year.

The benefits to you:

The benefits of becoming a Trustee are not only in the interests of our charity. As an individual, it is an excellent personal development opportunity for you. These are just some of the benefits:

  • Contributing your skills and expertise to a cause that is important to you
  • Playing a fundamental role in the strategic development of the organisation
  • Gaining valuable experience and learning new skills within a leadership role
  • Challenging yourself by applying your skills in a different environment
  • Gaining non-executive board experience in a supportive, developmentally focused culture
  • Learning from other Trustees and gaining new insights from seeing how others respond to situations and make decisions.

If needed, we will support you to negotiate time for your Trustee work with your employers to align this voluntary work with your professional development.

Knowledge and experience:

We are particularly interested in hearing from people with the following specialist areas of expertise:

  • Fundraising and income generation
  • Marketing, public relations and digital transformation
  • Community engagement and development, health and social care, mainstream or alternative education and learning.
  • Academic research
  • Finance, accountancy or legal with an interest in strategy and governance

And we would also welcome hearing from you if:

  • You want to develop your strategic skills and gain valuable experience at Board level
  • You have good communication skills and would enjoy working as part of a close Trustee board to extend your professional networks

Please note that Trustee roles are voluntary, with expenses reimbursed. Board meetings take place during afternoons on alternate months. If you are currently pursuing a career, you may be able to agree time to attend as part of your professional development plan.


Please click here for further information

Age UK East London seeks new Trustee with legal expertise

Age UK East London is a vibrant and independent charity providing vital support and care for vulnerable older people in East London. We have over 120 staff and 200 volunteers committed to providing professional care in over 30 projects in Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Newham.

We are committed to working with our partners including local housing associations, the CCGs, the NHS and in the respective Local Authorities as well as our other third party partners.

We are looking for people who are committed to improving the lives of vulnerable and isolated older people across East London.

We are looking for people who are committed to improving the lives of vulnerable and isolated older people across East London. Board members would have a passion for developing our staff and the services we offer our beneficiaries to have a positive impact on their lives.

We are committed to equality, diversity and inclusion. We are looking for trustees who offer a range of skills and life experiences, appropriate to the work that we do. If you haven’t been a trustee our induction, and our Trustee Board members will help you to learn the ropes.

Role summary

The Board is responsible for the smooth-running of the organisation and supporting the Chief Executive. You will be supporting our 60 members of staff and part of our 100 strong volunteer team. You will also have the opportunity to learn about how to tackle the challenges that our beneficiaries face, and how to deliver appropriate co-produced services that enrich older people’s lives and enhance the whole community of East London.

Person specification

Running a healthy and successful charity requires a strong Board that offers leadership and challenge in a collegiate and positive way and has our beneficiaries at the core of everything they do. The Board has a strong emphasis on managing risk, in particular financial controls and safeguarding for both our staff, volunteers and beneficiaries.

A blend of the following skills and experience would be beneficial:

  • a commitment to the mission and values of AUEL
  • integrity
  • strategic vision
  • good, independent judgement
  • an ability to think creatively
  • a willingness to speak their mind
  • an understanding and acceptance of the legal duties, responsibilities and liabilities of trusteeship
  • an ability to work effectively as a member of a team and to take decisions for the good of AUEKL

We are particularly looking to recruit trustees with legal expertise, experience in a clinical setting and a trustee with experience of charitable accounting.


The Board meets on alternate months on the last Wednesday from 6.00 – 8.00pm in East London. Board members may be asked to commit additional time to support staff recruitment, review tenders and share expertise.

Board members with finance experience may also join the Finance Sub Committee, subject to approval by the Board. This meets on alternate months.

Travel expenses can be reimbursed.


Please click here for further information.

The Gerald Coke Handel Foundation (provision of research facilities/public education) seeks new Trustee

The Gerald Coke Handel Foundation enables public education by providing research facilities, maintaining and developing the Gerald Coke Handel Collection at the Foundling Museum, and administering the endowment which supports it.


What will you be doing?

Formed in 1996, the trustees of the Gerald Coke Handel Foundation administer the endowment that accompanies the Gerald Coke Handel Collection and assist the Foundling Museum with the care of the Collection, which came to the Museum through the Government’s Allocation in Lieu scheme. The Board is comprised of eight members, including two trustees nominated by the Handel Institute, and one trustee nominated by the Foundling Museum; five independent trustees are elected by the membership from persons applying for the position.

The Company’s objectives are to advance public education by providing research facilities for academics, musicologists, musicians, students, writers, researchers and all those interested in the life and work of Handel, his associates and contemporaries, the musical environment of his time, the printing and publishing of music in the eighteenth century, and related subjects. The research collection comprises over 14,000 items related to the composer George Frideric Handel and his contemporaries, including artworks, books and scores, journals, ephemera, sound recordings and memorabilia.

The present vacancy requires at least 3 years of experience as a charity trustee or in a similar role elsewhere, to ensure the good  governance of the Foundation. Knowledge and experience of charity operations, charity law and management is preferred, and knowledge of and interest in music, heritage and libraries and how they operate is desirable. The trustees work with the library staff to advise on acquisitions, digital projects and service delivery, in addition to managing the endowment and relations with the Foundling Museum.


What are we looking for?

Individuals with interests with coincide with the objects of the Foundation are invited to apply. Experience as a charity trustee, or in a similar role managing a charity or heritage organisation is required, and an interest in and knowledge of music, libraries, heritage and charitable trusts is preferred. The trustee should be familiar with charity law in the cultural and heritage sector and able to advise on aspects of the operation and management of the collection and its endowment.


Please click here for further information.

Richmond Borough MIND seeks new Trustee – legal expertise sought

Could you be one of the two Trustees we are seeking for our Board?

We’d like to hear from people who are passionate about emotional wellbeing or have lived experience of mental health issues, either themselves or as a carer. We’re keen to hear from enthusiastic individuals who have links to diverse communities across Richmond Borough as well as anyone who has worked in the voluntary sector and knows how to enhance Influence, Participation and Impact.

Time Commitment:

There are 12 meetings a year plus 2 additional planning sessions. The time commitment includes attendance at Full Board meetings, Board Committee / Task Group meetings where you are a member or are invited to attend, and the AGM. The meetings can be online or in person.

Qualities, skills and experience:

We are particularly seeking candidates with expertise in:

  • Finance / accounting
  • Legal
  • Digital transformation
  • Equality, diversity and inclusion

Personal qualities and skills:

  • Energy and enthusiasm
  • Clear, creative and strategic thinking
  • Willingness to speak your mind yet respect others’ differing views

We want a more diverse Board of Trustees, and we welcome applications from all sections of the community. We will provide an induction, training and ongoing support.


For a link to a full role description and application form, please click here.

The Finchley Charities seeks new Trustees

THE FINCHLEY CHARITIES is both an Almshouse charity and a registered provider, and has been serving people in the London Borough of Barnet since 1488. With roots in the area as deep as ours, you won’t be surprised to hear that we care very deeply about the local area and the people in our community. Through our 172 purpose-built homes providing high quality housing for older people, and our grants programme and allotments, we feel that we have the resources and drive to make a real difference to the community we serve.

Despite our deep roots and long history, we consider ourselves forward-looking and a future-focused charity responsive to the changing needs of the older people in the area, and we know that the housing for older residents we provide is very much needed today.

We are looking for four well-rounded new Trustees to join our board. You will share our passion for local delivery and improving resident engagement, and for excellence in governance. While we are open to your sector background, we are particularly interested in hearing from those with senior experience in finance, HR, customer engagement, or property/housing development.

For these roles, we are open to this being your first board position and we offer support for new Trustees. We would especially like to hear from you if you have a connection to the Borough of Barnet, but we also welcome interest from those outside the area.

We consider it vital that our Board reflects the communities we serve and would welcome applications from a wide range of backgrounds.


Please click here for further information.


Eureka The National Childrens Museum in the North West seeks new Trustee with legal expertise

Eureka! is well known and well-loved family and children’s visitor attraction in the north of England. In 2022, we celebrate our 30th birthday and are facing a pivotal moment in the history of our organisation.

Eureka! is well known and well loved family and children’s visitor attraction in the north of England. In 2022, we celebrate our 30th birthday and are facing a pivotal moment in the history of our organisation (doesn’t that happen to everyone at 30?).

Next autumn, we’re opening a brand new Eureka! visitor attraction in Wirral. Eureka! Science + Discovery will be a high profile addition to the exciting cultural landscape of the Liverpool City Region, a crucial element in the regeneration of the left bank of the River Mersey, and the only Science and Discovery centre specifically for children and young people aged 6–14 in the UK.

Our new science and discovery centre will complement Eureka!’s National Children’s Museum in Halifax, West Yorkshire – the UK’s only dedicated children’s museum; an interactive hands-on experience specifically for children aged 0–11:

We’re an independent and self-sufficient educational charity that relies on earned revenue, primarily from admissions, to sustain operations and ensure families from all backgrounds can benefit from the play and learning opportunities offered.

We need more *friends

*supportive, yet critical

We’re looking for several people to join our existing Board of Trustees, including a Chair of the Board.

There’s loads of info in the role packs which you can download below but essentially, we’re looking for supportive, critical friends to work in partnership with our dedicated senior leadership team to help take us to the next level.

We are looking for people aged 18 and over with knowledge, experience and networks in the following specialisms:

• Legal

• Property

• STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics)

• Finance

We are also recruiting for a new Chair of the Board of Trustees following the retirement of our incumbent Chair in 2021.

Eureka! strives to create an all-encompassing and productive environment, inclusive of different cultures and groups, and reflecting the diverse audiences we serve. We recognise that diversity is crucial to our success and would strongly encourage and welcome applicants from diverse backgrounds.

Please click here for further information.

Youth homelessness charity ‘Settle’ seeks new Trustee – legal experience welcomed

We are on the hunt for new Trustees to help us break the cycle of youth homelessness. We need ambitious, compassionate people who are committed to Settle’s mission to join our Board and drive the organisation forward.

Settle is an award-winning charity that supports young people moving into their first home. Our mission is to break the cycle of youth homelessness by equipping young people with the life skills and confidence they need to thrive.
We are a fast growing organisation and 2021 has been a big year for us. We have grown our reach by 70% to provide in-depth support to 107 young people, expanded our team from 10 to 14 and increased our income by 62% to £570k. Alongside this, we have developed and delivered several new programmes to support young people’s emerging needs as a
result of the pandemic, including expanding beyond London for the first time.

Settle is keen to encourage applicants from as diverse a range of backgrounds as possible, to better reflect the young people we work with. We therefore would like to hear from people from BAME backgrounds and people with lived experience of the care or the homelessness systems.

We’re currently looking for the following specific skills and experiences to further strengthen our board and support our growth:

● Experience of commissioning services in a local authority – preferably in children’s social care and/or housing

● Working within children’s services or charities – understanding of safeguarding, vulnerability and risk

● Experience of participating in the Settle programme (or similar)

● Experience of working in fundraising and communications at a senior leadership level

● Experience of HR and legal at a senior leadership level

Please click here for further information.

Unicorn AIM VCT Plc seeks new Non-Executive Director (£25k pa) – would suit lawyer

Launched in 2001, Unicorn AIM VCT plc is the largest AIM-focussed VCT and has a current net asset value of £379m (as of August 2021). It was launched to allow investors the opportunity to benefit from generous tax reliefs while investing in growth companies listed mainly on the AIM market.

The Company’s objective is to provide shareholders with an attractive return from a diversified portfolio of investments, predominantly in the shares of AIM-quoted companies, by maintaining a steady stream of dividend distributions to shareholders from the income and capital gains generated by the portfolio. The investment manager is Unicorn Asset Management, an independent, privately-owned fund manager specialising in the AIM market, who manage the quoted investments under a discretionary mandate.

It is also the objective that the Company should continue to qualify as a venture capital trust, so that shareholders benefit from the taxation advantages that this brings. In order to achieve the Company’s investment objective, the Board has agreed an investment policy which requires the investment manager to identify and invest in a diversified portfolio, predominantly of VCT qualifying companies quoted on AIM that display a majority of the following characteristics: experienced and well-motivated management; products and services supplying growing markets; sound operational and financial controls; and potential for good cash generation to finance ongoing development allied with a progressive dividend policy.


Role specification

Unicorn AIM VCT plc is seeking a new Non-Executive Director to provide legal challenge and general strategic oversight to ensure that the Trust achieves its primary aim which is to provide shareholders with an attractive return from a diversified portfolio of investments, predominantly in the shares of AIM quoted companies.

Key duties of the new Non-Executive Director include:

  • Contributing as a Director towards the Board’s responsibility to serve the interests of stakeholders and bringing independent judgement to issues of strategy, performance, resourcing, and the monitoring of service providers
  • Enhancing the range of the Board’s skills, expertise, experience and knowledge
  • Maintaining the reputation and profile of the Company
  • Contributing to strategy formulation, discussions on competitive positioning, the monitoring and assessment of investment performance, balance sheet management, the assessment of risk and control analysis, and to the maintenance and development of best corporate governance by the Company generally
  • Participating in Board decisions on investment in unquoted companies as recommended by the investment manager from time to time


Person specification

The successful candidate will bring a background as a senior executive with an in-depth experience of working through commercial legal issues. This can either be as a former lawyer, corporate general counsel or company secretary or as a senior executive with oversight of legal issues within a commercial business. The successful candidate will also bring prior VCT board or governance experience. Financial services experience would be advantageous but is not required.

Fundamental to the Board’s selection will be the candidate’s commercial mindset, personal integrity, team approach and ‘fit’ with the culture of the Board. Leadership experience will also be welcomed.

Please note: The Board is committed to continuing to build on improving its gender and ethnic diversity representation; as such, diversity will be a very important consideration for the Board in its decision-making process.

Required for this role

  • Investment trust regulatory expertise In-depth understanding of the regulatory requirements relating to investment trusts or venture capital trusts. This experience may have been gained within a senior executive or non-executive role within an investment trust or VCT, or as an outside party providing audit or compliance services to these organisations.
  • Legal expertise In-depth experience of working directly with legal issues. Experience could be either as a lawyer or as a non-lawyer with extensive experience of soliciting legal advice. Candidates will be able to provide counsel on deciding when legal advice needs to be procured.

Board composition

Tim Woodcock, Chair
Jocelin Harris, Senior Non-Executive Director
Charlotta Ginman, Non-Executive Director
Jeremy Hamer, Non-Executive Director and Chair of the Audit Committee


Terms of appointment

The total expected time commitment is approximately 12-15 days per year. There are four full-day Board and Committee meetings, preparatory work for the same and ad hoc work in between meetings. It is expected that the successful candidate will be UK-based. Travel expenses to and from the UK will not be reimbursed.



The organisation will view the applications without edits. We therefore advise applicants to avoid using ‘see CV’ or ‘please call me to discuss further’ in your application as it may restrict your chances of progressing to the next round.

Connected parties

This organisation has requested that candidates do not contact them directly. Instead, if you know someone at the organisation, please mention it in your Reason for Application. Members who do not respect this may risk having their membership terminated



Unicorn AIM VCT is committed to ensuring that its composition reflects both gender and ethnic diversity; as such applications from women and those from an ethnic minority background are particularly encouraged. It welcomes applications from everyone regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, faith or disability. All appointments will be made on merit, following a fair and transparent process. In line with the Equality Act 2010, however, the organisation may employ positive action where diverse candidates can demonstrate their ability to perform the role equally well.


For further information please get in touch directly with www.nurole.com enquiries@nurole.com

Almshouse ‘The Charterhouse’ on the edge of the City seeks new Governor – legal skills welcome

The Charterhouse is an almshouse providing accommodation for 60 residents (called Brothers) in a collegiate setting in a former Carthusian monastery and Tudor mansion on the edge of the City of London and within the Borough of Islington close to Crossrail Farringdon. In recent years we have embarked upon a new phase in our journey, opening our doors to a wider public and hosting an extended range of tours, events and venue hires – celebrating the Charterhouse through the experiences of our visitors and guests.

We now seek a number of Governors to join us to as we address new opportunities and challenges.

The Governors are responsible for agreeing Charterhouse’s strategy, for overseeing its affairs and the good stewardship of its finances & resources, for monitoring, reviewing and evaluating its work, and for overseeing good governance throughout its activities. Each Governor is also allocated two or three Brothers and is encouraged to develop a direct and special relationship with each of them through active engagement and support, particularly in times of ill health.

We are very keen to attract a broad range of candidates for these roles to reflect the community we serve and the London boroughs we live amongst. An excellent relevant track record in general broad-ranging managerial experience is expected and for this phase of recruitment we seek applicants with specific skills in legal and finance (ideally as a qualified accountant) and from those who have a particular interest in our mission and work.

Governors are expected to give significant time and energy to the role, not only in terms of attendance at meetings but also in preparation and in engaging with the life of the Charterhouse and, specifically, their assigned Brothers.

The position of Governor is not salaried but reasonable expenses are paid.


Please click here for further information.

Family Psychology Mutual seeks new Non-Executive Director – legal expertise welcomed

Family Psychology Mutual work with families and young people who are on the edge of care or custody and therefore may be highly vulnerable and at risk. Our staff share our commitment to promote and safeguard young people and their families using strength focused, evidence based practice. If you are interested in joining our team please read our information for applicants and take a look at our vacancies below.

We are an ambitious and dynamic company with plans for growth and increased diversity of our business interests. We have expanded quickly and believe that there is significant market potential for our services. Our human capital is our greatest asset and we will value and enhance your clinical skills. We offer high quality clinical training in the methodologies we use and a supported environment in which to learn and become competent in FFT. We will support formal training for systemic and family therapy training with part funding of your course and time off for attendance at taught classes. We generally expect you to train in the FFT model first before undertaking additional training but if you have already begun your training we can discuss your pathway with you.

We are already progressing FFT therapists to become FFT Supervisors and hope to develop FFT Supervisors to become Programme Managers as we build our capacity and develop our clinical teams so we are serious about our investment in you. We are interested in what additional skills, ideas and interests you will bring with you too and where you might help us to develop new services and opportunities.

Family Psychology Mutual offers flexible working and hours with a positive culture and working environment. Staff benefits include an Employee Assistance Programme, free tea and coffee, cycle to work scheme and childcare vouchers. We will provide you with good IT, efficient back office administration and software packages to make your life easier. As an employee owned business we want to and expect to hear your voice about what the company does and where we decide to invest our resources. We will pay for a meal out at Christmas and bring you to whole service events twice a year so that you can develop peer relationships and contribute to the company.

Our staff portraits tell their own story about our brilliant staff teams. If you would like to discuss an application further please do give us a call.


The role

We are seeking two Non-Executive Directors to join the FPM Board of Directors as we endeavour to build a long term and sustainable employee owned, not for profit business. Your values should accord with those of the Company as we seek to improve outcomes for young people and families who may be on the edge of public care or custody.

Expectation: The minimum requirement will be on average one day per month to attend meetings, some may be held remotely, via MS Teams/Zoom with attendance at our Huntingdon Office at least 6 times a year for our bi-monthly board meetings, with approximately a further 1-2 days of attendance at board workshops and whole event Away Days.


Who they’re looking for

We are seeking two new members to work with, and bring development knowledge to, our current experienced Board and highly skilled executives. The ideal candidate would have in particular senior &/or board level knowledge and expertise in any of the following areas: contract management, marketing, strategy, legal, technology and/or HR.

Family Psychology Mutual believe having a diverse Board is vital to our ongoing success and we particularly welcome applications from underrepresented groups.

Experience in the health and social care sector is desirable, however, we welcome applications from those with relevant experience and/or qualifications outside of the sector and from those with particular strong communication and negotiation skills and the ability to inspire and engage. We especially welcome anyone with experience of working in an employee owned organisation.


Please click here for further information.

Royal Agricultural University seeks new Independent Governors – legal knowledge sought

Want to get involved in supporting the next generation of leaders in the fields of agriculture, the environment or rural business? We are looking for governors to join us and make a contribution to the next stage of our strategic development.

The Royal Agricultural University has been at the forefront of agricultural education and a key contributor to the land-based sector for over 175 years. The RAU has some 1,200 students studying a range of subjects, including agriculture, animal science, business, environment, equine science, farm management, food, real estate and rural land management. Set on the edge of Cirencester in the beautiful Cotswold countryside, its small size provides an exceptional sense of community amongst students and staff, which supports, develops and encourages students from all backgrounds to achieve their ambitions.

The University is looking to recruit Independent Governors to its Governing Council.  The Governing Council is responsible for setting a clear vision, mission and strategy for the University and monitoring the implementation of the University’s strategic plan by the Vice Chancellor and the Executive Team.

Of primary importance is a strong personal commitment to higher education and to the environment and land-based economy, as well as to the vision, mission and purpose of the University. The ability to build effective working relationships with fellow governors, the Vice-Chancellor, the executive team and University staff and students is key. We’ll also be looking for sound judgement, a flair for thinking creatively and strategically and a willingness to speak your mind and, of course, devote the necessary time and effort.

We would particularly welcome applicants with any of the following:

  • Experience in a related sector, such as land/estate management; agricultural technology; food production/processing; farming and sustainable land use
  • International business experience
  • Legal knowledge and experience in relation to higher education and/or not for profit sectors
  • Digital/data strategy or cyber security
  • Marketing and communication skills
  • Fundraising or philanthropy expertise

Please click here for further information.

Deaf Action seeks new Trustee with a legal background

Deaf Action is a deaf-led charity providing services across Scotland and South England. We exist to support the diversity of deaf people, including deaf users of British Sign Language (BSL), and those who are deafened, deafblind and hard of hearing. Our work is geared towards empowering all deaf people to achieve their potential and fully participate in society, with equality of rights, access and opportunity.

We provide a range of services and projects aimed at reducing inequalities and removing barriers for deaf people. From dealing with isolation with our befriending and social clubs, to practical support such as specialist equipment and interpreting, our services are designed to make life easier and more fulfilling for deaf and hard of hearing people. Deaf Action is looking for new Board members who can help make Scotland and South England a better place for people living with hearing loss.

We are seeking dynamic individuals to join the Board as Trustees. We are interested in speaking to individuals from a range of backgrounds including, but not limited to:

  • Legal/Regulatory/Finance
  • Health & Social Care
  • Arts & Culture
  • Digital

We are also looking to speak to experienced Chairs who may be interested in taking up the Chair role.

We value people who have lived experience or a connection to deafness, however this is not essential to be considered for the role, as long as potential candidates have a strong connection to our values. For more information, please contact Debbie Shields at Aspen People.

More information on the organisation, role and how to apply can be found on the dedicated recruitment (see the Aspen People website).


Please click here for further information.

UK Export Finance seeks new Non-Executive Director (Governance & Audit experience welcomed)

UK Export Finance (UKEF) is the operating name of the Export Credits Guarantee Department. The main role of this Non-Executive Director is to bring an external, independent, perspective to UKEF’s operations based on private sector experience and expertise in key areas, including:

  • Trade and export finance;
  • Experience of working with SMEs; and
  • Supporting the delivery of departmental strategic priorities;

In addition to membership of the main Board of UK Export Finance, the candidate will also be expected to be a member of the Audit Committee and the Remuneration and Nominations Committee.  The Audit Committee advises on financial reporting (including the production of annual Resource Accounts), governance, internal control, and associated assurance.  The Remuneration and Nominations Committee advises on the performance management and pay of members of the Senior Civil Service and on succession planning.

UK Export Finance (UKEF) is at the heart of the Government’s Export Strategy, helping British businesses succeed overseas, driving sustainable growth and prosperity.  Founded in 1919 as the world’s first export credit agency, we have been innovating for 100 years.

We provide, guarantees, loans and insurance to help UK companies win overseas sales, fulfil export contracts, and make sure they get paid.  We exist to complement the private sector, and work with over 100 private credit insurers and lenders.

In 2020-21, we provided £12.3 billion worth of support for exports in 77 countries.  549 companies were able to export with our support, indirectly benefiting many more companies in supply chains.  79% of the companies we provided with finance and insurance were small to medium enterprises (SMEs).

The board seeks to add a NED who can bring skills, qualities and experience, including a strong understanding of both SMEs and digital transformation.

This is an exciting time to join UKEF, and to play a key part in supporting the UK’s international trade goals and objectives.


Person Specification


  • A strong understanding of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs), their needs and the challenges they face in accessing international markets;
  • A strong network of relationships with SME stakeholders that UKEF could bring to bear as it continues to develop its SME-focused lending products;
  • Financially literate, with a knowledge of international trade;
  • A strong understanding of digital transformation of internal processes and the interface with customers;
  • Good communication skills, both as an ambassador for the organisation and to mentor executive members of the Board; and
  • A focus on implementation and achieving results



  • Strong environmental credentials including understanding of the UK’s ‘green’ supply chains;
  • An understanding of marketing;
  • Experience of addressing ethical issues in a corporate context;
  • Relevant Audit Committee expertise, including experience of internal and external audits;
  • Knowledge of working in a public sector environment and understanding of the role and working of parliament, including engaging on a proactive basis with Government Departments and Ministers;
  • An understanding of project finance;
  • An understanding of UKEF’s priorities, objectives and challenges;
  • Successful board-level experience, preferably including in a non-executive capacity; and
  • A strong understanding of Board and organisational governance.

Please click here for further information.

The British Association for Early Childhood Education seeks new Trustee – employment law expertise welcomed

A number of places on the Board are coming up for election at the AGM on 13 November 2021.

There are vacancies for trustees from the following areas:

• Midlands and East of England (1 vacancy)

• North West England (1 vacancy)

• North East England (1 vacancy)

• South East England (2 vacancies)

• Scotland (1 vacancy)

There are no vacancies for Northern Ireland, Wales or South West England this year.

Would you consider becoming a trustee, or can you think of someone you would wish to nominate? We are looking for trustees who show:

• a commitment to the ethos, purpose and role of Early Education

• the ability to think and act strategically to further the development of Early Education

An understanding of the key early years policy issues across the UK and the needs of the early years workforce in general, and Early Education members in particular, would be desirable. We would particularly applications from people who have strong skills and experience in campaigning and marketing, HR/employment law, income generation and financial management.

In addition to the elected places, two co-opted places are available for trustees who can offer these skills, regardless of where in the country they are based. We are staunchly committed to diversity and aim to have a board whose composition reflects that. People from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and men are currently under-represented on our Board. Nominations from these groups are particularly encouraged for both elected and co-opted places.

Please click here for further information.

Professor Lynda Gratton: how do we prepare for a 60 year working life?

Below is the recording of the BCKR event with Professor Lynda Gratton 0n 7 October. Lynda is an expert on the future of work and, during the event, she discussed the major demographic changes in the developed world and the significant consequences which these will have for the lives and careers of lawyers and for law firms. How do we deal with the changes which are taking place, including a move towards working lives of 60 years, and what are some of the things which we can do to prepare for this. A thought-provoking event in an area which is not sufficiently considered.

Brighton People’s Theatre seeks new Trustee – legal skills needed

Our vision is for a society where everyone who wants to can make and enjoy theatre. We believe the power of the arts can transform lives, build communities and improve wellbeing.

We want to diversify the voices making theatre, and the audiences consuming it, we prioritise our resources on working in areas of high socio-economic deprivation in the City. Co-creation is at the centre of our work, we respond to the communities we work with and aim to build a company that is inclusive.

This is an extraordinary time to be an arts organisation, as we navigate the changing conditions of operating in a pandemic.  Brighton People’s Theatre has continued to provide services to our members throughout the pandemic, and we are expanding our reach this September as we roll out workshops in priority areas across Brighton & Hove.  We need to review our future plans on how best we can increase our impact and ensure our artistic activity and financial model align.

We believe that Brighton People’s Theatre has an important role to play in recovery from providing opportunities within the communities we work with to advocating for the importance of co-creation in theatre.  Leading by example, we want to ensure that the communities we work with not only have their stories represented on stage but there is more diverse representation in the arts and in our company.

Brighton People’s Theatre is currently undertaking a conversion from a Community Interest Company (CIC) to a Community Interest Organisation (CIO) and is awaiting Charity Registration.  We expect this to be in place before new Trustees come on board.  Our non-executive Board is responsible for:

  • setting policy
  • ensuring sound financial management
  • securing the future of the Company through advice on fundraising and networking with senior policymakers
  • appointing senior staff
  • supporting the senior staff in their activities

We are keen to recruit Trustees with any of the following areas of sector experience:

  • HR & Organisational Development– with experience of power sharing models in the Arts or Third Sector
  • Professional Theatre Expertise – experience of co-creation and/or National perspective of theatre
  • Legal – a current gap in knowledge and skills on the Board
  • Digital– enabling inclusion using digital platforms, this could be from marketing to programming
  • Community Organising – ideally based in one of the following areas: Portslade, Bevendean & Moulsecoomb, Whitehawk, Tarner

Brighton People’s Theatre is committed to diversity and inclusion.  We welcome interest from all sectors and backgrounds and particularly welcome applications from those identifying as working class.


Please click here for further information.

Farm / Smallholding charity for children ‘Change of Scene’ seeks new Trustee with property/land law expertise

We really need your skills in capital fundraising campaigns, planning, property or land law or farming on our Board of Trustees. Can you help us launch a capital fundraising campaign, find and move to a new farm, then grow and develop our service


What will you be doing?

We would like new skilled, energetic Board members to help us achieve our ambitious goal. It’s a tough call but we are worth it!

We have a small Board of Trustees and are looking to build our team to support us to launch and deliver a successful capital fundraising campaign. We have recently lost a couple of members and want to increase our bank of skills and experience.

We have to locate a new site for our farm and deliver a successful capital fundraising campaign which will pay for the costs of this in terms of acquisition, set up and development.. We have a tight timeline so need people with some experience, time and passion to hit the ground running. We are small but provide an important service to children and young people from Surrey and Hampshire with SEN who are struggling to maintain their school place or who have already lost it. A new site will give us the chance to expand and develop our services, extending our reach into the community

We are looking for Board members who can commit to meetings every two months (maximum) which are in the evening, last around two hours and are usually virtual or could be in person in Surrey.

We would also like them to commit to being on either our Fundraising Working Group or another sub-committee to help keep us focussed and on target.

We would like volunteers who have time to support the part time CEO, perhaps by joining her on important visits or meetings on occasion to represent the Board.


What are we looking for?

Our ideal volunteer would be someone who has some relevant experience, time and energy to support us. Support can be remote or in person.

We really need people who can support us with any or all of the following:

Fundraising – particularly in events, corporate and individual donors

Campaigning – either capital fundraising campaigns or any other campaign

Planning – advice and support to get permission for the infrastructure we need

Land law – to support us to lease or purchase a suitable site

Farming – to help us set the new site up , maximise it’s potential and develop our offer


What difference will you make?

If we are not successful, we are at risk of closure due to insufficient funding. This would be devastating for our children and young people, volunteers and staff. We have a waiting list of vulnerable children and young people who need our services but we cannot expand our service on our current site to take them, we can’t charge more for our services and we are not able to cover our overheads.

If we can set ourselves up on a new site, we will be able to support more children and young people aged 8-18 years from Surrey and Hampshire. These will all be children and young people with complex social, emotional and behavioural issues. This will allow us to increase our income to cover our expenditure.

We will be able to develop a “Job Ready” service for young people aged 18+ who need a supported environment to gain skills and experience to help them to seek paid employment. This will raise additional income and provide a much needed service which isn’t available elsewhere.

We will be able to make relationships with the local third sector to establish what access their service users need to an environment like ours and share it to maximise wellbeing in their communities. In these post COVID times, it has been hard to have such a wealth of natural resources such as a poly tunnel, pond, raised beds, animals and not be able to share them with local people in need. We want to change that.

Your help could be just what we are looking for!


Please click here for further information.

Ministry of Justice: HM Prison and Probation Service seeks new MAPPA Lay Advisers (Leicestershire/Rutland)

Vacancy Description

Attendance at each Strategic Management Board (SMB) meeting.
Contribute to the monitoring and evaluation of the operation of MAPPA in LLR.
Attend a level 2 or 3 MAPP meeting quarterly, to assist in understanding the process and to enabling the monitoring and evaluation of MAPPA.
Confirm that the SMB has created effective links with other multi-agency forums, e.g. the Local Criminal Justice Board and the Local Safeguarding Children Boards.
Assist in the preparation of the MAPPA annual report.
Participate in any SMB sub-groups, working parties or projects.
Participate in reviewing the SMB Business Plan and broader communication strategy.
Participate in reviewing and questioning local MAPPA statistics.
Attend local and regional events with the agreement of the Responsible Authority (Police, Probation, Prison Service).

Person Specification

No formal educational qualifications are necessary but must be able to understand complex information in written and numerical form.
Interest in community and social issues, preferably with a track record of involvement in them.
Capacity for emotional resilience, retaining sensitivity whilst dealing with tragic or painful human situations. In particular, this includes an ability to understand the needs and feelings of both victims and offenders.
Good social skills.
Able to work effectively with people in groups and in formal meetings.
An awareness of and commitment to equality and diversity.
Able to challenge, constructively, the views and assumptions of senior professionals.
Able to maintain confidentiality appropriate to the circumstances and local protocols.


For further information, Please click here.

Grayshott Concerts seeks new Trustee with legal knowledge

Join our Board of Trustees and help us deliver our world-class classical music concerts and the various community outreach and education activities.

What will you be doing?

Due to imminent retirements, and following a strategic review, Grayshott Concerts is looking for new Trustees. We would like to talk to interested candidates who can bring to bear one or more of the following skills and experience:

1. financial reporting and accounting

2. legal requirements for charities

3. fundraising experience

4. community outreach and/or music education.

The Board has oversight over an excellent management team, consisting of a highly engaged group of volunteers, a freelance professional accountant, a PR agency, professional web and IT, bookkeeping and accountancy services.


What are we looking for?

We are looking for Trustees who are committed to using their time and skills to help deliver the core mission of the charity and provide effective governance and control. We are looking for people with

  1. A passion for the Arts and the benefits artistic endeavour brings to isolated communities
  2. Experience and understanding of governance in a small/medium sized charity
  3. Commitment to and passion for the Grayshott Concerts model, approach and ethos
  4. Enthusiasm and a flexible attitude
  5. A creative approach to solving problems

….and skills/experience in one or more of the following areas:

Finance: Knowledge of charity accounting and a understanding of monitoring financial performance preferably in a small organisation (note: we are not looking for a Treasurer, but knowledge of charity accounting and reporting would be desirable in all Trustees)

Fundraising: Knowledge of the UK’s charitable funding landscape. Understanding the importance of contributed income and the need for continuous cultivation of the membership and other networks.

Legal requirements for charities: An understanding of charity law and the requirements of charity reporting and accountability. An understanding of fundraising regulation and its requirements.

Operational: Experience with- or an understanding of organising large scale public events.

Community Outreach: An understanding of the importance of music in the community and of the beneficial social and emotional impact of live music. We focus our outreach work in particular on the elderly and young people.


What difference will you make?

We need a committed Trustee who can ensure the charity’s stability and long term development. You will be helping to implement the new strategic development plan of Grayshott Concerts which will cement a resilient future for the charity. This is important transformational work that will ensure a long term future for world-class music on the Hampshire and Surrey borders.

We believe world-class performances of classical music shouldn’t be confined to the major cities. Our location in relatively rural Surrey & Hampshire is unique and our presence here offers real benefits to our community. It is therefore desirable if candidates live locally or have an affinity with the area and are willing to travel.


What’s in it for the volunteer?

Grayshott Concerts is driven by a team of committed and passionate people; Trustees, Managers and Volunteers. Trustees are instrumental in bringing music and learning to the heart of the community and in doing so they enhance the quality of life for audiences, young people and the “harder-to-reach”. The rewards from being involved and the learning experience you’ll get cannot be underestimated.”

Please click here for further information.

Charity to improve disadvantaged lives in London ‘Munroe Health’ seeks new Trustee

Founded in 2002 and obtaining charitable status in 2007, Munro Health exists to improve the quality of lives of disadvantaged people living and working in London. Our area of remit is Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and surrounding Boroughs. Working in partnership with other organisations, Munro Health offers a range of complementary therapies including: acupuncture, massage, reflexology or shiatsu to people who may be disadvantaged or isolated from the communities in which they live.

Post COVID we now have the opportunity to open up our services again and clients are so in need of our support.  We are a small Board of Trustees and so you can have a great opportunity to learn about governance and oversight as well as get directly involved in running our projects and seeking funding for new ones.


Please click here for further information.

Wandsworth Community Transport seeks new Trustee – legal expertise sought

The Management Committee (MC) of Wandsworth Community Transport (WCT) are responsible for setting the strategic direction of the charity and for overseeing and supporting its implementation.  The role of the WCT MC includes the following:

  • Giving clear direction, leadership, guidance, and advice to the WCT staff.
  • Safeguarding the good name and values of WCT and acting as an ambassador for the charity.
  • Providing vision, inspiration, and support to the WCT staff.
  • Ensuring effective and efficient administration of the charity.
  • Ensuring the financial stability of WCT.
  • Appointing staff as needed and monitoring their performance.
  • Using specific skills, knowledge, or experience to help the Board of Trustees to reach sound decisions.

The role would include, reading board papers prior to Board meetings and contributing to or leading discussions in these meetings.  There would also be scope to act as a board champion for a particular area of WCT work, identifying and focusing on key issues and guiding new initiatives.

The WCT MC meet bi-monthly, and the last meeting was in person, in Balham.  Further meetings will be either at ShopMobility, in Sainsbury’s on Garratt Lane or on zoom (in line with whatever the current government guidelines are at the time).  There are currently 7 members of the WCT MC, and the aim is to have up to 10.

We are specifically looking to recruit member of the WCT MC with the following career backgrounds, HR and Legal.

We are also looking for Trustees that can speak additional languages to assist us with our community reach.  Members of the MC report directly to the Managing Director of WCT and the MC Chair.

This is a voluntary charity trustee role that would be brilliant for someone who cares about community, community transport and accessibility for all.

Preference will be given to applicants that live in the Borough of Wandsworth.


What are we looking for?

We are specifically looking to recruit member of the WCT MC with the following career backgrounds, HR and Legal.

We are also looking for Trustees that can speak additional languages to assist us with our community reach.

This is a voluntary charity trustee role that would be brilliant for someone who cares about community, community transport and accessibility for all.

Please click here for further information.

The Export Guarantees Advisory Council seeks new Committee Member – applications welcomed from the legal profession

The Export Guarantees Advisory Council (EGAC) is an Expert Committee which advises the Secretary of State on UKEF’s operations.

The Council normally provides advice to the Secretary of State through UK Export Finance officials, usually at meetings attended by UK Export Finance’s Chief Executive. The Council addresses its views directly to the Ministers on any subject where it deems it appropriate to do so. It meets with the Minister once a year, or more if necessary.

The role

In practice, the Council primarily concerns itself with providing advice on the ethical policies applied by UKEF in the conduct of its business related to anti-bribery and corruption, environmental, social and human rights risks and impacts of the projects which it supports, sustainable lending and transparency (including freedom of information).

The Council does not have any executive powers. It reviews past decisions UKEF has made to support export transactions and provides advice on the decision-making and, in particular, the application of ethical policies. It does not comment on cases under consideration for a decision.

UKEF informs the Council of developments related to relevant international agreements and policies set by Ministers which guide UKEF operations so that these can be taken into account by the Council in providing its advice.

To help inform its work, from time to time, the Council meets stakeholder groups: export and trade associations (for example, the CBI, the British Exporter’s Association, UK Finance) and civil society organisations (for example, Campaign Against Arms Trade, Jubilee Debt, The Corner House, Transparency International and WWF-UK).

The Council operates to terms of reference. It meets four times a year and the minutes of its meetings are published. The Council publishes an Annual Report of its activities.


Who they’re looking for

The EGAC is seeking two members who have demonstrable experience of the practical application of ethical policies pertinent to UKEF (environment, social and human rights, anti-bribery and corruption, sustainable lending), particularly within a business and/or government context.

The preferred candidate is expected to have:

  • experience of commerce and international trade, the private export finance and credit insurance market and debt/capital markets.
  • expertise in one or more of the following:
    • Climate Change / Paris Agreement
    • The Sustainable Development Goals
    • Sustainable lending
    • Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues, and trends, including human rights, particularly regarding supply chains and the integration/trade-off/balancing of these issues
    • Sectors where UKEF typically works or is looking to support in the future, such as renewable/low carbon energy, infrastructure, heavy industry, etc.
  • an understanding of UKEF’s purpose and business and its role of supporting exports while at the same time complying with policies on ethical matters.
  • familiarity with the OECD ‘Recommendation of the Council on Common Approaches for Officially Supported Export Credits and Environmental and Social Due Diligence (The ‘Common Approaches’), the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (the Ruggie ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework’), the Equator Principles, and related international agreements which may be associated with the role of export credit agencies.
  • familiarity with the OCED recommendations in relation to export credits on anti-bribery and sustainable lending an understanding of the role of an advisory council, including its relationship to Ministers.

Suitable candidates will demonstrate the following personal qualities:

  • an ability to contribute to the work of the EGAC through giving advice, challenge, constructive criticism and support.
  • an ability to work effectively in managing positive relationships with stakeholders that adds value to an organisation; and a commitment to attend all meetings and undertake the necessary preparation.

We would welcome and encourage applications from:

  • professions which could include business, public sector, not for profit sector, which would include expertise from the environmental, construction, consultancy, legal, and finance professions.
  • women, disabled and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) candidates.

Please click here for further information.

A practical and informative session with leading headhunter Kit Bingham

We were delighted to welcome Kit Bingham to BCKR. Kit is the Head of the UK Board practice at leading headhunter Heidrick & Struggles, leading searches for Chairs, Non-Executive Directors and Chief Executive Officers across a wide range of industries.  Kit joined the session and provided members with a practical guide on how to approach headhunters.

According to Kit, lawyers are problem solvers, crisis managers and people who bring solutions to the board, but they also need to bring ingredient ‘x’!  Click below to find out more.




Age UK in Plymouth seeks new Trustee with legal expertise

Age UK Plymouth operates in a challenging environment. As with all charities working in adult social care, budgets have been tightened and we need to ensure that we continue to deliver high quality services in difficult times. It is an exciting time for the charity as we look to open a short-term care centre on the top two floors of our William and Patricia Venton Centre.

As a Trustee you will work in partnership with your fellow Trustees and the Chief Executive Officer to agree the long-term vision and strategic objectives of the charity which will include how best to enhance our services and make best use of our assets and investments. Your role as Trustee is also to ensure that the Charity complies with the necessary charitable and company governance frameworks.

You will attend Board meetings and may be encouraged to join either the Finance and Investment Committee or the Services, Quality and Safety Committee. You will need to be able to devote sufficient time to prepare for and attend the Board meetings which take place between 6-8 times a year. Meetings tend to commence at 4.30pm.

Who are we looking for?
We are looking for Trustees who have a strong empathy with Age UK Plymouth’s mission and values, are collegiate in approach and are comfortable working with others to develop a strategy that will deliver positive change and ultimately will make Plymouth a great place for later life.

We welcome applicants from any background and are committed to developing a diverse board of Trustees.
Whilst we are particularly interested in applications from those with a background from the list below, we would also welcome applicants who can add real value to Age UK Plymouth:

  • Marketing
  • Fundraising
  • Legal
  • Digital

This is a voluntary post (as with all Trustees) but all reasonable expenses will be reimbursed.


Please click here for further information.

The Carnegie Theatre & Arts Trust seeks new Trustee with legal skills

The Carnegie Theatre & Arts Centre is one of West Cumbria’s much-loved historic buildings and premier theatre and community cultural hub. 

What will you be doing?

The Carnegie Theatre Trust manages three key spaces: the 306-seat auditorium, a café and bar and our arts and learning centre from which we currently run a flourishing range of participatory events.

Despite the challenges created by COVID-19 our ambition is to grow and develop our arts and cultural offer beyond the popular theatre programme, developing exciting partnerships which help us further flourish by expanding our audiences, developing arts creation spaces, and evolving our learning centre.

Involving local people and enabling them to be engaged with our creative activities lies at the heart of what we do.

It is therefore time to bring our Board back to full strength and broaden the range of knowledge and perspectives as we look forwards and ambitiously plan for the next 5 years. The current Board is made up of 6 Trustee Directors. As Trustees we are collectively responsible for the continued success and sustainability of the Carnegie Theatre Trust.

We are seeking a diverse range of applications with a variety of experiences: previous experience as a Trustee is not necessary.

We particularly welcome interest from people with expertise in the areas of: Finance; Legal; Education; Arts, Human Resources; Arts engagement.


What are we looking for?

The desirable skills we look for in a potential trustee are:

  • Demonstrate a strong and visible passion and commitment to CTT, its strategic objectives and purpose
  • An understanding and acceptance of the legal duties, responsibilities, and liabilities of trusteeship
  • Strategic vision
  • Sound judgement
  • Ability to think creatively
  • Willingness to speak up, debate and discuss, making decision-making more robust and conclusions more satisfactory in the interests of Carnegie Theatre Trust
  • Tact and diplomacy, with the ability to listen and engage effectively
  • Integrity
  • A team player

What difference will you make?

The Board of Trustees is collectively responsible for the continuing success and sustainability of the Carnegie Theatre Trust (CTT) in line with the mission, objectives and values set out our strategic plans.

Trustees ensure that CTT has a clear strategy, and that its work and goals are in line with its vision.

A Trustees role is to ensure that all decisions put the needs of the beneficiaries first.

Trustees safeguard the charities assets – both physical assets, including property, and intangible ones, such as its reputation. They make sure these are used well and that the charity is run sustainably.

Trustees don’t usually do the day-to-day running of the charity but support and challenge the staff to help them manage effectively.

Please click here for further information.

Empathy Museum seeks new Chair and Trustee with legal expertise

Empathy Museum makes high quality participatory artworks that foster a sense of empathy through the use of storytelling and conversation, with an ambition to heal division and promote understanding. We think this is especially important in the current polarised climate, with divisive populism and racism on the rise, alongside an increase in isolation and loneliness.

The artworks we make are modelled on different aspects of the high street(shoe shop, book shop, estate agents).They happen in public places, arefree to access, tour nationally and internationally and are created in collaboration with participants, artists and cultural partners.

We have a strong online presence through our podcast series and digital gallery. We are a company limited by guarantee. We’re also a charity. The core organisation is run day-to-day by a team of three, working part-time

Empathy Museum’s exhibits are conceived by Clare Patey, an award-winning artist and curator who devises participatory installations, performances and exhibitions. She also created the Museum Of, The Ministry of Trying to Do Something About It and Feast on the Bridge for the Thames Festival.

We are looking for a new Chair and two new Trustees.

Please click here for a link to the full job specification and application details.


Care home charity for those with neurological conditions seeks new Trustee with legal expertise

The Mortimer Society is seeking Trustees from a wide range of backgrounds with compassion and commitment to provide excellence in care for the residents within the two residential homes. We are particularly interested in people with expertise in legal matters or marketing/fundraising or a background in medicine, nursing and healthcare.

The Mortimer Society

The Mortimer Society is a charity which aims to provide quality and safe care for those with a physical and/or a learning disability and in particular those people living with Huntington’s Disease and other neurological conditions. This care is provided in two residential care homes – Frindsbury House in Rochester and Birling House in Snodland.

The Board of Trustees is the governing body of The Mortimer Society and Board members are both charitable trustees and directors of a company limited by guarantee and their activities are governed by both charity and company law. Trustees are jointly and severally responsible for the overall governance and strategic direction of the charity and must ensure that the charity is solvent, well run and delivers against its charitable objectives.

We are keen to ensure the diversity of our organisation, and the Mortimer Society community is represented by our Board of Trustees. We would encourage applications from candidates from all backgrounds and would welcome the opportunity to hear from disabled people and from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic and LGBTQI+ candidates.

What does a Trustee do?

The Board of Trustees (the Board) is the governing body of The Mortimer Society. Board members are both charitable trustees and directors of a company limited by guarantee and their activities are governed by both charity and company law. Trustees are jointly and severally responsible for the overall governance and strategic direction of the charity and must ensure that the charity is solvent, well run and delivers against its charitable objects.

The Trustees are jointly and severally responsible for the management and success of the charity.

The Trustees are legally responsible for the charity’s money and property held in trust on behalf of the charity’s beneficiaries.

The Trustees shall ensure that the charity achieves best practice in all aspects of the charity’s work and will monitor the charity’s attainment in this area.

The Trustees shall ensure that the charity provides the best possible service to its beneficiaries, members, external stakeholders and the public and will monitor this and put in place a mechanism for the charity to welcome and review comments and/ or complaints about its service in order to improve its future service.

The Trustees shall review the work of the charity by monitoring its performance against agreed objectives and indicators.

The Trustees shall promote and progress equality and diversity within the organisation.

The commitment for a Trustee is to attendance at 4 half day Board meetings every year, a half day annual general meeting, special meetings as required and training of up to one day annually. Attendance at the social functions at the homes is actively encouraged to allow Trustees to meet residents, families and staff.

What are we looking for?

The Mortimer Society Board wishes to recruit new Trustees to widen its skill base and we recognise the benefits and opportunities of having a diverse Board and are actively encouraging applicants from a wide range of backgrounds.

In particular we are looking primarily for trustees with an interest and enthusiasm for the residential care of people with disability.  We would also greatly benefit from someone who could bring expertise in legal matters (although we would still have specialist advice from the existing legal support for specific issues), medical or nursing experience or knowledge of marketing and fundraising.

We are seeking people with a commitment to the Society and showing:

Passion and commitment to improving the care for the residents

Dedication to inclusive working, valuing difference and respecting all people

An ability to challenge and debate with respect and accept constructive discussion

A strategic vision

Pro-active attitude and enthusiasm

Honesty, integrity and reliability

If this is your first time considering the role of Trustee, we will ensure you receive support and guidance so that you can participate effectively. These rewarding and stimulating roles are voluntary, but travel and subsistence expenses will be paid.

What difference will you make?

As a Trustee you will have a direct impact on the governance, strategy and operational compliance of the charity. The Board is essential in providing the effective leadership of the charity, to ensure that we continue to provide excellent care for our residents and their families.

Trustees will be part of a Board that supports a passionate and dedicated team – the Executive Management Team and all care and support staff.

If you would like to have an informal and confidential discussion please contact Paul Studd, CEO at the Mortimer Society – 01634 244689

Here is a link for the Mortimer Society

The Humane Research Trust seeks new Trustee with law expertise

We support medical research for the benefit of people but without the use of animals or animal products. We support blue sky or orphan research, We support developing non – animal methodologies and scientists at the start of their careers.


What will you be doing?

  • Attend quarterly Trust Board meetings.
  • Work on skill specific projects in between.
  • Help to develop future strategy and be involved in the general management of the Trust.
  • Provide input on the choice of new medical research projects as lay person.


What we are looking for

Due to recent retirements we are looking for a number of Trustees with professional expertise and experience in the areas of Digital Marketing; Accounting; and Law. Trustees must be willing to work as part of a team and to assist in the general management and operation of the Trust. We anticipate that this will involve about 3-5 hours a month plus attendance at quarterly Board meetings.

The Trust has lost a number of Trustees recently due to retirement after long and valued service. We have taken this opportunity to refresh the skill base of the Trustees and are looking for people wanting to make a real contribution to moving forward.

The Humane Research Trust believes that human models work best for human diseases and that working with us offers the opportunity to advance medical knowledge and treatment for people with problems that don’t often attract the large scale funders or Pharma either because the work is ‘blue sky’ or  the disease is rare and does not offer sufficient financial return. It also offers the opportunity to relieve the very real suffering of animals involved in research. As the Board is small in number it offers new recruits the opportunity to contribute both within and outside their professional skills remit in a supportive culture.

Please click here for further information.

HealthWatch Lincolnshire seeks new Trustee with legal experience

As a Volunteer Trustee you will be making sure the Charity is governed well and delivers it’s aims. We are looking for individuals with a range of skills and experience, including: Finance, Social Care, Bid writing, Contracting & Negotiating, Legal experience, Counselling, Advocacy, Health. We welcome good communicators, be this face to face, via the telephone or electronically, who are good at English, who are prepared to critique or write reports and attend Board meetings and committees. Trustee positions are ongoing and currently take place virtually


HWLincs is offering an exciting opportunity for people who are interested in making a difference, to join our Volunteer Trustee Team. We are currently looking to build up our Volunteer Trustee team to ensure we have a range of different skills and experience.

About HWLincs

Please click here to register your interest.

The Questions the Board is asking about the Markets with James Ayling at JM Finn

We thought members should know what boards are asking about the markets as we emerge from the throes of COVID and we’re delighted that JM Finn has agreed to help us on this.

James Ayling is a Research Analyst within JM Finn’s Equity Research team responsible for UK and overseas equity coverage.  He will guide members through the high and low points for market investors, what you would be expected to know and how you should, as a director, often take market movements with a pinch of salt and concentrate on the core messaging. Prior to joining JM Finn, James worked in venture capital both investing and advising. Outside of work, James runs a small cufflink enterprise (Off The Cuff) and every now and again he attempts to strum a few cords on his dusty guitar.

Community charity in Ipswich seeks new Trustee with legal experience

Ipswich Community Media (ICM) is a rapidly growing grassroots charity working based in the Westgate Ward in Ipswich, one of the most deprived wards in the country and the most diverse ward in Suffolk. Launched in 2015 by a group of people with a shared vision to serve the local community, we run free weekly sessions in music, media, creative arts and language learning.
Through innovative and engaging methods, we are able to boost self-esteem, interpersonal, social skills, group working and provide pathways to employment and volunteer opportunities.

Our mission is to challenge inequality by empowering people to transform their lives through learning and creativity.

We are particularly keen to hear from those with the following skills and experience:

  • Financial management
  • Fundraising experience
  • Experience working with marginalised communities
  • Setting targets, monitoring and evaluating performance and programmes in commercial and non-profit making Organisations
  • Legal matters
  • Recruitment and personnel management, including knowledge of employment legislation
  • Public relations
  • Marketing
  • IT systems
  • Campaigning
  • Education and learning
  • Safeguarding
  • Youth Work

Please click here for further information.

The Board: A General Counsel’s Perspective with Dan Fitz

We were joined by Dan Fitz, GC of the Crick Institute. Dan has served as General Counsel and Company Secretary of BT Group, Cable & Wireless and Misys. He has chaired the Association of Corporate Counsel and been Vice Chair of the GC 100. He has been named in the FT’s list of the top 30 Global General Counsel and in 2014 the FT named him one of the top 100 LGBT executives.  Watch back to see how Dan planned, or didn’t plan, his career path leading him to his current post.


The Portfolio Lawyer with Lynn Hiestand former partner at Skadden Arps

Lynn spent nearly thirty years in international corporate restructuring, mostly at Skadden Arps in Chicago and London, before moving to Heartland Alliance International, a human rights organisation aimed at assisting marginalized populations. She has recently been Country Director in Iraq where HAI aims to provide legal, mental health and other services to vulnerable Iraqis throughout the Kurdistan Region and Southern Iraq.

Alongside this, Lynn is a NED or trustee for JUSTICE, Wellbeing for Women, Literature for All of Us and Georgetown University Law Center, roles based in the US and the UK.

What marks out Lynn’s CV to us, is that her non-executive career started many years before that, in the 1990s.  We will learn how Lynn manages to juggle so many strands of life, on an international basis, and why she made the move into the human rights sphere on an executive basis where she did.


The Chairman’s Perspective with Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen former Chair of RADA and theatre empresario

This is a talk which should inspire anyone interested in getting more involved with the arts, revealing how someone can move seamlessly from one professional City career into a hugely successful artistic life.  There are definitely roles for NEDs and Stephen will help us understand how to get them.

Stephen started his career as a financial journalist straight from reading law at Cambridge, and, aged 23, was a founder of Euromoney Publications.

But his principal interest over the last 40 years has been the theatre – and he has, since 1984, been a West End theatre owner and manager of– not all at the same time – 11 leading West End theatres including the Victoria Palace, the Vaudeville, the Savoy and the Ambassadors. Most famously, perhaps, he held the licence to produce The Mousetrap (from Agatha Christie’s grandson to whom she gave the rights as a ninth birthday present), which Stephen acquired from Dame Agatha’s original producer who had launched the show 42 years earlier.

Once in the theatre, Stephen took up a number of NED positions, first in the Lloyds insurance sector where his roles included Chair of Willis Faber & Dumas (Agencies), as well as chairing two small listed companies, one in insurance and one in publishing, as well as his largest commercial NED chairmanship at Portsmouth & Sunderland Newspapers.

Alongside the management roles, he has also held a number of positions in the Not for Profit sector. He retires this year after 14 years as Chair of the Council (Board) of RADA and, in 1997, he founded the education charity, Mousetrap Theatre Projects, which has taken over 100,000 disadvantaged young people to the theatre. He was a trustee of The Theatres Trust, President of the Society of London Theatre and remains Chair of Acting for Others (which funds support for all theatre workers through its 14 member charities) and the Garrick Charitable Trust which supports performing arts and literature.  He is now standing down as President of JCA Charitable Foundation after 25 years during which he has transformed this 130 year old Jewish charity.

Former lawyer turned psychotherapist Gavin Sharpe – workaholism, life, law and stress

We were joined by former Allen & Overy lawyer, Gavin Sharpe who, in 2012, made the decision to retrain as a coach and psychotherapist. He encouraged us all to take a step back and take a look at work and life as a whole. Anyone who takes work calls whilst on ‘holiday’ or pulled all-nighters, will benefit from spending a few minutes listening and reflecting upon what Gavin had to say. Gavin himself now has a diversified portfolio career alongside his main career, and seems to have achieved a balance that many current lawyers are now looking for.

The Portfolio Lawyer with Andrew Peck: Plan ahead, get committee experience and fill your address book!

We were joined by former Linklaters lawyer, Andrew Peck, who shared with us his experience of planning for and achieving a fulfilling portfolio career. This should resonate with any lawyer currently thinking about how the next few years will look.

Click the link below and watch the webinar back to hear Andrew’s top tips for planning ahead, achieving his aims, and looking forward with no regrets.

Tim Wainwright CE WaterAid UK: What to look for in a good board member

Tim has worked with two Chairs who have also been lawyers so you’ll be pleased to hear that he doesn’t feel lawyers should be pigeon-holed into one single category. He wants to see what that individual can offer as a whole. Indeed, Tim has found a legal background to be a valued asset on a board, often bringing with it wisdom, a breadth of experience, “lawyers see an awful lot of things!” and, in his experience, a “precise and forensic'” approach.

Watch Tim Clark (BCKR) and Tim Wainwright in discussion below.

Headhunter Susanne André: the benefits Lawyers can bring to development agencies and non-profits

Starting out as a lawyer, and now in search for the development and NGO sector, Susanne’s session looked at a number of aspects of the NED roles in the development sector and the opportunities for lawyers who are considering these roles. These aspects included:

  • the inter-linkages between the public and private sectors in the light of the UN SDGs
  • the differences between the private and development sectors including cultural and senior relationship matters
  • the attributes which are required for appointments in the development sector including a growth mindset, motivation for the cause, diplomacy and networking
  • the expertise and experience of lawyers which support successful applications including understanding business organisations and partnership dynamics (in particular, consensus decision-making), attention to detail and the advisory mindset

Overall, it was Susanne’s view that the development sector held out a range of interesting opportunities for lawyers given their experience and expertise. This was particularly the case following the pandemic given that attendance at meetings (which, for many agencies, were held outside the UK) would not continue to involve such an extensive travel requirement.

Watch the webinar below to hear more.


The Portfolio Lawyer – Jonathan Scott: how to have a successful plural life after law

On retiring from his roles as Senior Partner and Executive Chair of Herbert Smith Freehills, Jonathan Scott wanted to take on number of external appointments.  He has sought roles which would be an interesting challenge,  take him out of his comfort zone, enable him to ‘put something back’ and ultimately, have fun in the process.

With some help along the way Jonathan now enjoys a successful plural life. Do watch our conversation with Jonathan who gave us a first hand insight into how he went about realising his plans and just what benefits he feels lawyers can bring to boards.

Andrea Coomber Director of Justice: how law, and lawyers, can be a vehicle for change

Andrea Coomber, the Director of Justice, gave an excellent overview of the role of Justice in addressing societal concerns and of the value of the justice system as a public good. She also looked at how lawyers might themselves practically contribute to the challenge of ensuring that the justice system is effective, particularly at a time when public confidence has been shaken in areas such as racial inequality and gender based violence.
She concluded with some valuable insights into remote working based on her experience of working as Director of Justice from Australia in recent months.
Watch Andrea in discussion with one of BCKR’s directors, Guy Beringer, below.

Headhunter Jan Hall: Be your own best advocate

Jan was until recently one of the leading headhunters for Chair, Board and senior executive roles at major corporates and is now running a consultancy for senior NEDs and management. Jan’s session gave many insights (based on her executive and NED career – which started at the age of 27) into:

  • how headhunters work and how to make them your messenger,
  • how to keep in touch with them,
  • avoiding being desperate, grumpy or arrogant, and
  • why we should not take rejection personally.

She has also recently published Changing Gear, on how best to approach life after a full-on career.

One point was of particular note – when researching this book, Jan realised that, when compared to others, we lawyers spend too little time treating ourselves and our next career stage as a project and, therefore, invest too little in ourselves when working out our next steps and securing the next stage of our careers. BCKR and its various offerings offer you a good way to make this key investment.

Do watch the webinar below to hear Jan’s take on the transition to portfolio life.

Rebecca Gudgeon on ESG and Corporate Reputation

Rebecca Gudgeon, a partner in the communications firm Hudson Sandler, has extensive experience as an adviser on organisation risk and reputation issues. She leads HS Sustain (the ESG practice of Hudson Sandler) and is one of the leading advisers in the ESG sector.

Rebecca’s talk (and the subsequent conversation) covered the impact of the rapidly developing ESG sector, the broad scope of ESG requirements and the knowledge which non-executive board members of an organisation (including not for profit boards) now need to have to operate effectively as NEDs.  The areas covered by the discussion included:
  • ESG and the development of strategy (including the role of the UN SDGs)
  • the stakeholders affected by ESG strategy and operations
  • the cross disciplinary impact of ESG
  • measurement and the role of ESG rating agencies
  • the role of the Board in looking at ESG requirements
  • the interplay between long-term strategy and shorter term decision-making (including executive remuneration) and reporting
  • becoming familiar with ESG requirements
  • how to deal with ESG ‘dinosaurs’ on a board.

Click below to watch back the webinar.

Hilary Wild: How the Audit Committee can be a perfect fit for a lawyer

We were joined by highly experienced audit committee chair, Hilary Wild, who takes us through just how beneficial the presence of a lawyer on a board can be. The prerequisites of an audit committee member – the ability to think independently and objectively, integrity, the ability to manage confidential and sensitive information, are all characteristics often found not just in accountants but in lawyers too.

Whilst not all lawyers are not finance professionals, many lawyers are hugely financially literate and their place on an Audit Committee will be an asset. Indeed, as Hilary suggested herself, an Audit Committee made up solely of accountants would not be at all healthy! Lawyers have the potential to bring far more to the table.

Hilary has provided some useful background material from The Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors which provides us with a high level view of the context for audit committees, and a sample audit committee charter. Please do watch the webinar below to find out more.


Miranda Wayland from the BBC: Boardroom issues of the day – BLM and the diversity agenda

We were delighted to be joined by Miranda Wayland, Head of Creative Diversity at the BBC who talked us through how they go about analysing the gap between diversity/equality and equity and the practical steps which can be taken to address that gap as well as looking at diversity in its widest context. Miranda articulates well one of the key issues of understanding other people’s perceptions and perspectives.

The BBC – although different from other organisations – is a great comparator and the (internal) work which they were doing is really impressive and an example if we are to address these fundamental problems.

Click the video below to watch our webinar.

David Paterson: top tips for current lawyers – plan early and take the initiative

We were joined by former lawyer, David Paterson, who spoke candidly about the need to preserve self esteem and be realistic when starting out on a portfolio life. His words will resonate with many of us. David guides our members through his own journey in transitioning from being an M&A and board advisory partner at HSF to holding a variety of non-executive and trustee roles in the charitable and sporting arena just two years later.

David recommends doing research to find out what it is you want from a portfolio life, be realistic, network, and use the services that BCKR has to offer.

Watch the recording below to hear more from David.


RACC-UK (Rare auto-inflammatory support organisation) seeks new Trustee with law expertise

TrusteeRACC – UK is the UK’s only patient charity for patients and families suffering from #Rare Autoinflammatory conditions.

We are looking for applications from people from all social and cultural backgrounds, which are passionate about Rare Diseases, enthusiastic and reliable, with a variety of skills and experience they could use to help with the running of Rare Auto-inflammatory Conditions Community – UK (RACC-UK), such as:

  • Charity governance
  • Finance
  • Law
  • Fundraising
  • Project management
  • Business management
  • Marketing
  • Communication
  • Human Resources
  • Event planning


We are looking for skilled, enthusiastic and reliable people to manage the affairs of Rare Auto-inflammatory Conditions Community – UK (RACC-UK) as trustees, ensuring that the Branch is governed and managed effectively, whilst continually having Rare Diseases at the forefront of their minds. Trustees serve on the governing body of the charity and have the responsibility for the running of the charity.

Please click here for further information.

Guy Henderson: Six steps to take when looking at life after law

This week we were joined by Guy Henderson, former lawyer at Allen & Overy, who performed a complete career change and is now Chief Executive of Ascot Racecourse, amongst other things.

Guy takes us through the six steps he would recommend taking when sitting down to consider a life after law, planning for a life that makes you ‘leap out of bed in the morning!’


Christopher Rodrigues CBE: judgement, insight, worldly experience and a passion for the cause

Christopher Rodrigues, chair past and present of a diverse range of boards from the arts and sport to finance and education, provided our members with an invaluable insight into what he looks for in a useful board member, often counting lawyers among those who can best help the board make better decisions. He takes the refreshing approach of always trying to recruit members to his boards for whom the role will be their first.

Additionally, Christopher details how the nature and form of board meetings are changing over the course of 2020 while we try and cope with the limitations imposed by the pandemic – some changes are for the better, and some will be retained even after the threat of covid has subsided.

Lisa Mulley: taking control of your personal and professional life with consulting

We were recently joined by Lisa Mulley who leads Peerpoint, the consulting panel for Allen & Overy, who considers how lawyers, in her experience, can take their first brave steps into the world of legal consultancy, thereby allowing them greater control and the freedom to explore different avenues.

‘Knowing your skillset’, and ‘good listening skills’ are just a couple of areas crucial for lawyers to consider if they wish to successfully pursue a career in consultancy. These are equally crucial areas for lawyers to review in preparation for securing their board roles.  Being a good lawyer is almost a ‘given’. Do watch the webinar to find out more about this potentially exciting and enriching area.

If you email us here, we will be happy to put any of our members in touch with Peerpoint if they wish to consider consultancy.

Susie Cummings from Nurole: Simplifying the headhunting process

We were joined by Susie Cummings from Nurole who talked us through the process they adopt when charged with finding candidates to fill board roles, citing many lawyers along the way who have successfully attained their board roles this way. Nurole actively encourages boards to hire ‘first timers’, indeed around half their appointees are taking on their first role. Do watch the webinar to see Susie’s enthusiasm for this successful, thriving business model.

If you would like to get in touch with Nurole, Susie and her team will be pleased to hear from BCKR members. Please email them enquiries@nurole.com to find out more.



Malcolm Sparkes and Cyber-Security: “it is the business of the board to manage risk”

This week we were very fortunate to welcome Malcolm Sparkes and his colleague Dr Susanna Berry from security consultancy firm Blacksmiths, to discuss how the Non-Executive Director can be best placed to help minimise risk and ensure their firm is secure.

Given the increasing number of cyber-attacks on firms large and small, the webinar is worth watching. We consider subjects ranging from security within large institutions to whether there is risk working from home on your own laptop! Malcolm also let us have a list of the top 10 security questions non-executive directors may like to raise, as during the webinar he reminded us that ‘it is the business of the board to manage risk’.


Webinar with Nigel Boardman: taking on external roles ‘makes you a better advisor’

BCKR welcomed portfolio lawyer Nigel Boardman to talk us through his journey from partner at Slaughter & May to where he is now, holding an interesting and diverse portfolio of non-executive roles.

If you are starting to consider taking on roles, it’s worth listening to what Nigel has to say about lawyers sitting on boards and just how much taking on roles can benefit your clients, benefit your employer, and ultimately, you. As Nigel himself says, taking on roles “adds humanity to your life and work… anyone who’s qualified as a lawyer has a lot to offer.”


Webinar with John Schonert: Headhunting is not a dark art! A different approach to finding the right NED

We were delighted to welcome John Schonert from executive search firm Williams Schone this week. He put BCKR director, Elizabeth Holden, on one of her boards, so is ideally placed to guide our members when looking for their first portfolio role. We hope you will find John’s approach to placing Non-Executive Directors both engaging and refreshing.

If you wish to take up John’s offer of an initial discussion please let us know here and we’ll put you in touch.



Webinar with Nick Alcock from G3: The World Post Covid

We recently welcomed Nick Alcock, former investment banker and intelligence officer, now CEO of the G3, one of the leading international business intelligence firms advising a range of companies, investors and law firms on issues across the business world.

Click the video link below to hear Nick’s take on how the world may look in the future.





Webinar with Nick Aitchison: One-to-One guidance during the Pandemic

BCKR’s Nick Aitchison talked us through the tailored service we are offering during the pandemic and beyond. Elizabeth Holden, Guy Beringer and Tim Clark gave us their useful insight too in how they were able to go about securing their their first NED roles. Click the on the webinar below to find out more.




Martin Jones: The Parole Board and Lawyers make a perfect fit

BCKR recently welcomed Martin Jones to host a Breakfast Event. Martin has been Chief Executive of The Parole Board for nearly five years and has worked in the justice system for 27 years. His current role has been  the most challenging and also the most rewarding. Members can access the presentation Martin gave here.


What does the Parole Board do?

It is similar to a court – a body that, independent of the Government, makes decisions regarding  whether to order the release of prisoners; it also conditions under which such a release should be made.

There are around 270 members of the Parole Board, making these decisions. Last year the Parole Board released 3,600 people but also decided a further 10,000 needed to remain in prison for the protection of the public. The Board has a 99% success rate; success is defined as the number of people released who go on to commit a serious offence thereafter ( they don’t, for example,  count someone who has spent 30 years in prison, who is then released but is caught shoplifting. Their sole focus in law is the risk to public.

Looking back to when the Parole Board was created in 1967, it had just 17 members and was purely an advisory body – advising the Home Secretary who made the final decision. Leaving the final release decision to politicians, who might be influenced by other factors than solely risk, was not ideal. That is why the Home Secretary’s powers over release have been gradually taken away and now the decisions rest solely within the justice system.

Fifty years ago, there were no parole hearings at all and decisions were made based on a paper-based review. About 25 years ago the courts decided that in the interest of fairness, the prisoners should be entitled to a court hearing to decide their suitability for release. The number of hearings this year is at an all-time high – 8400 hearings, a 590% increase to 15 years ago.


Why does the Parole Board matter?

These are independent decisions based on risk and on evidence.  The Board considers  the evidence and makes the decision based on fairness and the evidence; decisions are not influenced by whether or not someone is going to like/dislike the decision.

It is also about ensuring that we only lawfully keep in prison those that pose significant risk to the public. If necessary, that means some will be in prison for the rest of their lives, and the Board doesn’t  shirk from that. But it is also about providing hope for those who reform and change, and who can show there is a low risk of reoffending.

Ultimately it is about understanding and reducing risk, as well as managing  risk when someone is released back into their community. That is where licensing can be very powerful.  At any one time there are about 1000 people currently on license in the community – with tags on their ankles to track their location.  This acts as a deterrent, but also is a reassurance to victims.  Exclusion zones can be set and there can also be residence and other conditions, setting limits around where they can live, who they can’t  contact i.e. victims or people you originally committed the offence with.


What the Parole Board does

Last year 64,000 people were released from prison. Of these, under 3,000 were released by the Parole Board.  95% are automatically released by virtue of the law with only the more serious offenders being referred to the parole board.  Contrary to popular belief, the Parole Board are not there just to’ let people out’…. the parole system provides a lawful way of keeping people in prison if they are considered to be a continued risk to the public.


Who joins the Parole Board?

As a public body it is important that it reflects the community it serves – diversity is ever more important.  However, the types of people that generally sit on the boards are from the following backgrounds:

  • Judges or magistrates
  • People from a legal background
  • Psychologists and Psychiatrists
  • Justice system background
  • Probation experience or
  • Retired prison governors

There is usually a panel of 3 people, sitting in the prison, with the prisoner on the other side of the table, hearing from the probation officers, prison staff, psychologists and others about what has happened to that prisoner since they’ve been in prison.  Getting an understanding of the way their risk has changed and what their behaviour is like since being in custody.

One major issue is keeping up with the case load. When Martin arrived at the Parole Board in 2015 there was typically a 15 months wait for a hearing, so many of these prisoners would be considered safe to be released but were  being kept in prison merely because of the inability of the system to cope. – and as a result the Parole Board was paying out about £1million per year in prisoner compensation claims.

Increasing transparency has been a major issue since 2018.  Until the law was changed in 2018, a victim could be refused release  without any explanation as to why.  The law then changed to allow the Parole Board to provide summaries of the decision-making process to the victims. The prisoner also gets a separate report detailing why a decision has been made. If it is felt that the decision is unfair the new system allows for the decision to be reconsidered. So far there have been 130 applications and 17 have those have been successful.  In the majority of cases it is the prisoner asking for reconsideration – not the victims.  All these decisions are now being published.


Victims – What are they entitled to?

  • Updates on prisoners progress in custody
  • Can summit a victim personal statement about the impact the offence has had on their life and can read it at the parole hearing if they wish.  Very important that the board is not influenced at all by representations made by the victims.  The decision is made based on the evidence.
  • To be made aware of license decisions, where the prisoner will reside
  • They can write to the Secretary of State for reconsideration
  • Notification of a prisoner’s release

The healing process of the victim is very difficult, and the  Parole Board is sensitive to that.  They do take into account non-contact and inclusion zones.  They have been working with the charity Why Me about the value of restorative justice.  Sometimes this kind of intervention can be the thing that triggers a prisoner to reform.

The Board also deals with about 20-30 terrorism cases each year. For these cases there are is a small group of members cleared at the high security levels to deal with those cases including those high in the judiciary.  There is specialised training to members regarding the specific aspects of risk which are rather different for radicalised prisoners .  Psychological evidence becomes much more important and you need to ask a different set of questions around that.




What insights does it give you into the prison system generally?

Prison conditions are very difficult at times. The levels of prison staffing has directly impacted on the levels of violence in prisons.  Being in prison is also damaging to your health.


What is the criteria for risk?

There is a statutory risk test.  They have to be satisfied that the prisoner is no longer going to be a risk to the public.  You have to go with weighted evidence.  Closer to the civil burden than the reasonable doubt.


What is the process and timescale?

A case will be referred to the Parole Board automatically by the Secretary of State for Justice when the minimum term expires, and the prisoner becomes eligible for parole.  He will disclose a body of papers including all relevant reports to a single member of the board who will do a triage assessment of the case.  They are essentially looking for 3 things:

  1. Is it possible to release the prisoner based on the papers?  That’s quite unusual.
  2. Have you got all the information you need – are there any gaps?
  3. Do you turn down the prisoner based on the papers?  For example did they assault a prisoner officer three  weeks ago … thereby rendering  a parole hearing pointless?

Once the Members are satisfied  they have enough background, the case can be directed to a parole hearing.  Normally it takes about six months from initial referral to the oral hearing.

After the hearing the Chairman will write a report and 14 days later a decision will be given.

There will be anywhere between 1 and 3 members sitting on a panel, depending on the seriousness of the case.


What makes a good member?

It is essentially  the ability to assess information (which can be up to 1000 pages of evidence) and taking on board that evidence to conduct an effective independent assessment and being quite laser-like to reach the  ten or so questions that need to be asked to make a sound decision. Ultimately we need people who can make decisions.  In the past criminal justice experience was generally required but that is not the case anymore.  A lot of the panel chairs are senior people from varied backgrounds –including numerous  Lawyers– who have the ability to assimilate the evidence and have a commitment to fairness, putting aside any personal prejudices (for instance, regarding sex offenders – indeed about 40% of the work relates to sex offenders).


Do you fit members to the attributes of a particular case?

  • Yes – if there are mental health issues they would look to appoint a psychologist to the review. Typically a psychiatrist would be deployed in terrorism cases, etc.
  • In some instances the complexity of the case might require having a judge or lawyer to be on the panel.


What is the selection process?

It is quite a popular job.  The Board recently had 1200 applications for 100 jobs. There are regular 12 week rolling recruitment campaigns.  You can write to the Parole Board and express an interest so that when the next competition opens you can ‘throw your hat into the ring’.

Candidates, via their CVs, need to be able to demonstrate, against a set of examples, that they have gained the requisite set of skills.

The CVs are sifted and then the process goes straight to interview.  During the last process, they conducted about 150 interviews and there was a 70% success rate in securing  the required number of appointments.  The time commitment is about 100 days per year.  Members are paid on a daily rate and can earn around £40,000-£50,000 p.a.

A residential training course and process is provided, which includes:

  • Legal training
  • The identification of a mentor
  • Training on effective questioning – for example how do you question vulnerable prisoners who  feel unable to speak for themselves?
  • Sitting as a co-panellist
  • After 3 months experience, sitting  on your own.  Then after a year it is possible to progress to becoming  a panel Chair.


Is there a postcode lottery with regards to availability of services in the community upon release?

Ultimately the burden falls to the local authority. The Parole Board’s role is solely to make a decision based on risk, which is not based on the availability of services.


Is there an appraisal process?

Yes, members are subject to appraisal.  This covers the decisions made, it entails practical observations, reviews any complaints made etc.


Sir Mike Rake: having a legal mind on the board can mean the right questions are asked

We recently welcomed Sir Mike Rake to come and share with us his experience of heading boards and the positive role lawyers can play on them.

Mike Rake has very wide Board and leadership experience, as the former head of KPMG and since as a Chairman and NED of many organisations, including public companies (including BT plc) in the UK and US, the NHS (Gt Ormond Street Hospital), the CBI etc.

Mike sees the key challenges for boards as follows: constructively addressing the key issues facing the organisation;  defining and adhering to the organisation’s culture and values; understanding and mentoring  the key senior executives;  succession planning; and ensuring good governance and compliance.

It is vital for the Board to stand back and look at the bigger picture.  A clear strategic framework is important, not least as there are CEOs who are strategic but not operational and those who are operationally strong but can’t see the big picture.  Meanwhile, Boards must know enough about what is coming through on the operational point of view.

The role of the board is one of huge responsibility but also very interesting and challenging. Ultimately, it is all about people. For example, sometimes boards have to work with a strong, aggressively confident  CEO with little or no financial background who may be trying to push things forward; in such situations, the Board must be alert. Board members must bring a complex balance of professional experience, constructive challenge, advice and encouragement. Obviously, integrity of reporting is essential. Boards must also have close constructive dialogue with their auditors, and the role of the big accounting firm is very important.

The role of the Chair is to ensure there is a balance of tone and constant, constructive challenge. The UK’s board system is generally a good one compared to the US system, where the combination of CEO and Chair roles can be problematic and lacking in challenge.

The composition of the board is important, bringing different perspectives but with the ability to work constructively together. Too big a board is as bad as no board – and the same goes for the information provided to the board –  i.e. too much data flowing is as bad as no information! It really is unreasonable to expect a non-exec to understand an enormous level of detail when, realistically they maybe only involved (in the NFP sector particularly) with an organisation 4 – 6 times a year.

It is important that the board is diverse in terms of age, gender, social and educational background and professional and international experience, in order to achieve the board’s objectives.  The UK has made a start in the right direction, for example with the 30% Club but headhunters can be a big problem here. They tend to introduce Chairs to people they already know of, to make you feel comfortable. Boards would be improved by widening the net and board diversity has the capacity to have a real impact on success. With a smaller board you do need to work quite hard to find the right people, who can bring the experience and skills you need.

The NEDs’ role is often to ‘ask the stupid question’  –  incidentally there is no such thing as a stupid question! The Chair needs to create the right environment where that is acceptable. The UK approach to boards has been effective, particularly with more private sessions with the Chair outside the boardroom.  It allows the Chair to get feedback and often to become aware of what is going on behind the scenes.

Compared to the accountants, who often successfully move from accountancy to business roles, lawyers tend not to do as well in making a similar transition. Often, doubts exist about lawyers’ financial literacy.  HR directors can also find it difficult to get onto boards for similar reasons. Lawyers are seen more as ‘compliance officers’ and so, unfortunately, lawyers on boards are not common nor are they much in demand. Is it because the legal profession is not seen as being commercial enough, too specialised?

How do you go about building a profile outside the legal profession? The Not for Profit world is more fertile ground for lawyers.  Ironically, though many Chairs think they don’t need a lawyer on their boards because they already have in-house advice, or they can buy it in – many of the biggest mistakes have been by my in-house legal departments not reporting issues to the top management. And if there was a senior legal person on the board then the right questions might be asked.


Q & A

At what point does a Chair’s opinion ‘enter the room’?  

You have to be disciplined. In large organisations, the Chair tends to be there frequently, and so gets more in-depth exposure to the major issues of the organisation.  But NEDs won’t have access to the same degree of information. You need to manage by example.  These are complex issues and not everyone has the same level of understanding.

In Board discussions, for the Chair it is a question of drawing out the pros and cons during the discussion, and though it can be tempting to push to a conclusion, it is important to encourage those NEDs who may not feel they have much to say on the topic in question to give their views. And many non-executives will add value outside the board room, given the opportunity.


If head hunters are prone to putting forward well-known, conventional candidates as NEDs, how does one get through the impenetrable headhunter wall? 

Ideally, Chairs need to get together as a group and lobby the head hunters to broaden the backgrounds of their network of people.


Miranda Leung: Former lawyer with a portfolio of satisfying roles

We recently welcomed Portfolio Lawyer, Miranda Leung, to BCKR.

Miranda left Slaughter and May three years ago after 26 years with the firm.  She had spent four years in Hong Kong in that time but the rest in London as a finance lawyer.

Miranda decided to leave Slaughters when her mother became unwell and she returned to Hong Kong to be closer to her family.  She had no other plans.  She just knew she didn’t want to do part time law and ultimately wanted to remain in London.  She did have an interest in interior design and signed up for a course in London but as it turned out, she soon realised that she didn’t have the patience to deal with interior design clients and learning all the relevant software programmes etc, so decided to keep this interest as a hobby.

Her portfolio career developed by chance.   Her first trustee role with China Literature Ltd (a subsidiary of Tencent whom she used to act for) came about when the Chair, who she also knew through a transaction, heard she was retiring invited her to a drink and the process went on from there.  China Literature only started up 7 years ago but is now the largest e-book seller with a revenue of $11 billion, with 11 million books, accounting for 84% of the best-selling literature in China.  Miranda sits on their Audit and Risk and RemCo Committees.  Her main role is as an Independent Non-Executive Director.  The Independents’ role is to police transactions between the parent company and the listed company and frame policies and procedures that allow day to day transactions to take place according to known terms.  As a lawyer, she was probably better placed to think about the details than many and she probably goes about it with rather more rigour than some. The role has allowed her to understand better the ins and outs of running a business in China and has given her a lot of board experience on the regulatory side.

Miranda then got a role in London with the Commodities Trading Company, an investment arm of China Construction Bank, a large trader on the London Metal Exchange.   They were specifically looking for a lawyer to be a member of their board as it is a joint venture and following the r=governance rules matters.  She was chosen because of her experience as a Financial Services lawyer and it probably helped that she also speaks pretty good Mandarin.    CTC offers a very different role from her e-publishing one, as they were in the early stages of building their clientele, along with all their financially regulated systems.  They needed policies and procedures to be designed for board and regulator approval.  This role gave Miranda good hand on exposure to boards within the London financial services arena.  It requires her to have an understanding of the management team’s frustrations in having to deal with GDPR, the FRA, PRA etc.  They all come to life in this business.

These roles illustrate quite how much lawyers need to understand within a business to be good non-execs – how to get operational systems right, and how to evidence proper controls and checks across all departments of the business on a day to day basis.  Being in tune as to how changes in personnel can affect the business is also critical, as well as how they have to integrate group policies dictated from China that may not fit squarely with the business at all.

Miranda’s third role is with the Cambodian children’s charity Starfish.  Although the economic situation in Cambodia is improving, 40% still earn less than $2 a day.  The charity picks up kids from the slums who have no education.

  • They run catch-up programmes until state school will take them.
  • They provide them with extra curricula lessons to help them get better jobs, including English lessons, IT skills and soft skills as most of these children have no adults who have ever had a job to help them.
  • They also help with vocational training.
  • They also operate a large football outreach programme, involving about 3500 kids receiving weekly coaching, 40% of whom are girls

The role came about knowing someone on the board.  Miranda felt that the organisation was small enough to feel like a family but had a board with trustees with lots of different skills. Having teamed up with a large Hong Kong school – they are large enough to be able to make a real difference.

So, in conclusion, each role is satisfying in different ways.

Her Linked-In profile has been important in making connections.  A new role with Aviva has emerged this way on their With Profits committee.  Previous clients are a good source and people who know you in different industries.

Tim Ingram: Lawyers can be the very best Non-Executives

Contrary to what Chairs may think, people who have been lawyers are very well suited to being non-executives.

Tim was a banker for many years, then ran an investment company, but he’s also been on the board of 15 listed companies over the last 30 years, as an exec, non-exec, chairman and SID.  The very best non-exec he’s ever observed was a lawyer, from Linklaters, Charles Allen-Jones.

It is important for potential non-executives to understand what a board does.  To be clear they don’t originate strategy or run the company.  This is management’s role.  Big decisions always come from management.  Boards have to approve them, and it is extremely unusual for a board to reject them, and if they do, it is normally the route to the exit door for the executive.  This is not because boards have no real role.  Instead it is because plenty of discussions will have been held on a particular topic inside and outside the boardroom before important decisions are finally taken.  So, it is not problematic when a board simply agrees a proposal or modifies it only very slightly.

Non-execs are there to keep company and management out of trouble.  They oversee it and make sure it doesn’t do the wrong things.

When boards are being composed, generally you need one director with suitable finance experience and someone else with deep industry experience in the same area as the company.  But there is room for more industry experience than this.  It is important that non-execs can act constructively and cohesively.  No one wants to encourage dysfunction.

The role of the chairman is to work very closely with the CEO so that the chair is sufficiently briefed about any major decisions that have to be taken and is confident that the other non-execs will approve the CEO’s proposals.  If a decision were to be turned down at the board, then that would also be seen as the chair’s failure.

If you don’t like the idea of being a NED then don’t do it.  But if you do like the idea then you should absolutely go for it as Tim reiterated that he thinks lawyers make very good NEDs for the following reasons (Tim’s 7 points):

  1. Every legal firm is a capitalist business – not a political or government entity. You understand what business is about and operate daily in the commercial world.
  2. How a board works is through constructive challenge of management in a non-confrontational way. That’s exactly how you challenge and advise your clients.  It is in lawyers’ DNA.

One example – a major FTSE 250 company with 2 new non-execs.  One lawyer and one former CEO.  The CEO could not adapt to the constructive, rather than dictatorial, style of the board.  The lawyer succeeded Tim Ingram as SID as she was really good. Keeping management on the straight and narrow is an art, and she knew how to do it.

  1. Lawyers are there to see the company avoids mistakes. Lawyers spend their time clearing up mistakes and organising things to avoid mistakes.  People from an executive world do not see their job as avoiding mistakes, but rather as making things happen.  Very different.
  2. Board papers. They can run to 1000 pages.  A lawyer can grasp key points quickly.  Management often don’t have this skill.  Often a non-exec has to rely on management telling him what’s important but useful.
  3. Industry knowledge. The chair will want sector knowledge and many lawyers have a legal specialism with detailed knowledge of the company’s arena.  Though legal knowledge itself isn’t so often useful, there are times when it is.  For instance, at UK Wind,  Tim frequently does new share issues.  It is not unhelpful to have a lawyer on the board who can assure the others that what the bankers etc are offering is ‘quite normal’ and ‘okay’.
  4. Corporate governance is increasingly important. It’s all about keeping companies out of trouble. It’s second nature to someone with a legal background.  It’s much harder to grasp for other first time non-execs.
  5. If you follow a NED career you might be on several boards in completely different arenas.  It can be quite strange for someone who’s only ever worked in one area, but this doesn’t faze a lawyer who most likely will have dealt with lots of different businesses at the same time in their day job.

Diversity in the board room can be aided by having a lawyer there, a legal mind and background.  Diversity is much more than gender.


How do non-execs get appointed?


Not simply by knowing people anymore.  When a new non-exec is being recruited [for a listed company] it MUST be done through a headhunter.  You need to proactively go to headhunters – don’t be reticent – they need the raw material and they don’t generally go on desktop research, just from their own lists.  Get on those lists.  The chair gives the headhunter a list of the type of things he/she wants.  The headhunter produces a longlist, which may include a lawyer, and will then chat through each potential candidate with the chair and what they can bring to the role.  So, if you can get the “Tim’s 7 points” across to the headhunter when you meet them, the headhunter is more able to relay to those competencies to the chair.  You need to keep going back to the headhunters and repeating that process.  That’s the same for every individual, not just lawyers.  You have to put yourself in the headhunter’s mind.

The younger a headhunter, the more likely they are to be more worldly and able to see the lawyer’s strengths.  It helps if you can get an introduction.

The longlist has to be people that the headhunter believes will want to be put forward – so if they don’t know you are currently looking they won’t put you on a longlist.

As a charity non-exec, remember that the people you are overseeing have very different motivations from the people you see on the corporate side.  E.g. a charity CEO has been known to ask for a salary cut.  But apart from that, there are remarkably few differences in the way they operate.  The 7 features are equally applicable.  They still need your expertise and they still need a strategy.  A charity is a form of business,  it can’t go on making deficits if it is to serve its purpose.  There has to be a certain commerciality to how it is run, which may be lost on former civil servants or politicians.

The average life of a former CE on a board can be short.  Lawyers are rarely tapped on the shoulder, once on the board.


The CV

It is important to get Tim’s 7 points across.  You need to underplay and hardly mention the pure legal experience – it’s hardly worth anything.  It’s the ability to get the point across in a constructive manner that will count.

It is important as a chairman to have SOMEONE on the board who scan reads all the 1000 pages of the board papers.  It is a useful skill.  Especially for regulated businesses.

One success of Tim’s was getting the PRA to change their views on whether all non-execs should have satisfactory knowledge of the banking and financial environment – he pointed out the need for diverse views to avoid group think.

An audit chair is unlikely to be a lawyer.  A specific need for business experience is unlikely to be met by a lawyer.  The downside could be that lawyers don’t understand the business at all – services businesses are easier for lawyers than e.g. a car business.  But you can overcome this by your own experiences.

Chair of Rem Com – lawyers well suited to that role.  The key role of that committee is to ensure there is fair division of spoils between owners and management, with lots of advice from Rem consultants.  Quite a lot results in changes to the employment contracts.  Chair of Rem has to do that work.  There is now a lot more scrutiny of executive pay in the charity sector too.

The SID has one duty.  To make sure the relationship between the chairman and chief executive works well.  If another non-exec has a concern, then they should have a word with the SID to raise the issue.

If you do decide to pursue a NED career,  don’t expect it to happen straightway.  Keep at it.  Every six months or so, do the rounds of headhunters again.  Keep yourself in their minds.  Educate them on everything lawyers can bring to a board which business executives cannot.


Moni Mannings: Portfolio Life During and After Law – a BCKR Success Story

Moni sees her career has having two halves.  The first half being a traditional legal career, starting in the banking department at Clifford Chance, followed by 6 years as a partner at Simmonds and Simmonds and then to Dewy Ballantine where she was their first UK partner hire.  In 2000 she left to set up the banking department of Olswang and within a year was asked to head up their main corporate department, which delivered half the firm’s revenue and came with a seat on the board.  The financial crisis followed swiftly thereafter, and she had to restructure her department which meant a 15% cost reduction i.e. people.  Over the next 13 years of her management career, as a law firm board member, she was part of a team that implemented 3 changes of CEO, 4 acquisitions and 2 further rounds of redundancy.  It was all about running things and being involved in a business.

Finally, in 2016, after 30 years Moni decided to leave law altogether.  She was lucky to be invited to become COO of Aistemos, a data analytics start-up for which she had zero experience.  She stayed there for two year and then launched fully into the second half of her career in the non-executive arena.

The transition

The transition came about with a lot networking. A bit of luck too, and a bit of planning, but mostly networking!  The most important decision Moni made was to start her plural non-exec life while still at Olswang.  It genuinely benefits both the firm and the individual.

In 2011 she took on two not for profit roles, one as a non-exec at the SRA and one as a trustee on a small charity board.  The SRA role was particularly helpful going forward, since the SRA and her committee had a strong executive team so she had to learn to be non-executive.  After that, she could demonstrate that she had non-executive experience when it came to her board CV.  Smaller charities, with no executives, do not offer that evidence.

In 2014 Moni took on her first commercial non-exec role with Polypipe at time of its IPO and was asked to chair the RemCo, having no experience of industry or Rem.


How Moni built her portfolio in those 3 years

  • Motivation: she spent time thinking about why she wanted this new career and for Moni, after 30 years as a lawyer, she just wanted to work differently, to get closer to business, not further away. Think hard as you will be asked, and you need to be able to answer with authenticity.  How you come across matters so spend time working it out.  She was still a partner at Olswang, and she believes that worked in her favour as there tends to be bias/prejudice against you if you are not in role.
  • Networking: she joined a number of different networks; they will not necessarily give you a job, but they do expand your circle of contacts. Reach out further; FT NED Club; Winmark, WoB and the Professional Boards Forum; and genuinely and relentlessly follow up every contact and opportunity.  Ask for advice and when you do so, often comes an opportunity. People are open with their time and it is important to let them know who you are, what you’re good at, and that you are looking and available; the process works such that headhunters etc regularly contact people they’ve met for recommendations of who to approach for roles.  This keeps you live with the headhunters.
  • Getting help writing her board CV: it is very different from writing an executive CV. Moni attended a Board CV masterclass from WoB (BCKR also runs CV workshops). The value is that it teaches you the whole way of viewing your executive career using language that resonates with boards.  It is not just the bit of paper at the end.  You need to look at your career through the NED lens  (e.g. partnership promotion panel = nominations committee; in-role impact = oversaw 3 CEO changes).   (Moni has provided her original CV template which BCKR can forward on request.)
  • Headhunters: it is really important that they know who you are, which is easier said than done. The best way is to be introduced by one of their clients.  But be aware – they are not career advisers.  Treat any ‘chat’ as a pre-interview – so prepare well and be able to answer the following questions:
    • Why do you want to be a NED?
    • What did you deliver?
    • What were the challenges you were asked to deliver on?
    • Why do you think you’d be a good non-exec?

You have to do all of the above consistently – always keeping your network warm.  It is very hard to get airtime with the headhunters.  You need to feed them with nuggets they can use to sell you.  Think about how you present yourself – in the same way you think about a pitch for business.


What do boards and chairs look for in NEDs (apart from sector experience)?

Commercial acumen; financial literacy; being able to articulate thoughts in business language; an ability to view things through a wider lens.

Lawyers thrive on complexity and ambiguity; they have a knowledge and understanding of risk; they have the personality trait of courage to challenge constructively; they have intellectual flexibility to think laterally beyond their own expertise.  It is your broader business experience that will help you thrive.  Articulating your understanding/experience of dramatic changes in market conditions; internal changes; your responsibility for P&L etc can be useful in speaking the language of the board room.

Unfortunately, headhunters want to put people in boxes.  You have to give them a box to put you in, but then be broader than that in what you show them you can offer.  Boards do not like single skills.

But things are improving. There are not enough people in the board room who think like lawyers, absorbing complexity and finding a route through it.


How did you get your first roles?

SRA: Moni was approached by a headhunter and on this occasion, she was ready to say yes.

Polypipe: She had joined the Professional Boards Forum and had followed up with various coffess with those she met.  This meant she had been chatting to one of the chairs.  She went on a long list as a result this conversation – a year later.  A headhunter phoned her to enquire about the role and Moni later learned that that chair, Alan Thompson, had asked for her to go on the list.  Despite having no experience at all she got the role.  Alan, by now Chair of Polypipe, later said that he wanted someone unfamiliar and smart who knew the rules and would be good for their RemCom.  He already had plenty of people who knew the business.

It was easier to get the next role once she had Polypipe.  Moni had been telling people she was looking for a charity role in children, social care, social mobility and that is when the role at Barnardo’s came along.  There was much more complexity in this institution than in Polypipe, a £350 million charity with 8,000 staff and 22,000 volunteers.  Despite it being a volunteer role, Moni sees this as akin to a corporate non-executive role in terms of responsibility, challenge and fulfilment.

Other roles have come about through assiduous contact with headhunters – continuously updating them on changes in her career.

Cranfield: Her role here came through BCKR! BCKR’s first direct approach for a non-exec role.  It is an unusual university which has helped in other roles – being able to talk about relationships with other industries.


How do you characterise the bias against lawyers?

The stereotype is that lawyers are uncommercial; essentially narrow; pedantic; can be hired by the hour so not needed.  This part is changing with the focus now on diversity which includes backgrounds and mindset so there’s more opportunity to push the ‘think differently’ concept as part of the diversity debate.


Are not for profit roles important in the non-exec journey?

Yes, especially when there is an executive team, so you are learning the non-executive way – ‘nose is in, fingers out’ .  People are buying you as a non-executive person. They want to know what you are interested in, why type of person you are.  All roles you take on demonstrate this.


Is there value on the FT Non-exec course?

It shows commitment to the path you want to take and may fill in knowledge gaps.  Moni has not done the course, but nonetheless sought to fill-in the gaps in the areas she felt she lacked knowledge by other means, e.g. the PWC course on Accounting principles for non-execs.  Doing the FT course doesn’t in itself help you achieve the role, but may be good for your confidence.


How do you respond to headhunter’s sigh as you tell them you are a lawyer? 

Inhabit your own board CV so you can defend your approach to the non-exec world; the emphasis needs to be within yourself; review what you’ve done through a different lens.  Do not lead with your legal attributes.


Did you have a coach?

Not one person, but she genuinely sought advice and still asks for outside input for many.


How did you get the role with the data analytics company?

An ex colleague and former partner said “Come and join me”, and she was leaving the law anyway. Moni said yes in part out of insecurity and because of seeing it as the furthest thing from being a lawyer.  It turns out that being COO is doing everything that the CEO and CFO don’t want to do.  You fail all the time and take regular decisions on what’s ‘good enough’.  It certainly  gets rid of the idea that you have to have the absolutely right answer.  Those two years were much more valuable than doing any of the courses.  She left because she got the Barnardo’s role.


Now that you are looking to refresh your board roles – what matters to you? 

The people who are on the board, culture and values; keeping her portfolio broad.  It is important now that there is a career path in what she is doing so opportunities to be SID or chairing a committee will play a part in her choices.  Women predominantly get their chairs from within, so she’s aware of that.  Social purpose matters more now than it did before; will she make a valuable contribution to society?



Richard Meddings: Network, broaden your business knowledge and get up to speed on issues facing businesses today

We recently welcomed hugely experienced Chairman Richard Meddings to BCKR.


Board dynamics

Richard began by stressing that anyone hoping to join a board (particularly in the commercial sector) should realise the amount of the work that’s done outside the boardroom. One of Richard’s early boardroom mistakes was to underestimate the importance of the informal interaction, both between the board members themselves and also between the executive team and members of the board. It is easy to assume that you just turn up for the meetings, when actually it is an area of significant communication and ‘social dynamic’.


How are boards built?

As a Chair, you obviously have to tick certain boxes when appointing NEDs, such as appointing the chairs of Audit, Remuneration and (particularly in Financial Services) Risk. And you need to have some back-up in place, do some succession planning. In addition to the formal board committees, some boards now have new sub-committees, for example for Strategy and for Tech.  Tech is fast becoming a new type of board sub-committee; however the challenge is that the current available experience and focus tends to be on Cyber risk – but the board’s focus on technical issues needs to be broader than that. The Senior Independent Director (SID) is also a very important role, a form ‘consiglieri’ or trusted adviser to the Chair and other board members.

For lawyers, this is a difficult area to break into, as the Chair generally feels that legal advice can be bought in as and when needed and that the CEO has his/her General Counsel anyway. So, to overcome that hurdle you need to demonstrate different, broader skills. Boards are not composed of people because of their specific executive skills, they need to be able to advise the business as a whole. So when making your case, DON’T lead with your Legal experience!

And remember that an effective Chair is always looking at the dynamics of the board and is in constant contact with the board-level head hunters, so, looking ahead, make yourself known to the head hunters.


Do you really want to do this?

The regulatory pressures are very demanding these days, particularly in Financial Services. Being on a FS board can be a very intense regime; you have to expect difficult days ahead.  Financial Services is a highly complex area and produces large quantities of very detailed reports; boards are expected by the Regulator to understand the micro detail.

So why would you do it?  After all you don’t get paid very much.

One of the main reasons that people are motivated to join a board is a wish to remain ‘relevant’ after completing an executive career which will have had momentum and intellectual stimulation. Being able to continue to learn new things is also a very important motivation.

In many ways, being on the boards of smaller companies is more interesting and is often an easier place for NEDs to contribute in terms of actually running a business, rather than focusing more on regulatory and compliance issues.

Richard feels he was lucky in that his first external board role was at 3i plc, at a time when he was Finance Director at Standard Chartered plc.  The bank felt it was very important for their main board executives to get non-executive experience, partly in order to gain an understanding of what it is like for the NEDs ‘on the other side of the table’ and 3i provided that very well.

You learn pretty quickly that there is limited opportunity in the boardroom for asking questions.  You might have the chance to make around six comments during a meeting. What is important is that the NEDs don’t try to use the board meeting to ‘to crowd’ the executives on the board. NEDs should bring a current general commercial perspective, not just rely on their particular past functional executive experience.


Networking and visibility

Your first board appointment gets you into the general NEDs network. Head hunters host frequent lunches and receptions for board members. The earlier you start the better; cultivate senior external contacts and learn from them. This is just as important if you are targeting non-commercial roles (Not-for Profit, Government boards etc) – by the way Government NED roles are really interesting!

For all would-be NEDs, you need to be known and seen – and you need to be able to display broad commercial knowledge and judgement. Law firms tend to lack this kind of profile so you need to think hard about how you can get into these networks.

As a profession you lag behind in the self-promotion stakes – particularly compared to Investment Bankers. They have greater success that Lawyers in getting onto boards but probably less to contribute once they are there. But they are more adept at showing they understand the dynamics of companies and sectors, which is very important.


Other points

What do you think of Not for Profit board experience when building your own boards?

They tend to be less managed but potentially provide good experience and often there are NEDs/Trustees from the commercial sector on these boards. For example Teach First has a very interesting mix of different skill sets on their board. Government boards seem open to  lawyers coming onto their boards, and the work is very interesting.


Head hunters

Go to meet head hunters (unfortunately they are very powerful and some are incredibly lazy, particularly about thinking out of the box)).  You need to stay at the top of their pile.  Don’t present yourself as a lawyer but as someone who runs an international business.

You need to provide other reference points. Provide some ‘soft referees’, people who can talk about your judgement and range of experience and how you manage people issues. Though board diversity is a big topic with the head hunters, there doesn’t seem to be much  real desire for diversity of career background.


What do you think Private Equity companies seek from their NEDs?

They are deep into the financials – NEDs have to be right up to speed. Relevant sector knowledge is important and so is an ongoing focus on the actual performance of the company..



Network….and broaden your business knowledge and be up to date on issues such as diversity, environment and climate change.

Generally, as a profession, lawyers and law firms generally really need to raise their profiles. ’Have a view’ and be able to engage on non-legal business issues  Bankers always have an issue they can talk to companies and directors about.

Your first role is important – but don’t think you have to get a role on a FTSE listed company board. You get many more interesting roles as NEDs at the smaller cap end and in non-listed companies, where you can get closer to the actual running of the business, as well as in the Not for Profit sector.

Simon Page: NEDs – Can you become a sparring partner, trusted advisor and a good listener?

After 10 years in the Foreign Office, Simon moved to Egon Zehnder to become one of the five lead consultants – private partnership, lockstep, to allow them to cover a very broad range of work at the firm, and in the board practice.  Works across PLC type non-execs, government related roles and charities.

What types of roles are out there?

The broad landscape falls into 3 sectors:

  • Private sector: FTSE, 250, 350, AIM etc, private companies and start-ups, and private equity boards (a consumer of decent talent in the private sector board space)
  • Public sector:
    • central government departments (not the same as plc boards, as for many years NEDs historically felt like spare parts – but were more recently revamped by Lord Brown of BP who was appointed to be head NED at the Cabinet Office to increase their profile. This has made a huge difference to the use and effectiveness of government NEDs and greatly increased interest in the roles.
    • Non-departmental public bodies – there is a huge range. Managed in the same way as public appointments.
    • NHS operates separately from central government, but on broadly similar rules to public sector
  • Third sector: Charities, think tanks, academic works (schools to universities), housing associations

How appointments are made in practice

Private sector: FTSE 100 appointments used to be friends of the chair – but there has been a sea-change in last 15 years.  Now, 80% of major appointments ‘go through’ the headhunter process, at least to some extent.  Further down the FTSE it’s more likely to be through word of mouth and personal connection though Harvey Nash does an awful lot of smaller listed companies.  They have in common that they are rarely advertised in the media.

Public sector:  MUST be advertised to maintain the perception of fairness, and increasing diversity.  That’s the official government line.  The Public Appointments website is well run and lists all roles available at any one time.

Third sector: will often advertise via The Guardian online or on their own website.  There is partial transparency in the process but these roles are rarely advertised in paper.

Process is then the same for all, with the nominations committee narrowing down to four or five candidates for interviews and then one or two, who will meet the chief executive.

The nature of the involvement of CEO is interesting.  They should not have the final say as it is not meant to be their appointment, but as a chair has to work together with the CEO, when appointing a Chair, candidates will often meet the CEO and the CEO can be very influential.  In charities it is even more important to be independent.  The process often finishes with a confirmatory meeting with a larger group of executives and non-execs to allow candidates to meet broader base of the board.

There is an increasing tendency for appointments to be made by panel interview process, which Simon disagrees with.  The behaviour of panel members becomes very formal, with lists of questions, each allocated to individual panel members, but presented to candidates as unconnected sets of questions asked by separate people.  This favours a candidate who has fluent, shallows answers to a lot of questions rather than deep answers to a few.

The typical approach of a PLC is to meet candidates individually or two on one, which works out better with more interview time, different views, an ability to follow up and compare notes afterwards which Simon believes allows a fair comparison.  But despite his urging, he doesn’t believe the government process will change.

What are they looking for?

Fundamentally NEDs are there to be a good sparring partner for the CEO and the executive team, so most of the interview should be about how the candidates will react with other board members and bring their knowledge and experience in a good way.  They are looking for members who behave like a trusted adviser, not a content expert.  More often qualitative than a skills based interview.  Listening skills are strongly sought after.

Massively and rightly, boards in all these sectors are looking for diversity.  Egon Zehnder clients and others are treating this as a fundamental aim.  The UK has made a pretty good improvement in gender balance of some boards, by coercion and encouragement, without need for quotas, but is still very strongly looking to improve diversity which places white males at a disadvantage.  In UK the focus is still mostly about gender, in the US ethnicity is now equally important but LGBT and other elements don’t get a look in.

Lawyers and board roles:

We don’t have the appointment of lawyers as the norm – unlike US and European companies.  It’s not been the practice.  Partly because of UK board’s unitary structure.  The pattern for the executives is to match the career of the executives with the non-execs – man-marking.  Some UK lawyers have moved onto UK boards very successfully.  The skills that need to be deployed are; risk, which adds a lot of value; lawyers (and bankers) make a really strong contribution on strategy; the perception of what other stakeholders will think of decisions; and their network.

Base case reduces the number of lawyers – the existing board members can understand better the career of a finance director.  Lawyers risk being seen as too narrow.

How to go about getting a role?

It is important to go through a process of self-reflection before embarking on the search for a portfolio career.

  • What is your real level of interest? Lots of board roles are admin and not particularly interesting, ‘governancy’ heavy. Think about whether it’s really something you’d enjoy.
  • What time commitment can you offer? 50 days pa for FTSE companies, more for the big banks, and generally 15 days a year for any small role and not all can be done in the evenings.

The Shrek group of headhunters (Spencer Stuart, Heidricks, Russell Reynolds, Egon Zehnder and Korn Ferry) consist of the main players in the board practice area.

For the FTSE 250 – Hanson Green and a few others

For charities – Saxton Bampfylde, Odgers and Perret Laver

Other ways to enhance you personal brand are through networking, thought pieces or speaking at conferences. All go to raising your profile.  Getting a board mentor can be useful.

Developing a portfolio takes two or three years at least, as even the processes themselves can take a long time in the public sector.  So be patient.  And remember it is much easier to get on a board than to get off one.


How does one get on Egon Zehnder’s radar when looking for a role?

The London office has 50 consultants, 8 of whom form the board practice.  They have a central group of researchers who assist.  The practice meetings work as a clearinghouse for ideas but the rigour comes from the researchers.

As a minimum, upload your CV etc onto their portal.  It is always useful to be able to meet one of the consultants directly and personal introductions work very well.

NuRole and WoB are effective in advancing the cause of diversity.  However the big firms have had to develop lists of quality senior female candidates.

The PE recruitment process:

PE does like to run it their way, with their own views.   Formal arrangements exist with people who can become their chairs of acquired companies. They are not unsophisticated in this, with a reasonably sized stable of candidates; but at the lower level they are using headhunters, as they don’t have enough candidates known to the PE houses. EBRD has its own network for potential NED candidates.

How to you prepare your CV?

Fine tuning of the wording of a CV probably won’t move the dial very much.  Key facts speak for themselves in a digestible form. Don’t bother with the introductory paragraph.  What headhunters need to see are the numbers of people you’ve managed, scale of budget, revenue etc.  It is hard for lawyers but look for ways to make some statements that give an idea of scale, types of people you influence.

You have to overcome the prejudices and negative perceptions that lawyers are too technical, detailed or challenging.  Early type board positions, which are not easy to do but fairly accessible to obtain, help humanise the candidate, such as chair of school governors, charity board experience etc.

Sandeep Katwala: Top tips from a lawyer with a varied, fulfilling portfolio

Sandeep lives the BCKR mission.  He even introduced Tim to the Water Aid board (in fact interviewed him!) when WA was so enlightened that there were 3 lawyers on their board.

Sandeep headed the EMEA practice at Linklaters but retired 4 years ago after 25 years at the firm.  He took on WaterAid while still at Linklaters, and on leaving, built his portfolio.  He now Chairs Octavia (a West London housing association) and BID (Bail for Immigration Detainees),  and the Mowgli Foundation mentoring people from the middle east and he is also a Trustee of the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s’ Charity.

Sandeep started with a Law degree, intending to be a barrister but soon realised that wasn’t for him.  He instead wanted to travel internationally so joined NatWest’s international team as a banker – in six years he got as far as Leeds – but while there did an MBA, then knew he wanted to get back to law.  He became a trainee at Linklaters, qualifying into capital markets, where he spent the next 25 years. He sees his career at Linklaters in 3 buckets – the client side – doing the work; growing businesses – he built Indian and African businesses for Linklaters;  and management – he was on the Executive Committee for 5 years and looked after the EMEA region for firm.  However, most just see the first bit.  For a non-executive life, the other two bits are even more useful.  He decided to stop at 55 and prior to that, spent time working out what to do next.  He chose the not for profit sector out of a sense of wanting to put something back (to make up for taking a lot out!).    There are two types of roles in the not for profit sector,  hands on operational or governance.  He knew that the operational side wouldn’t allow him to fit in all the other things he wanted to do, so the non-executive piece was for him.

He had been introduced to WaterAid by a colleague while still at Links. Once on the WaterAid board he was quickly introduced to two other roles, which came through an introduction from WaterAid’s former chief executive, to BID and Octavia (a quasi-commercial as well as charity role), having been approached for all sorts or roles from fin tech start-ups to investing in Iran.

The impression of the charity world as woolly sweaters and sandals is not right – his experience is that the governance is very strong and often of a higher quality than his former clients.  The other common perspective is that his board members would be of poorer quality than on commercial boards.  However, Sandeep has found that, particularly in the larger organisations, the calibre of the people has been high and their systems better due to great resources.

Octavia is a West London Housing Association with a £2.5bn housing value which includes care schemes and social housing, property management and development.  They have been put through their paces by S&P for fund raising.  The role is a mix of social enterprise and commercial.  As chair he has to be careful what he says, because what he says happens.  They have recently had to deal with crisis management in relation to the Grenfell reaction.  It’s something new to apply his old skills to, with a variety that includes walkabouts where he gets to meet residents; to large scale property development; to deciding if they should be putting the rents up (at 40% of market).  There is a lot of challenge and it is broader than a more traditional charity role.

BID is a tiny law firm which provides pro bono legal advice to immigrants stuck in the legal system.


Lawyers on Boards

The larger not for profits are increasingly seeing the value of having lawyers on their boards.  You will see some posts advertised as wanting legal skills.  It is more challenging when looking for a chair role or applying for a role that doesn’t specify a need for legal expertise.  There is still a perception among executive teams that lawyers are negative; this carries over to the headhunters.  Lawyers don’t sell themselves very well.  He still sees lawyers’ CVs for board roles which are simply a deal list – use the other buckets of your experience, promote the other sides. On LinkedIn ‘retired lawyer’ is not good for the algorithms. Lawyers can help themselves by highlighting how you manage and build teams and reference your commercial side.

Developing the relationship with the headhunters can be very helpful.  The more people they have in their pool the better their long lists can look like.  Headhunters tend to call people in their pool to get recommendations for alternative candidates and this builds relationships. Word of mouth works well too.   Other resources for roles are Guardian adverts; Charity Jobs; LinkedIn; Nurole.


The Interview process:

It’s very competitive! You’d be amazed – some candidates will analyse every statement made by the company or the interviewing panel ahead of the interview.  Don’t underestimate the competition just because it is not for profit.


The Portfolio piece:

It is worth being selective and focused on what you are after.  Perhaps focus on a particular sector – but not exclusively.  Keep an open mind. Housing for instance is a £60bn sector.  Be bold.  Don’t just look at what instantly appeals.

Be clear about your purpose.  It is important to hone in on what you’re after.  Sandeep distilled it down to simply wanting to do something that makes a difference to people’s lives.


Time commitment:

People are generally respective of your diary, so you can book and go to the theatre.  But dates can be fixed 12 months+ in advance.  Roles he’s had have been challenging and varied – he’s listened to an 80 year old on the Portobello Road asking why their ceiling had not been properly repaired, been involved in the Charlie Guard situation at GoSH and appointed new chief execs.  It’s kept him alive and buzzing!

Chair vs trustee.  The role of a chair is lots more time intensive; you are more involved in strategy and there is a chance to make a real difference.  For instance, he persuaded Octavia to build 1,000 more homes as part of their strategy.



How were you first approached for the role at WaterAid?

Sandeep wanted to do something different outside the firm.  He started asking round.  Wanted something international and in development, and the advert was pointed out by the company secretary at Linklaters.  He applied and got the role.

How can you be sure you’re not being seen as a cheap source of legal advice?

The smaller charities will see you as ‘the lawyer on the board’ and you will be asked to do a bit; but generally make it clear that you are not there to give legal advice, you are there to participate fully on the board; but your legal mindset will be useful and you’d be daft not to use that skill sometimes.

Finding some sense of purpose is quite difficult.

Sandeep was once asked to think about what he’d want written on his tombstone.  What would you be proud of? You need a big idea and work off that.  Sandeep’s central theme was making a difference.  Work on the basis that you will have another career.  Plan and create the opportunities; and make a difference for people’s lives.  For instance, for the first time last year Sandeep spent 6 days volunteering at Crisis at Christmas, serving breakfast, washing dishes and meeting and talking to people from very different backgrounds.

How do you gauge the time commitment?

Work out what percentage of your time you want to be allocated to the  ‘family’, ‘entertainment’ and ‘work’ buckets.  When applying for a role double the amount of time they are asking for.

Should you worry about your liability as a board member?

You’re not held to a higher standard simply because you are a lawyer.  All directors have the same liability and the board members you will come across are generally very professional.  Do your due diligence.  Talk to ex board members.  You need to get on with the board members and you will need to trust them so it can be useful to think about how they would work in a crisis.

There’s a steep learning curve for everybody joining a board, and it’s probably about a year before you’re up and running to make a real commitment, but don’t worry about that either since it is the same for everyone.  Sandeep feels that 6 years is the maximum length of time to stay on a board.  Selfishly he enjoys the fun of learning a new area and he wants to keep doing that.  It keeps you fresh.  But also, particularly in the role of Chair, you can harm an organisation if you hang around for too long.





Anita Hoffmann: Creating your Second Career

Anita is Swedish, and a chemical engineer by training – she had to be an engineer to get into industry at all in Sweden.  But how is she now a headhunter and coach in London? She took opportunities that were offered – and planned where she wanted to go.

After 18 years in the chemical industry, she was stuck. If she was going to get on in that industry, she would be doing more of the same – but she asked herself “How good am I really? Let me change into something else and I’ll find out”.  Without the support of the company and network she’d been in for years, could she re-invent herself?

She had been in the chemical practice at Accenture just pre the Andersen’s split, she’d been in the Deloitte consulting arm for the oil industry just pre the world oil crisis – she had big ticket names and big industry moments under her belt but now she wanted suddenly to be a professional services person.

Anita took a year off – she had done how things work as an engineer, then how business works at Deloittes, but realised that she cared more about how people work.  She was talking to leading headhunter Heidrick & Struggles while looking for her next move, when they offered her partnership at their own firm – she took it, and suddenly she was a people person.  She then combined her current interests with her past experience by starting their renewable energy practice.  This was not at all popular at H&S until it started making a lot of money for them!

Anita left H&S at the end of 2010 and had a further year off through illness.  But then had to decide what to do next.  Did she need one more good company t-shirt? Decided no.  Could she do it on her own – how tricky could it be to bring in 5 searches to earn the same as doing 35 for H&S?

Since then, Anita has combined her headhunting practice, and other activities with research conducted through Cranfield on the intersection of longevity and careers.  She also works with the Institute of Business Ethics and coaches refugee academics to find work.

But to her research and new book: Purpose & Impact: How Executives are Creating Meaningful Second Careers.  This looks at a key point of change in professional careers – the mid 50s – people often don’t want to do the same thing for the next for 25/30 years, but don’t want to do nothing either.  This is universal and a huge topic.  Anita found and interviewed 92 executives from around the world, who had already changed careers successfully – 46 of these agreed to be named in the book and have their stories told.

So what’s the meaning of this human journey? She discovered it is the same everywhere around the world – pupil, householder, forest dweller (learn wisdom), then wisdom sharer.

Once there was a business with a purpose, which happened to create profit – then gradually the profit motive came to the top.  People want to go back to finding and living their purpose.  Don’t feel a failure if you don’t feel you have it right, if you don’t know your purpose – don’t feel pressured – it will come.

Can you have impact – yes, but not alone – don’t take that responsibility on by yourself – that’s too much pressure.  In the last couple of years there have been good examples where different sectors have worked together to a common goal – businesses, NGOs and governments and social enterprises.  They have come together to tackle areas such as the social economy around fast fashion – eg new areas at the intersection of all the sectors where at the outset, there are no answers and no specialists. THAT’s where you can position yourself – but they have to know you exist – and you have to keep track of what is happening out there, and who do you need to know to get in on the act.  It can take time to figure it out.

Do you need to adopt the approach in stages? The stages of a human being do come in stages, but that doesn’t mean you have to treat each stage as a different type of life – you can keep the breadth and development all the way through – job crafting!

The Start up of You – by Reid Hoffman, co-founder and chairman of LinkedIn, and author Ben Casnocha – says that every stage of your career should be data tested regularly.  You use this data to adapt what you are doing to develop your career in the way you choose.

All her successful transitioned executives found something they were really passionate about, found a benefit from taking it on to the company they were already working for, as well as the community as well as themselves, and then went about changing their existing work-place to accommodate their passion. The real pattern to emerge from all the studies was that they nearly all started Career 2 during Career 1.

First case: Deputy CEO at Schlumberger, wanted a 5 year exit plan for himself.  In the meantime he was president of Africa at Schlumberger – he wanted to make an impact for the company, building its network and brand so he started the Schlumberger Foundation.  He was president of that Foundation, investigating problems and giving women scholarships to succeed, then became  president of sustainability and gave the women small loans – what was good for the company, was good for the community and ultimately for himself as he built his knowledge and reputation in the development arena.

Second case: Richard Gillies was high up in M&S procurement.  He ended up signing payment authorisations for thousands of pounds worth of power.  He asked himself why are we doing it this way? Why not get green electricity? He went and did some work on it, and M&S went 100% renewable energy which changed M&S first and others followed.  Richard himself had moved from procurement into sustainability.  A transformed career.  The move will always need a business case for the firm as well as for himself – and in this particular case, the change took just 5% of Richard’s time and made plenty of money for the company, great PR and changed his personal profile.

So ask yourself “What has my career today given me to prepare me for my next role?”.  Don’t think you need to jump off a cliff – it is a continuum.

Career and identity is one part.  A good financial runway is another part.  Money lasts a lot longer than you think if you prepare for it.  If you pace yourself, and practice living on a significantly smaller sum, you will have a better idea of what you need to have financially before you take a significant pay cut, if that’s what is to follow.  This gives you the confidence to take the cut in the first place, and gives you more of a cushion if things go wrong.

Working at career transformation requires:

  • Self-knowledge
  • A new network – dynamic and diverse – you can’t change things radically only talking to your existing circle
  • Openness

Networking is meeting and contacting other people who are interested in solving the same things as you are – it then becomes pleasurable and not intimidating.  All are happy to share common interests over a cup of coffee – ask for advice, it is within everybody’s gift to give – don’t ask for a job.

Don’t be shy – start with old colleagues, what’s the worst that can happen? Old colleagues, peers at university etc will be willing to act as the network starter, even if you haven’t seen them for years.

Process: ending the current role is an unknown zone.  It can be uncomfortable if you don’t know what you’re looking for but it’s a lot easier if you’ve already tried some of it while in your current job – whether as part of or alongside that job.

Anita believes there are several questions to cover in considering career change.
What are you good at?
What are you interested in?

Take time, it’s not always obvious – start to narrow it down by meeting people to help you gradually learn about what’s out there and about yourself.  Networking is an adventure which is so much fun – it’s part of giving – the people you meet will introduce you to others and it becomes much more comfortable.  Networking allows you to meet confident kind people who do genuinely want to help you.

Think too about what you really do not want to do.

Headhunters – these are not career coaches.  They are working on behalf of clients to fill roles in accordance with a spec.  Headhunters are not there to figure out what you should do next.  They can be helpful in understanding the process and explain the role but they can’t help you change career – you have to produce the evidence of that yourself.

Headhunters hire based on the last 5 years on a CV – it is all about perception of risk – the headhunters can push the boundary only so far – but that explains the tricky task of getting the first role.  In talking to the big ones, you have to know what you want, and give them three good reasons for why you should have it.  Headhunters speak to 2000 senior people a year so they forget you.  Research assistants speak to even more.  The assessment written at first meeting will go into a system and cannot be changed – it’s the start of your record.  Learning and practicing matters.

Headhunters ask themselves who do we know who can do this job – who’s in the database who can do this job.  The assessment from the database has to be recognisable as you to remind people who have met you who you are – it needs to be a human thing when they present to a client.  Your very first contact with the headhunter should say, in the preview, in the very opening of the email, the one good reason why they should talk to you.

Be kind to yourself – be open to the ideas for your own future that are bubbling away and put steps in place to follow through with them.  Start now!

Steve Williams: lists the reasons why having a lawyer on the board is an “irresistible argument to pursue”

We recently welcomed Steve Williams (ex-Slaughter and May and former GC at Unilever) to talk to BCKR members.

Steve was sitting at his desk at ICI when the call came through from Spencer Stuart about a possible move to Unilever.  He got the job, and then began a long run in making Spencer Stuart money.

Search firms make money out of us; by moving us they generate a fee; the more they move and place you, the better for them; the more they can bug you for knowledge, the better for them; he became their creature.  He was used by them, regularly asked about rising stars in Unilever and always gave helpful replies … X would be a shoe-in for the right kind of place etc.  Steve became a trusted source for them to call on.  Finally, one day he was asked what he thought about being a NED himself.  He said to himself ‘How hard can that be? Yes! I would like to try it.’ A few weeks later Spencer Stuart came back with the possibility of the NED role at Bunzl.

Tony Habgood was the Bunzl CEO at the time, then chairman – he said to Steve, ‘I don’t know you so that’s a good start’.  Tony was not into the old boy network thing.  This helped.  Secondly the company was very largely a US corporation with a US chairman, an open-minded chairman open to having a lawyer on the board.  This was not seen as weird to them (unlike for UK companies. Then… and too often now).  This helped too.  Steve had started his non-executive career.

Michael Perry was chairman of Unilever at the time and epitomised the alternative view – he said ‘Why on earth would they want you?’.  This is the question we all have to face since chairmen believe they can buy what we offer by the hour.  We have to make it clear that we have a broader reality, a certain cynicism that avoids group think, an ability to order facts, a mindset that’s almost unique to our profession.  Why should the accountants have turned the board room into their own private garden? We need to fight back with a great crusade.

A number of things makes the lawyer in the board room an irresistible argument to pursue.

Key to this is diversity of THOUGHT – too often diversity is only considered in a binary numerical fashion – How many women? How many ethnic minorities?  It is more than due time that the order, analysis and logic that lawyers can bring is valued as adding to that diversity piece.

Moral compass – we all know that companies have often rightly lost the trust of the public – there is a great challenge ahead to rebuild that trust.  The better lawyers will provide this compass – the seemliness of things can be better identified by the better lawyers.

Moral relativity – decisions get harder, issues are no longer black and white – the colours have run somewhat – who would you rather have holding your hand as a chairman – the person who has spent their time balancing these things all through their career or the accountant or HR director or marketing director?  The lawyer should win through on this debate.

If the lawyer comes with the right kind of spirit, understanding and commitment – it is time for that lawyer.

Admittedly not all lawyers will be suited, so this is the case for the defence.

Lawyers have an unfair reputation for being uncommercial. For many years, lawyers have been exporting a wonderful legal profession; we do have business acumen; there is no need to learn anything more on this front; BUT we do need to work on the lawyers’ reputation in this area.

Risk aversion/negativity – probably true to some extent, BUT boost this up, it avoids lawyers succumbing to the risk of group-think, of being swept along by collective enthusiasm.  Actually taking on that role of being the challenger is important on the board and it’s a role that boards need.  Do not, however, be held back by a lawyer’s fear that everything you say is weighed like a legal opinion, and with the benefit of hindsight you’ll be found wanting.  That’s simply not the case – it’s just business decisions.  People can disagree and both be right.


Tips to Avoid the Prejudices

Skill up! To break this glass ceiling, we have to persuade people that we are three dimensional.  Some measure of evidence that we understand how things work and how boards operate is key.  Why not cut our teeth on some boards pro bono – make yourself noticed and known, to assuage one obvious line of concern.

Downplay the lawyering – up-play the enthusiasm.  Those skills and strengths already identified are real but don’t major on them – first and foremost you need to believe you can be a good NED and you must actually want to do it.  You need to show an interest in the actual business process of the company – be willing to put on their uniform not the uniform of a lawyer.

Give emotional commitment.


How to Get to Talk to the Chairman

This is where the real issue lies for appointments to corporate boards.  How are you going to get on lists with a sense of credibility – with a star by your name before you start?  This has to involve a good intervention of the headhunter.

Headhunters don’t make much money out of placing a NED (they get £35/40k for placing a FTSE NED), yet without the headhunters’ blessing and insurance policy the appointment won’t happen as the company will get worried that they won’t pass the ‘proper process’ tests.  Old boy network not enough.  So you need to get close to one or more headhunters, but remember that you are not their client – so help them.

Start the process early – don’t wait till you’ve stopped practising law – it’s not going to be top of your list, nor a key priority for much of your time in law – but make it happen, push push push, think about how to skill up and push it higher up the priority list.

Moving from private practice into industry was half a step towards Steve achieving a NED career – he thinks it changed the definition of how companies saw him, completely regardless of whether he did in fact change.  He also saw more of the board room first hand, through simply observing the Unilever board in action.

Being a GC of a large corporation helped him get over the issue of credibility a lot, without the risk of being seen to have too narrow a focus.

We can all broaden our focus – this is critical – companies want a general breadth of corporate knowledge and intensity – a very narrow field will make you unattractive unless that expertise happens to be wanted.

Steve believes in the gifted amateur in the board room.  He is not in favour of upskilling the gaps in the executive by using non-executive experience.

You want to really enjoy making your opinion felt, getting noticed by taking the odd risk, don’t let two minutes pass without saying something – but believe what you say!

Make a decision as to whether you really want to be a NED.  Is it simply a soft option for you, an ego trip, a gentle end to a career, or do you really want to do it, and why?  You need to have an intellectual commitment to that case, don’t do it otherwise – you’ll be seen through and won’t enjoy it.  Lawyers all start with one foot behind the line, and we’re not automatically wanted – so instead prove them wrong, make the charge and make a difference.



Should we pick a sector?

Tony Hapgood told Steve that consumers were what Steve would feel in his gut as a result of his Unilever experience, so consumer businesses would work for him.  But too simplistic.   He thinks you should broadly go by whether you feel an affinity for the business.

His own experience – speciality chemicals, consumer, paper mills, transport – consisted of very different sectors.  As he gets older, his willingness to speak his mind is more indulged and that’s not sector specific.

The emotional commitment you have to the business process is more important than understanding the business process itself – do you have a belief in what the company does?  If not, don’t take the role.


Dos and don’ts in interviews for lawyers?

He’s never insisted that a lawyer be on a list, he’s never interviewed a lawyer, no practising lawyer had made it onto the long shot list – so sadly he’s little to offer on that front.  He knows that’s disappointing.


Do boards really welcome a challenger?

Steve doesn’t like the idea of disputes and disagreements being held outside the boardroom – but this is a deeply unfashionable view and he believes the warts-and-all should be in the minutes and dealt with openly in the board room.  The tendency to group think is troubling and more likely to occur if disputes are dealt with outside the boardroom.   Better to have people more honest and open, with more directors resigning without great hoo haa.  But despite Steve believing this is the right way to go, he acknowledges that this would require a significant change in the style of most board rooms and chairmen.

Is the ‘challenger’ the right pitch for day one? Be true to yourself, don’t pretend you’re a lapdog.  If the chairman doesn’t want you on this basis, don’t take the job.


Where do you see the values piece at the moment?

There is a strong possibility that lawyers can pursue promotion of the values piece, which is definitely outside the accountants’ space, and which should permeate through all companies top to bottom, genuinely.  This should become a strong addition to the board room and one that we lawyers can easily contribute to.  Bringing the companies back to putting this at the heart of what they do, right in the board room and changing the culture of an organisation top to bottom will be hugely valuable and lawyer can play a big part.



Need to push for more diversity of thought – lawyers can definitely do that.


Sandrine Roseberg: Find out how you, as a lawyer, can “add value” to a board

Starting out as a lawyer, Sandrine Roseberg moved to Asia for her husband’s work but didn’t want to be a lawyer there.  So, just after the Asian financial crisis she became a headhunter, replacing expats with locals.

The statistics on lawyers on boards are not great.  There are just 26 lawyers on the FTSE 350 boards.  Most of these trained as lawyers and then shifted into different roles.  Only 8 practiced law to a significant extent before getting a board seat.  In investigating these lawyers further, there seems to be a clear link between the geographic presence or sector of the company concerned and the lawyer’s experience.

Speaking to chairmen about lawyers their approach seems pragmatic.  With boards being pretty small (6 to 10 members) the chair will look for breadth of expertise.  They want a full contribution from their members.  They do want specialists BUT ones who can contribute more generally on M&A, strategy, HR development etc.  Lawyers are not seen that way – negotiators, risk assessors, yes, but not business leaders.  44% of the company secretaries to the FTSE 100 are also their GCs.  The proportion is 40% for the FTSE 250.  All these companies therefore have legal knowledge at their board meetings.  The perception remains that lawyers are too much into the detail.

In the US the position is different, but even there the percentage of directors who do not have CEO experience is going down.


What makes a good board today?

  • A good chair
  • Diversity of views, to some extent (Chairs are regularly reminded that ‘group think’ is not good)
  • Gender and ethnic diversity currently more important as easier to measure
  • Chairs are just starting to say that they want their board to come from anywhere, but often this approach simply doesn’t work since board members have to speak the same language
  • International expertise still valued
  • Technology and digital understanding highly sought after

There will be change in the FTSE 100/250 Chair population, as the vast majority are 65+ at the moment and many will need to rotate off the board within 3 years – 9 years is now the maximum for Chairs.

There is a big push by shareholders to ensure that Chairs aren’t over-boarded.  5 points max.  One for a NED role, 2 for a chair.  You can’t chair more than 2 boards.

The chairs of tomorrow will be current executive board members, often group CEOs who’ve left their executive career in their late 50s e.g. Patrick Thomas of Johnson Matthey.

Since the Volkswagen problems, risk management has to be part of the board strategy.  It used to be just a list to update at the Audit Committee, with Financial Services businesses giving it greatest focus, but now industrial businesses are at risk and might look towards lawyers to help in that area.


The process

Generally, a Chair will come and tell Sandrine what they need.  What is important is how the headhunter approaches their search.  JCA never put a candidate on a list without having a recommendation from people who have worked with them first.  Headhunters need to learn about a candidate’s working style, are they broad in their experience and will they adjust.  JCA, and now Heidricks, will always try to speak to 2 or 3 individuals before a candidate gets on a list.

Networking is very important as there is a lot of sourcing in the initial process.  You may be on a longlist without realising it.

Then the headhunter will discuss the long list with the Chair to see whom he wants to approach.  Then selected candidates will meet the headhunter and then the client and after that formal referencing takes place, with individual referees identified by the candidate.


How do you get on the list?

It depends on the brief.

  • Is the chair is looking for sector experience?
  • Is he willing to include advisers or only operators?

If the list can include ‘advisers’, the headhunter will approach firms which are known specialists in that area, then they will talk to their sources.  Sources are typically those with plenty of board experience themselves.

When a chair comes to the headhunter asking for candidates they discover whether they are more open to diversity.  A chair generally wants a list of people they don’t know and who might have a different approach.  Heidricks have pledged to promote diversity by having a 50/50 longlist (i.e. 50% white male and 50% everything else!).  80% of their non-exec work this year was requested to be women only.


Is any distinction made between lawyers and GCs?

A chair looks for a candidate who he/she will appoint for a minimum of 6 years – the concern is that they can always buy in legal advice if needed, so if you have no managerial or sector specific experience as a lawyer you have a hard battle to prove that you can offer the requisite breadth.  A GC coming from a corporate environment is perceived to have better corporate experience, simply a better understanding of how a company works.

If you are coming from professional services and aren’t ticking any diversity box, you will need to do a good sales job of your skills to get on that list.  The kind of skills they will be looking for are:

  • Change agents
  • Strong cultural agenda
  • Technology
  • Transformation – IPO or lots of big acquisition integration – important for the future of a business
  • Other board experience
  • People management is important

Being the highly intellectual lawyer who is living in a bubble doesn’t play well and can be intimidating.


Can you validate your credentials through working on a not for profit board?

Not for profit boards can be very time consuming.  Some are well run and organised and have great boards.  However, stay away from the ones that look to you to transform their boards.  You will end up being their lawyer and they may be looking for monetary support too.

A strong chair in a not for profit can however, give you the right experience.  Having a couple of well-connected board members can also really help from a referencing point of view.  You then get the chair to lead your conversation.  You need to really believe in the cause and, of course,  make sure you do your due diligence.


How do you rebrand yourself after a life in the law?

You need to be able to demonstrate your translatable skills.  You need to highlight examples of the right skills and speak the corporate language that resonates with business leaders.  Don’t hesitate to give these examples to headhunters.

The practice of talking to people is important.  Rehearse what is relevant.  You need to be more than a very good specialist.


The CV

  • Your CV has to say “This is an experienced board member”, “This is where I add value”, and it’s all backed up by years of experience in a law firm
  • Cover what you’ve done and how it can transpose into a board context
  • When you meet a headhunter, make it clear how you behave
  • The new generation of chairs is going to be far more interested in how you behave than what you’ve done and needs you to be interested in the business.  They can then develop you as a board member.


What do you look for in a candidate?

  • The balance between listening and challenging
  • Confidence not arrogance
  • Energy and enthusiasm
  • Not just a box ticker – people who genuinely believe they can bring something to the board and have the personality to go with it.


Due diligence.

What are the warning signs to look out for?

  • The chair. Try to imagine working with the chair during a crisis on a sunny Sunday afternoon.  The chair can make your life a delight or a misery.
  • Talk to people who have been exposed to that business. Culture is hugely important.  It needs to be the right fit.
  • Diversity of experience – social diversity is a nut not yet cracked


Does your CV open doors or not?

It needs to show the progression of your career and be substantive enough that a headhunter could write their own report on you from it.

The real key is to be open about who you are as a person.


Marie Gabriel: Lawyers as NEDs in the NHS

BCKR was fortunate to be joined recently by Marie Gabriel who chairs the East London NHS Foundation Trust. Below is a paper which Marie prepared for our breakfast session with useful information and links on what you need to think about if applying for an NHS role.  Marie has also generously offered to have a chat with any members who are exploring NHS roles, along with looking at your CV and even putting you through a mock interview. She has a list of typical questions asked at interview which, if you are planning to proceed with an application, we can forward on request.



Lawyers as NEDs in the NHS

To be honest lawyers don’t usually jump out in the list of skills that a Board requires but you do have lots of transferable skills that are valued on those boards

  • Generally, its about ability to understand complex information, to analyse and find themes and gaps
  • It’s also about good decision making skills, understanding of risk,
  • It may be about the specifics of your work, regulation management, estates, contracting, criminal justice, fraud, partnerships, human resources
  • You may have experience of large complex organisations or even smaller ones where you have helped to run the business side, make sure you get involved in the business side of things.

Research in 2013 by Cornell University in the US suggested that a legal board presence correlated with performance. According to the study — Lawyers and Fools: Lawyer-Directors in Public Corporations — having a lawyer in the boardroom increased the value of non-financial companies by an average of 9.55% in the study period between 2000 and 2009.

But you will need Board experience e.g. as NED at a charity or at local school and also knowledge of the field you are interested in.  So, become involved in local health charities and go along to some public NHS meetings so you can test what is wanted and how NEDs operate.

You will need to review your CV emphasising what NHS organisations want and how you will add value. Behaviours and personal values are just as Connected to this develop your personal and professional networks, find someone who is involved as a NED and let them know you want to become one.

Being a NED is a chance to make use of a life-time of experience for the benefit of some of the most vulnerable people in your society. You can and will have a major impact, not only on the effectiveness of the organisation but also on people’s lives.


The NHS Explained – Core Organisations and Their Roles

Non NED Organisations

The Secretary of State for Health

The Secretary of State has overall responsibility for the work of the Department of Health (DH). DH provides strategic leadership for public health, the NHS and social care in England.


The Department of Health (DH)

The DH is responsible for strategic leadership and funding for both health and social care in England. The DH is a ministerial department, supported by 23 agencies and public bodies.

Although these are non NED organisations there are some bodies that report into the Minister/DH such as the Blood and Transport and the Independent Reconfiguration Panel that do require NEDs. As national bodies you would defintely need previous NED experience


Organisations which have Non-Executive Directors

NHS England and NHS Improvement NHSE&I

These two organisations have come together with a joint staff team but separate Boards. NHS England is an independent body, at arm’s length to the government. The main role is to set the priorities and direction of the NHS and to improve health and care outcomes for people in England. NHS Improvement – that regulates the providers of services, such as local hospitals, mental health trusts and community health , ensuring that they are well run, viable organisations. However both organisations have separate Boards as they is how they were established

The key strategic document is the NHS Ten Year Plan, a must read as it provides the background information you need to become a NED. https://www.longtermplan.nhs.uk/

NHS E&I do have NEDs but you would have had to have a high profile national or international career and previous NED experience


Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs)

CCGs are borough based, clinically led statutory NHS bodies responsible for the planning and commissioning of healthcare services for their local area. CCG members include GPs and other clinicians, such as nurses and consultants. They are responsible for about 60% of the NHS budget, commission most secondary care services, and play a part in the commissioning of GP services. The secondary care services commissioned by CCGs are:

CCGs can commission any service provider that meets NHS standards and costs. These can be NHS hospitals, social enterprises, charities or private sector providers. However, they must be assured of the quality of services they commission, taking into account both National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines and the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) data about service providers.

NICE and the CQC also have NEDs

CCGs have NEDs but they call them Lay Members. More recently GPs have been forming federations of practices as providers of services. These also tend to be borough based and some do or will require lay members.



Responsibility for regulating particular aspects of care is now shared across a number of different bodies, such as:

All of these regulatory bodies have NEDs or in the case of Councils they are often call Independent Members. A track record of governance experience is required.



In delivering services you have primary and secondary care. Primary care is usually the first point of contact for most people and includes GPs, dentists, pharmacists and optometrists.

Secondary care services are hospital and community health services and includes planned hospital care at acute hospitals, e.g. operations, accident and emergency, mental health series, community services, such as district nursing, health visitors and rehabilitative care.  There are also ambulances Trust that cover a region.

Providers are divided into Foundation Trusts and non-Foundation Trusts. Foundation Trusts have more freedom because they have shown that they are of a high quality and financially viable. They are supposed to be self-standing and self-governing but increasingly are seeing more involvement from regulators. They have a Council of Governors drawn from their local community through election or appointment and hold the Board to account through the NEDs. As such they are responsible for appointing NEDs.

All the secondary care services have Boards and require NEDs. Previous NED experience and a successful career is needed. Foundation Trusts run their own recruitment processes, usually through headhunters whilst non Foundation Trusts recruit through NHS Improvement.


Key Current Issues for the NHS 

  • Ageing population, increased demand for services, specific conditions on the increase e.g. Diabetes which often linked to life style factors and increased public expectations about access and quality, For example, the Nuffield Foundation estimate that we will need another 17,000 hospital beds by 2022 and that’s just beds.
  • Workforce, not enough for current needs, with a 10% increase in nursing vacancies last year plus the requirements of the NHS Long Term Plan. In February 2018, there was a reported 100,000 vacancies. (The workforce comprises of approximately 1.5 million staff.) Compounded by Brexit and new ways of working required by integrated care models will mean retraining. For example there has been a 96% drop in the number of EU nurses registering to work in the UK. Specific problems with nursing, GPs and some consultant speciality. E.g. child and adolescent psychiatrists.
  • Money – huge deficits overall. The NHS net predicted deficit for the 2018/19 financial year is £519m with a budget of approximately £2.14bn
  • Requirement to work in different ways through Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships. These are good as they are seeking to address regional needs, reducing health inequalities, improving integrated care and access and improve outcomes. However some areas are really struggling to work together or to achieve the transformation needed given population needs and financial problems
  • Austerity, particularly the reduction of local authority budgets which has impacted on social care and therefore on things like discharging people.
  • Need to better implement digital health
  • Need to ensure effective relationships for regional Sustainable and Transformation Partnerships, that have no legal status but are responsible for improving health outcomes and health services along with the viability of health organisations in their areas.


NED Recruitment

The Process

Although you will either be recruited by head hunters or the organisation themselves all NED (or lay member or independent member) roles should be advertised and go for an equal and fair process.

The recruitment process will consist of the following:

  • An application form or CV with covering letter
  • Sometimes a long listing interview
  • A stakeholder event
  • A final interview panel
    • For NHS Improvement it will be a panel consisting of one of their regional executives and a NED or two from other NHS Trusts.
    • For Foundation Trusts this will be members of their Council of Governors
    • For other organisations the panel will vary but should always have an independent member.


The recruitment process will also be looking for people with

  • Experience and understanding of governance, either as a NED somewhere else or through charity or other public sector work. A useful, although out of date document on the expectations of NEDs and the Boards they sit on is the NHS Healthy Board which can be found at: https://www.leadershipacademy.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/NHSLeadership-HealthyNHSBoard-2013.pdf
  • Commitment to the NHS and the Nolan Principles for Public Life
  • An understanding of the needs and aspirations of their local community in general but specifically in relation to health
  • Senior executive experience within their career, preferably at Board level
  • Specific skills that they need on their Board, e.g. organisation development, HR, finance, estate management, community development etc.


Useful places to look for vacancies:


The first is specifically NHS the second is for all public appointments.



I would suggest contacting their health team and say you are looking for a NED role



  • Sunday Times
  • The Guardian


Going Through the Process – Hints and Tips

Application Form

  • Keep it succinct, whether it’s an application or CV with covering letter
  • Ensure, if it’s a CV with covering letter, that you do draw out key ways in which you address the person specification. Do this both in the covering letter, constructing it as a supporting statement, and within the summary of your successes within your career history.
  • If it’s an application form specifically address the areas of the person specification with examples of success. Also send a short covering note, via email or letter highlighting no more than 4 or 5 points
  • Use action focussed and strategic words. For example: I have a proven track record of organisational transformation. At Defo I led the merger of 7 organisations resulting in savings of £5m, increased customer satisfaction from 72 to 98% and increased staff satisfaction post-merger from 54 to 92%.
  • Show that you are committed to their Trust and their organisation, you are not just looking for a NED role anywhere
  • Research so you can add some relevant material, for example I understand that you are in merger discussions with Luton, my experience of mergers and organisational development will……
  • Read it through and read it through again



General Tips

  • Illustrate a commitment to quality of services for patients and to listening to patients and staff where appropriate within your answers
  • Clinical leadership and understanding of the local scene and national policy is always important
  • Research the organisation and the areas within which it provides services so that your answers are relevant, read their strategic documents, recent Board papers and form a view that you can add to an answer. Good places for looking at key policy issues are the websites of NHS Providers and NHS Confederation.
  • Be strategic rather than operational, you with the Board set the direction and then supporting and assuring yourself that others are delivering the strategy and performance
  • Be yourself and be engaging so proactive your interview responses in front of the mirror or better still organise a mock interview
  • Only ask questions at the end if you really have questions to ask



Caroline Carter: a BCKR ‘graduate’ – a portfolio lawyer with a goldmine of tips, advice and experience

Caroline considers herself as a graduate of the school of BCKR.  She has not followed a traditional path.  After 30 years in the City, 18 years of which were as head of Ashurst’s Employment and Remuneration practice, she chose to launch herself into her second career by taking a ‘gap year’. Much against her colleagues’ advice – she started with a completely clear diary. “There is nothing like the gift of time!”

Caroline felt her skill set lent itself to board roles as she had:

  • witnessed plenty of board room bust ups
  • sat on the opposite side to the table as an advisor – not answerable to the shareholder
  • always enjoyed networking outside Ashurst to build her client base

She joined Network for Knowledge early on, which had been established for women in retail banking and finance.  She eventually joined their board and helped to build their mentoring relationships; it was a very good platform to get great speakers. Through that she met Professor Elisabeth Kelan who really encouraged Caroline to get a role in academia. One day Elisabeth called Caroline when a role came up at Cranfield University.

Caroline was very nervous about entering this very academic arena as it seemed inhabited only by postgraduate students.  It was a very competitive process, but they were looking for someone whose approach was to put people issues at the forefront of debates and decisions. Caroline got the role.  It was daunting being the newbie, particularly as she was the only member of the board lacking some kind of academic or other accolade.

But Caroline threw herself into the role by watching and listening and taking up every opportunity to learn more outside the boardroom.  Cranfield has offered amazing opportunities to do different things and to build a different life e.g. exposure to global business leaders, meeting a huge variety of different people – from Cressida Dick to the Spice Girls – and learning about areas completely outside her general experience.

This has included flying in a prototype plane and attending many interesting lectures.  Caroline is reading up on as many topics as possible.  Her enthusiasm to get very involved has led to more opportunities on the Cranfield board and she is now going to become Chair of the RemCom, which will give her an opportunity to shape and make changes to the constitution.

This role has given Caroline the best platform to look at the next chapter of her life.  She quickly realised that education was a passion, she has always enjoyed working with young people, and seeing them succeed – an aspect of her role at Ashurst that she really enjoyed.

Having herself come from a modest background where she was the first generation of her family to attend university, Caroline started to look at organisations involved in social mobilisation. She came across the Brilliant Club which helps to identify bright kids from disadvantaged backgrounds and schools to gain entry into top universities.  When the role was advertised Caroline wrote an impassioned cover letter but stated that she was unavailable on the date of the interview.  The Brilliant Club were so bowled over by her cover letter that they gave her a different role on an adjunct project, looking for gifted young people.  When a role came up again on the board, Caroline applied and became a trustee.  She is now hoping that she can help scale up the organisation. It has been hugely rewarding.

Caroline has recently taken on a governorship at an aspiring girls’ school that had (before she joined) managed to get eight girls work experience at Ashurst.

Her focus is now on gaining a commercial role, and her long-term goal is chairing a university.


How do you get your portfolio going?

Caroline had not applied for a job in 25 years.  It is very different from pitching new business to a client.   The key is translating your skills into business language on your CV.  Using the right words is key – particularly as AI conducts the first round of many searches nowadays. In her case she particularly stressed the following:

  • Strategic input
  • Empowering others to achieve
  • Delegation
  • Transformational change

In portfolio life you need to be the enabler.  Change the way you describe yourself and your skills.  It certainly isn’t about your illustrious list of deals.

The covering letter should be as personal as possible, detailing specifically how you can help the organisation – they haven’t got time for you to be on a massive learning curve.  Caroline feels much more responsible for making it all work. And you’ll be surprised at the impact you can have. Also, make sure you meet key people within the organisation early on and think about the impact you will have. Once you’re there, be nosey – listen but don’t meddle. ‘Nose in …. fingers out!’

Bring an independent mind to the table.  You will become the trusted adviser very quickly. And remember the outside world doesn’t understand the legal world.  Lawyers are seen as service providers not business makers. You will need to earn your credentials again.

Caroline feels it was helpful to focus on unpaid, not for profit type roles initially – it was a conscious choice.  And she has been very lucky to have people championing her. For instance, Georgina Harvey (a former BCKR speaker) has made introductions to headhunters for her.



  • Really assess the area you would like to want to be, in whether it is in the NHS, Social Housing or perhaps a government role
  • Be prepared for the different approaches to interview e.g. psychometric testing is very common now, or the very rigid approach to government role interviews
  • Consider making a direct approach to an organization you are interested in.
  • Take care of yourself!
  • Build your network
  • Treat people with dignity
  • Emotional intelligence is vital
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the stupid question
  • Make yourself attractive to inter-generational businesses.  It is said that in the future, seven generations will be working alongside each other.


Is there anything in particular you lacked in your skill set when you joined your first board?

The jargon used in academia is intimidating at the beginning.  It did feel like a very different and unknown world but by throwing herself into it head first it didn’t take long to get up to speed.  Skilled lawyers have that experience in spades.


What was it about your cover letter to the Brilliant Club that made it stand out? 

She included pertinent things about herself as a person and how she felt she could help to develop the organization. Her letter was authentic.  She mentioned the road she had not taken when she was asked by her father, who was gravely ill, to give up her offer to do a PhD and to get a proper job instead.  So, she went to Law school!




Peter Bennett-Jones: every board should have legal expertise

BCKR recently welcomed Peter Bennett-Jones to share with us his board-life experience and, in his view, what attributes are needed make up an effective board.

Peter’s day job is, as he describes it, as a showbiz hack – an agent and programme maker.

However, his engagement with the not-for-profit world has been the most enjoyable and life affirming aspect of his career.  He has used and adapted the contacts he has made, and their influence, to broader purposes.  His experience has covered three main areas; the arts, education and international development.


The Arts

The National Theatre – where he chaired its production board.  NT Live was started to help pay artists more and to get theatre to a wider audience.  But its popularity made it a huge commercial success story with revenues greater than £1m pa.

Peter did a short stint on the Oxford Playhouse board and on the RADA board.  In both cases the business people and actors gave their boards a particular flavour.  He has since joined the board of the Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse Theatres which had serious funding problems.

Funding is a common theme and continual challenge for all arts organisations, particularly since the decrease in Arts Council funding – even the NT’s public funding has reduced from around 38% to 15%, with no public funding at all going to regional theatres.  Regional theatres are cash strapped and it is very hard to get corporate funding.  The boards are often made up of people who have been there too long.  There is often turbulence around succession, when the old guard are not sophisticated at handling over the baton.

Despite its great heritage, the Liverpool Everyman board needed more rigour. The need to devise a rescue plan attracted applications from high calibre individuals who wanted to join the board – having something specific to focus on can attract talent. The theatre has a stronger board now.  It is often the case that when things are going wrong the board comes into its own.

There are also frequently problems around succession in arts organisations and lawyers can play a significant role in this area.



He was a governor at Rugby School for 6-7 years.  Even there, funding was the theme.  Peter ran the bursary scheme which raised £20m to fund bursaries for children who would benefit from boarding school but who otherwise wouldn’t have access to places.  There was a very dynamic head at Rugby who persuaded McKinnsey to take the programme nationally under the brand SpringBoard Foundation.

The current debates in education, funding aside, are private versus state, the curriculum itself and the degree of intervention from the Secretary of State.  Plus safeguarding.  As within the International Development arena, safeguarding in education is a hot topic.   The level of accountability and scrutiny in this area has, in Peter’s view, become disproportionate.  Current heads are regularly hauled over the coals for actions 20 years ago.

The Charity Commission, which is responsible for overseeing 160,000+ charities, is not well-led, has poor staff, a lot of whom are watching their backs.  This leads to reactive and intrusive challenge across the whole charity sector and that explains the over emphasis on safeguarding at the moment.  Remember, as a trustee you have the same accountability as a director in a plc but with no financial reward, fewer resources to assist and a lot of finger pointing.



Comic Relief.  Having been mates with the screenwriter Richard Curtis since the 70’s, together they decided to use Richard’s success and their resulting persuasive powers to ask the BBC to give them a platform to support relief.  Comic Relief’s success was in infiltrating the international consciousness of a generation and bringing greater awareness of the problems.  It was fascinating.  The board was incredible, all working for a common purpose.

Blair, Brown and Cameron were very supportive of the charity over the years, but the culture has changed under the May government.


Save the Children.  Having been the Chair, he stepped away earlier this.  Oxfam, Help for Heroes, Kids Company and Save the Children are all going through it.  These organisations need to work effectively but who do you get to people these boards when the finger pointing for politically correct themes is so prevalent? The need for strong leaders to get involved has never been greater – but this sits alongside an ever growing disincentive to undertake these roles due to the ever increasing scrutiny, accountability and misrepresentation you expose yourself too when sitting on a board such as these.  It is often the beneficiaries of the charities, those whom the regulators and authorities think they are protecting by their actions, who ultimately suffer from clamp downs.

Mistakes are made and people do behave badly. Lessons need to be learned and organisations allowed to move on.

In his view a board should always have two skills represented:

  1. To have a legally qualified person. Having that sound legal training and advice around the board table.  The lawyer will often come into play in a crisis.  There are many issues where extremely sound and well articulated judgement is required.  Lawyers can do this, in spades.
  2. HR expertise is also a much-needed skill set to have on your board.



Boards have a fundamental role in delivering charity objectives such as:

  • Strategic planning
  • Fire fighting
  • Working with management
  • Succession


There is a delicate balance of relationship between the board and the management team.  After being on the board of Comic Relief for 15 years, Peter did a short course at Harvard and they showed that on the whole, management manipulate 80% of the business of the board.  As a member of the board you need to reverse that, and it is very hard to do. As a non-executive board member, you need to make sure you aren’t outwitted by the management.

BUT it is worthwhile! Sitting on these boards has been a hugely rewarding balancing act between commercial and public interest.  You need to see things from the bottom up as well as top down.



On the whole they are an expensive undertaking for charities.  Candidates do need to make sure they are on the radar of the few important players.

If you do take on a role you need to give your time willingly, so don’t bite off more than you can chew.

The balance is the reward:

  • Getting under the carpet of UK social issues
  • Engaging with other institutions in partnership
  • Range of issues are very different from those you see in private practice

However, the environment for charities has changed.  Now there are sections of press and government ready to criticise.  There is an additional emphasis on governance and safeguarding as there is more awareness of the issues.

You can, as a lawyer, make a significant contribution.

Due diligence is key before you take on a role.  Look at historic accounts, meet the Chief Executive and or Chair and current trustees, to get an understanding of issues being faced.


How do you go about getting a role on an arts board if you have no previous experience?

Demonstrate engagement.  Just approach the organisation.  These are volunteer jobs and you will be adding great value.

Georgina Harvey & Matt Higgins: Exploring Remuneration Committees

BCKR was pleased to welcome Georgina Harvey and Matt Higgins recently, who shared with us their experience of Remuneration Committees.

Matt and Georgina are seeing a lot of each other at the moment as they are in the midst of a couple of weeks when all their RemCo work comes together. The flow of the Committee work is definitely not as it used to be.  It is much more time consuming and involved.  Long consultations with shareholders, explanatory letters, ten-page summaries at the end, 20+ meetings with shareholders in between, 20-30 pages on remuneration for the annual report, plus the need to look forward and backwards on all senior remuneration, for both the exec directors and the rest of the senior team, as well as keeping abreast of where the remainder of the works force sits.  This is the most challenging couple of weeks in the cycle.

Matt and Georgina took the members through their helpful slides, which can be found here.  The remainder of these notes do not cover the full presentation but focus on the extra bits of engaging narrative they provided.


A successful committee

More than for any other committee, relationships are key on RemCo. You can’t set rem in a bubble.  You need lots of engagement with management, but the relationship has to stay very professional to make it easier to deliver news they do not want to hear.  Big Yellow was unusual in having to drag the management to being paid well enough.  Normally it is very much the other way around. Much will have been heard and discussed outside the committee room.

Ensuring you have a mix of backgrounds on the committee is important – sector experience, audit chair, HR experience (but you need to understand the bias of all involved – including the HR team).


Who does a Rem Consultant advise?

Management, the RemCo, the HR rewards team? The reporting line should be to the RemCo Chair but there is a need for the consultant to understand the management perspective too. An advisor shouldn’t meet with the executive team without running it by the Chair first.

An adviser might have a good perspective on shareholder sentiment.  Their input can be very helpful in developing new approaches to e.g.: LTI or bonus structures.  It really helps to have that outside perspective, since the consultant will already know how others are approaching the issues, both corporates and shareholders.

The Chair has to deliver difficult messages and sometimes they are received better when delivered by the adviser not the Chair.


An effective Chair

There are plenty of stakeholders to consider in the rem space.  Careful handling of board, management, shareholders, and shareholder bodies [ISS, IA and PIRC] all of whom require different timings and approaches.

Consultations over changes to rem structure take at least three months.  Georgina’s preference is to approach shareholders with what you’re looking for, from the off, and row back if needed.  Some still choose to go in asking for too much to have ground to ‘give’.

A letter will go out to shareholders a few months ahead of the AGM outlining proposals for imminent changes to the rem policy, rem structure and levels. The letter announces that the company is opening a consultation, detailing when and how the Committee would like to hear from them.  This could be sent to as many as 20-30 different bodies.  The process of seeking shareholders’ views may be through meetings, calls, emails – all are possible, generally at the choice of the shareholder.  Often the shareholders themselves will be opposed to each other’s viewpoint e.g. TSR measures for Rem loved by some, hated by others. (Total shareholder return – Dividends plus capital increase).

The Chair needs to be tough, principled and brave enough to do the right thing.  They need to be prepared to listen and also to compromise, taking on the views of the shareholders.  This is where the preparation outside the boardroom is vital, having papers prepped well in advance of the meeting.

Georgina’s natural approach is to have a consultation, listen to feedback, report back to the RemCo then produce a wrap-up letter which will explain any opposing views and why and what any proposed compromise might be.  All then understand the rationale.

Things to consider include alignment with strategy, risk appetite, absolute levels of pay, the general environment, benchmarks and, even after all that, how strong a level of shareholder support the board requires.  Some companies are content with a simple pass, with 51% of the vote, others seek less friction and require over 80%.


Areas of tension

Rem can feel like a hostile environment, with shareholders and the press against you, with the latter basing their views on truth or misinformation.  This scrutiny can sometimes make it hard for the RemCo to make a decision that is right for the business. You need a mature executive team, which has a long-term approach to keeping shareholders happy.  Sometimes the management are behind the curve in feeling how the market views executive pay generally and therefore their own rewards.

Target setting – Any adjustments to the Rem structure will require a shared understanding from the outset of why changes are being proposed, and how best to achieve the objectives. For instance, it is important to create an LTIP which aligns with shareholder experience – dividend and capital increases will have to sit comfortably against the chief exec’s pay.

It’s getting tougher!



Harvey Higgins Presentation Feb 2019

Patrick Reihill: Insights from the Whitehall & Industry Group – lawyers and public sector roles

BCKR recently welcomed Patrick Reihill from the Whitehall & Industry Group to share his experiences of public sector role recruitment. A copy of Patrick’s presentation can be found here.


What do law firms get out of their WIG membership?

Most use it for the events WIG put on, to get a better understanding of policies coming through and the inner workings of government and also for their leadership programmes.


What is the normal recruitment process for a public sector role?

WIG will go through a very thorough briefing process with the client and challenge them about the type of individual they are looking for and from that, draw up a brief.

The role will then be advertised for 4-6 weeks and also be brought to the attention of their existing network.  BCKR does review the WIG advertisements in compiling their lists.

Then they will draw up a shortlist.  WIG won’t meet the candidates face to face before the shortlisting stage.  That’s when the more detailed bullet points come in – the value added skills that differentiate between candidates.  It is important at this point for candidates to give as much as possible for the headhunter to hang their hat on. The covering letter is often more elaborative than the CV.

Next is the interview stage.  Fairness is always at the top of the panel’s mind, so the same questions will be asked of all candidates and there is no deviation from the script.  It can appear to be quite a forensic overly formalistic process.  There will not be an opportunity for supplementary questions.  It is important to have an understanding of how government and Whitehall operates.  Make sure you keep your answers short.  Overwhelm yourself with examples of how you fit the job competencies detailed in the job description.


What due diligence?

  • How does the minister/permanent secretary see NEDs working in his/her department (WIG can always help you here)?
  • Do you know any of the current NEDs who are stepping down or previous NEDs? Have a cup of coffee with them – anything to get a steer on what the panel are really looking for.
  • If you get the opportunity for a ‘fireside chat’ (which would only occur after an initial interview) this would be the opportunity to meet with key sponsors, and a chance for a more informal discussion where you must sell yourself. This is not to be taken casually.  It is certainly not to be taken as an indication that you have the job.


Why would you put yourself through this?

The intellectual challenge and the opportunity to give something back.

The political involvement can add a fundamentally interesting element to life.

It is usually the work above and beyond the boardroom that is really interesting.

It will require extra time but and can be very rewarding and complimentary to your other activities.

The other thing to take into account is that there are lots of roles in the WIG arena so statistically you have a better chance of getting one than in the straight commercial sectors.

You will also meet a lot of interesting people serving on these boards, which in turn increases your network for the future.

Don’t give in if you get rejected.  The more roles you go for the more you will pick up about the process.


Addressing your weaknesses.

There is an industry perception that law firms don’t know how to run a business.  This is the lawyer’s fault. It is up to you to re-write your CV with headlines around your commercial experience giving tangible examples of your translatable skills.  Get rid of your list of deals. For example:

  • Commercial income that you have been instrumental in increasing
  • The size of teams you have led
  • Business decisions you have been involved in


How do you go about developing your CV?

  • Make sure it is role specific.
  • Seek help – WIG is always willing to give advice.
  • Lay it out in a straightforward way illustrating your business skill-set with real successes/outcomes.



They are a challenge.  Headhunters are undeniably client focused and they are frankly not trained to advise candidates.  You need to do as much of their job as possible.   Things to think about:

  • Be focused personally – what are your interests, skills and breadth of experience?
  • Use your network – clients, mutual connections.
  • Consider getting a mentor.
  • Go digital – make sure you are on LinkedIn.
  • Think about all the prejudices lawyers have to overcome and tackle them head on.
  • Start early but don’t just jump in without due consideration.
  • Ensure involvement in your organisation. Be a champion within your own firm.
  • Think about charity trusteeship as early as you can.

Larissa Joy: Lawyers test, challenge and bring skills that are incredibly valuable to the boardroom

We recently welcomed Portfolio Lawyer, Larissa Joy, to share the interesting turns her professional life has taken with our BCKR members. Larissa is somewhat of an evangelist for a plural career. She has taken a number of varied paths during her entire career and continues to do so in the further development of her portfolio.

Larissa’s first holiday job was as a tour leader with Saga, which when she looks back on it, taught her a great deal.  She ran into trouble when, leading sixty American passengers, the Danube had completely dried up and the tour was conducted by land in coaches. She went on to lead Saga’s first 50 day round the world tour.  Difficult as the Danube experience was in the days of no mobile phones, she realised early the value of putting oneself into new and testing situations as an instructive experience.

Larissa trained as a lawyer at Theodore Goddard.  Her next move was in-house at IMG where she combined the role of lawyer and working on music, sport and television deals, combining her interests in the media and music, one of the factors that had led her to train with Theodore Goddard.  Next, she moved into advertising – joining a 90-strong firm that was looking to sell the business.  They needed a lawyer to help them with preparing the business for sale and also with setting up new offices in Europe. They sold successfully to a holding company and merged the agency with an exciting network of agencies, where Larissa picked up a great deal of experience about mergers in people businesses. After several years in the combined business, she followed the Chairman to the Ogilvy group, where she was in charge of assessing potential new businesses for acquisition. She went on to become Vice Chairman of WPP’s Ogilvy Group UK.

From there, Larissa joined Weber Shandwick as their UK COO, just after a merger and having performed that role successfully, was asked to take on a European leadership role.  She was then headhunted into the world of Private Equity – in the emerging markets field – joining Actis as a Partner and COO.  Her experience of managing change, managing people businesses and mergers and acquisitions were relevant to her new role. She was soon doing business in emerging economies such as India and Africa.  It taught her a huge amount, not least how to achieve success in different cultural environments and she learnt about partnership.

After the birth of her third child she came to the conclusion that she needed more control of her time. That was when the role as Chair of the House of Illustration came along, and alongside some consultancy work in professional services, other portfolio roles followed after that.  Her NED and Chair roles now consist of:

  • NED at Charles Russell Speechlys
  • NED at Saxton Bampfylde
  • NED at L&Q
  • NED at Helpforce which works to develop the future of volunteering in the NHS
  • Chair of The Foundling Museum
  • Chair of SBT. This is a consortium of Clifford Chance, Bain, EY, Permira, Thomson Reuters and others who collaborate to invest in growing high-potential social enterprises.

Larissa’s approach has broadly been to be predisposed to say “yes” when asked to have a chat about the potential opportunities that come her way, however unusual the role might sound initially.

Due diligence:  Though it is obviously vital that you take the time to look at the previous financial history and to review the Board and take soundings in the market about an organisation, it is also important to talk to people within the organisation you are thinking of joining. It is also important also to bear in mind that due diligence tends to be about looking backwards at what has happened and sometimes things can, and do, take a different course. For example, Larissa joined an organisation as Senior Independent Director in the early part of her portfolio career where the reason for bringing on board new NEDs was because, following a change in leadership, there was a desire to improve governance and viability ratings and to assess future strategic options. She accepted the role, having significant confidence in the Chair and the individuals she met, knowing the whole picture and found the challenge of being on the Board throughout the turnaround very interesting and satisfying and learned a great deal. Larissa stresses that the one to one time you spend with your colleagues (on both the executive and the non-executive side) is very important.


What perceptions of lawyers on boards have you encountered? 

A question Larissa has been asked several times is along the lines of:  “I see you are a lawyer by training – are you going to be the type of Board member that always points out the risks?” Larissa stresses that lawyers are so valuable for the efficacy of good governance of an organisation.  They test, they challenge, and they offer an alternative perspective. They bring skills that are incredibly valuable as part of a cognitively diverse boardroom.



She believes that the best firms can be a huge help and she has always tried to be helpful to them in their searches, suggesting names and giving advice when they are conducting a search.  It is a good way to start a relationship.  Ask for their advice and try to meet with as many as possible to build relationships.  Head-hunters are an important part of your route to market, as well as your networks.


Highlights and pitfalls of portfolio life

Larissa loves the opportunities to make connections between the different organisations where she is an NED or Chair, where that makes sense and does not create any conflict. It is very important to ensure that time is not filled up to allow some room for when NEDs are called on to deal with an unexpected situation, when inevitably more time is required.


When developing your portfolio career, did you have a structured plan or did you keep an open mind and see where things led?

Larissa remembers going to see search firms when she was thinking of leaving Private Equity and saying, “this is my experience – what can you offer me?”  But at the time she was not certain about which direction she wanted to take. She now realises that can make it tricky for the search firms to help! She learned to keep an incredibly open mind.  She stresses the need to think carefully about your network and who people you know who rate you might be willing to introduce you to.  Think strategically about people you know on boards or about your particular sector. It is hard to find the time to network – but even use social occasions to make connections and help other people because in the end it all comes full circle and things are increasingly interconnected.


How do you assess the time a role will require?

For an organisation that is less used to having NEDs, you will probably need to complete a year’s cycle to get an idea of the time commitment required.  You may be pulled into a ‘task and finish’ situations but it is important that you don’t get pulled into the executive side of things and remain independent.  The role of the Chair is often a greater demand on one’s time.


Do you find there is much difference working in the Not-for-Profit sector as opposed to your commercial roles?

On the surface, if well-run, there is almost no difference.  Governance is important in both. But difficult or unexpected situations will occur. Not for Profit can be quite full on in terms of revenue and fundraising.

A good Chair will ensure proper debate. Diversity of thought and challenge is good and should be celebrated. Equally, it is important that risks and major issues are robustly aired. Operating in a regulated environment brings its own challenges and having a Regulator helps to underpin a good discipline to be vigilant about governance and compliance.


Is it important to have a balance between Not for Profit and commercial roles?

Larissa finds it exciting to have both and to bring the two together. Networks built in the Not for Profit world have been invaluable in building her portfolio and also very rewarding.


Do you turn down many roles?

She is often contacted about things and she will always take the time to suggest other people to help in the search, but at the moment she has a full portfolio so tends to signpost people in other directions.


Why would you want to have a lawyer on your board?

A partner in a law firm for example understands cashflow, how to market, run a team, good governance, compliance, contracts, and will have successfully built relationships and trust.  They are likely to have sector expertise, the ability to recognise when to red-flag an issue.

When these skills are part of what a person does day to day they can sometimes underplay them – these are such valuable skills for an organisation – in and outside the boardroom.

Discussion under Chatham House rules

Maria da Cunha: Prioritise your area of expertise and do what interests you

On graduating from the LSE Maria started her career as a competition lawyer at Hogan Lovells. She moved in-house to Lloyds Bank when her two children were toddlers.  Her next move was to British Airways as a competition lawyer where she soon went on to become Head of Legal.  She took on a variety of different roles whilst still being GC, in Government and International Affairs, Economic regulation and then for the last 8 years she became Head of Human Resources and Industrial Relations. She combined this with 8 years on the BA management board.

Then, having spent 15 years in the same industry, she thought she needed more breadth and about 4 years ago Maria started to look for NED roles.


How Maria went about getting her first role it

  • Maria started by making a list of businesses she was interested in and a list of those she didn’t want to do. You are committing a considerable amount of time to these types of roles – make sure it’s something that interests you.
  • Then she assessed what value she could add to these businesses (excluding her legal skills) which she felt would be in the following areas:
    • Transformation change and disruption
    • Media and coms/crisis management experience
    • Regulatory and international experience
    • Government interaction

Forget your list of deals.  Think more about your areas of expertise whether it is digital, cyber, sector specific …. This is what you should include in your CV.

You need to put the leg-work in.  Use your network.  Talk to Chairs/SIDs and other NEDs.  Get the support of your boss and colleagues.

Be aware of the time commitment.  Whilst still working at BA, Maria spent many a weekend reading the board pack etc.

The first board Maria was appointed to was at De La Rue (the security company which prints currency and passports and has contracts with many different countries.) She felt the skills she brought to the board room were:

  • International experience
  • Transformation
  • Constructive challenge
  • Team work


A year later Maria took on a second role for a not-for-profit organisation in the social care sector, for people with learning difficulties, which was very different but where she could really make a difference.

Very different skills are needed when working in the charity sector rather than the commercial sector.  Charities need real hard business experience and can require you to be much more hands on and therefore charity board roles can be more time consuming.  The skills needed around the board table itself and in relation to governance are not very different, but it is the work behind the scenes where things can differ significantly.  Much more time is required coaching young trustees or sitting on other committees, talking to the CEO or HR directors, all of whom are likely to have less experience and resources than you are used to in the corporate and City world.  You don’t get the same level of support from the company secretary either.  There also tend to be fewer meetings which can make it harder to keep across what is going on.  From a people perspective those working in the charity sector are generally very enthusiastic but less commercially aware.


Things to consider when presenting yourself to others when launching yourself into the NED world

Maria asked herself what the pillars were that defined her as a person, such as teamwork, collaborative influencing, communication, all vital skills on a board which are bread and butter to any lawyer.  Most lawyers will have people management experience through managing a practice area, developing talent, appraisals, building and making teams coalesce quickly or bridging between different teams etc.


Do you have any particular sector experience?  For instance, international experience is useful for companies growing and expanding overseas.  Think about the kinds of clients you are involved with.  Governance experience is vital.  Compliance. Do not though focus on that alone as boards will also have their General Counsel and external lawyers to seek legal advice from.


Deconstruct your practice.  Be clear about the areas you want to avoid as well as those you enjoy but don’t rule out too much.  You just need to be interested enough in the business to commit 3 years to it.


Was it hard to convince the Chair at De La Rue that your experience was relevant?

It was actually the headhunter that Maria had to convince.  That can be quite hard as they have a tendency not to think particularly creatively.  She tried to think about the boxes they would put her in and then how she could persuade them to the contrary.

She made a list of all the executive search firms and got in touch with and saw all.  Out of a long list there were about 2-3 firms who actually understood her and remain in touch to this day – still sending through stuff.


Headhunters are probably the biggest obstacle to overcome in this process, so you need to make it easy for them.  Point out the obvious.

  • Tell them what sectors you are interested in.
  • Lawyers are well disposed to get to grips with a new business, with a natural curiosity and an ability to absorb the data quickly. Remind them of this.
  • Illustrate your commerciality. There is a consensus that lawyers sit on the fence and don’t take a view.  Persuade them that you can make judgements on the best path to take.  Find examples of where you have taken calculated risks.


Are there any courses, seminars etc that Maria found useful?

It is important to be comfortable reading the accounts and financials, particularly if you find yourself on an audit committee.  Keep yourself up-to-date.

Places to check are the Institute of Directors, PwC who run a series of workshops targeted at NEDs. Fidelio Executive Search also runs a programme for prospective NEDs.


Being on a board gives you a more rounded view.  You get to see things from a different perspective, from the investment point of view. There can be a lot of cross fertilisation which helps a lot in the executive job. Being an adviser has actually helped her.


Lawyers’ soft skills are all there, building consensus, advising vs challenging.


Have there been any surprises being a director?

Being the recipient of paperwork makes you much more appreciative of the role a company secretary plays.


A really important lesson to understand in any non-executive role, is that you do have to plough through a lot of guff to get to the nub of the problem, particularly at the beginning.  Keep digging and trust your instincts.  It has been interesting to observe that with a balanced board working in unison, you make better decisions and you can learn a lot from that.


What has your greatest learning curve been?

Probably dealing with activist shareholders and keeping the investor base happy.  Hadn’t appreciated how complex a problem that would be.

Steven Sussman & James Godrich: company accounts – how to look at the numbers

Before hearing James Godrich on the key things to look for in a company’s accounts, BCKR members heard from Steven Sussman.  The second part of the talk is not summarised here, although the slides accompanying these notes provide a good reminder for members of what they heard and will hopefully provide a useful teach-in for those unable to join us.

Steven is CEO of our regular host, JM Finn and members heard his thoughts on what to consider when looking at NED positions and what the regulated firms he’s been involved with have sought from their own NEDs.  Steven provided a colourful and salutary reminder of the associated risks.

What to consider when applying for NED roles:

  • Regulated firms – as a NED you are at risk so you need to consider whether it’s worth it – your assets and reputation may be called to account
  • Time v money – it is not just about showing up to 4 board meetings per year. Much more is required.  There are often committee meetings as well (and non-executives will generally be expected to sit on at least one other committee) and to do a good job, a lot of preparation is required (including reading 50-100 pages ahead of each meeting for even the smallest of committees – much more for the main board meetings).  You need to really consider the time commitment
  • Money v risk – is the risk you’re taking worth the money you will get paid?
  • Learning – Do you know the industry? You need to get up to speed with the firm and the industry so there might be a lot to learn up front.
  • The financial state of firm – remember to look at this area of a firm when you consider a NED role e.g. how cash rich are they / are they profitable / is it a credible business?

As a NED you are responsible to the shareholders so you need to be able to be objective.

Boards don’t look specifically for bankers or lawyers, they want someone who can add value and credibility, ask the right questions, probe. Be professional. Bring contacts. Do you have financial skills as an extra resource that can be useful. Can you introduce clients. Can you give advice/ insight, add a fresh objective view.

And with that, he passed the baton to James Godrich. James’ Powerpoint slides can be found here.

Rachel Hubbard: “Start early, start small”

We recently welcomed Rachel Hubbard, currently leading the Social Impact sector at Saxton Bampfylde, to BCKR.

Saxton Bampfylde is now 32 years old, with the founder, Stephen Bampfylde, still involved.  They have always been focused on the non-profit world, charities and NGOs. Rachel leads the social impact sector.

Different headhunting firms operate different processes and for the candidate and headhunter this process can feel different depending on the type of organisation involved. Saxton Bampfylde does not operate through the ‘little black book’, or by relying on their database.  Their research-heavy model is very different.  They start with a clean bit of paper every time, talking to as many as 120 people for a non-executive search (150 for executive roles), asking the people they can think of who might be interested.  They can also create a mind map. That’s not to say they don’t use feedback from previous searches, or their database, but that is not the main focus. Probably one third to half would be people they haven’t spoken to before as they do try to challenge the brief.   A lot of roles need a lot of advocacy by the headhunter.  Especially the Chair roles currently.

She could fill her life with cups of coffee with potential candidates, but they don’t pay – headhunters need to work efficiently.  To get your first role, don’t look to the search firms – find someone who can introduce you to an organisation.  Can you do voluntary work, or consultancy for an organisation? Start early, start small.  Be seen to be have thought about the voluntary sector before claiming to be able to offer much to them.

Search firms have to win the work like any business.  Their marketing focus is on potential business, not candidates.  They need to look for their clients, and attract them, finding outwhat motivates them, what interests them, who they know, in order to build that trusted adviser status.  She sees this relationship building as similar to the role of a lawyer winning clients.  Become knowledgeable, listen and then come back and advise. When dealing with headhunters remember this.  Once you’ve established yourself, remind them who you are, making it simple and concise, and don’t expect a cup of coffee.

The briefing process from the client is very important in any search.  They don’t often hear “We want a lawyer”, unless the organisation has historically had a lawyer on their board, when repeat lawyers are often valued.

They generally operate to a 12 week process.

Skills audits: before the board makes an appointment they will do a skills audit to work out what they want on the board as a whole, and what they’re missing.  This exercise often makes clients very clear on what they’re after, so the simple database search won’t get the headhunter very far, as it’s the combination of skills that the client will be looking for.  Often, therefore, the headhunter is already trying to amass two or three separate skills into the pot, and it’s unlikely to be law.

Real interest isn’t enough, often something has to resonate. For example, for a homeless children’s charity or a charity for children in care, being “interested in children” is not enough, whatever the professional day job.  It requires something else in the candidate’s life – have they had real life experience of adoption, living in care etc? See if there are ways that make your application stand out.

Start early and do things on a voluntary basis to build experience but also credibility.

One highly sought-after skill: income generation relevant to that organisation. Can you make them more connected with major donors? Do you have experience of winning grants, or giving/winning large contracts akin to those of the organisation? Can you extend their network? etc.  All these could bring money into the organisation.

Another useful skill: can you offer consumer insight – marketing generally, HR, or legal experience – in their sector? Knowledge of stakeholders in that organisation is highly prized.

Who is the competition?

People who can write an application which speaks to the client.  A great CV and a letter that conveys understanding of the motivation for the organisation. If the CV alone shows the candidate is not competent, she often gives up, but clients often focus as much on the letter.

She’s astonished that even when 150 people write applications for chairing a huge charity, often captains of industry, their applications are poor, they convey no evidence for why the organisation should choose the individual.   You must explain “Why on earth they should choose me?” and provide evidence. Get someone else to read the CV and letter first – many clearly don’t.


Lawyers – can you write a CV which is not prose or discursive, and instead looks like a business CV which demonstrates your management experience? It’s a good idea to bring it alive with numbers – this is very important.  Ensure your CV is no longer than 2 pages.

To be a convincing non-executive trustee, you must demonstrate on paper and in any meetings that you are someone who is comfortable with ambiguity, realising that decisions are often made for the broader social good and which are counter to your sense of logic. The organisation may act against your own better judgement, so it is vital you appreciate the varied motivations of those around the table.  It can be emotionally charged.  You have to be up for this and ready for bold decisions being made without all the data or evidence necessarily always there.  This can be challenging for those with careers based on evidence and facts.

People choose people.  It’s a privilege to be chosen as a trusted adviser, or trustee – there needs to be an affinity, since much unpaid time will be spent with that individual over a number of years.  Arrive with a low ego and show empathy.

What’s your USP? Provide evidence that volunteering is something you do.

Make it easy for people to contact you. Do you really want to work in the non-profit sector? Are you up for the challenges this can bring?  These organisations can come at the world from a very different place.  Despite this, diversity of viewpoint and, essentially, collaboration are hugely valued.

The stakeholders’ viewpoint can be the one that has the final say in a decision.  Ultimately a charity must focus on their mission.  A good lawyer trustee may be good at remembering to bring a discussion back to these first principles.

Skills audit: Will not include lawyers! But it will include governance… not commenting on the minutes, but trying to bring proportion to the whole area in the press spot light at the moment.  Need to think where you will fit in.  The governance of charities is getting closer and closer to corporate position.  The instincts of the lawyer to question things is still good. The questions you can raise about the what-ifs, asking about the consequences of a decision being made, clarity around how decisions will fall.

Are there templates for a skills audit?

Yes. Charity commission website provides them. Will vary by type of organisation.  Grant giving body will look very different from housing association, NGO etc.  To some extent they mirror the executive skills of the organisation.

What makes a good cover letter?

Opening paragraph, where it says in a nutshell why what you do is remarkable and why you can add value. Show you’re  keen and excited and that it’s not all about you.

Are there differences in process etc. between paid and unpaid roles?

Not really, but a commercial organisation can have a simple more streamlined process with fewer involved.  Very few other differences.

Would you expect a panel interview?

Yes, four to five panel members.  Don’t presume anything.  Do your research.  What will be will be.  Panels don’t necessarily know each other, have gathered quickly in advance, but may well ask really tough questions addressing really tough issues.  Don’t be fazed.

Charities also consider whether there are stakeholder groups accessible who can join in the interviewing too.  If so, this will often be used and their views will be very important.  The insights from that group are often aligned with the more analytical process of the trustees

Interviews: Don’t talk at people.  Don’t knock them flat.  Get on and have a well argued intellectual debate and critically, come up with consensus. Most organisations are sceptical about those who’ve had no exposure to the non-profit sector but think they can nonetheless waltz in and make an impact.  Start early.

Starting points:  Samaritans volunteering.  Reading sessions in a school.  Giving time to sector.  School governor.  Mentoring and outreach programmes for clients. Talk giving.  When boards can see that you’ve taken the time despite busy careers etc. it shows real interest.

Good CVs? Pages of prose are really unhelpful.  Hard if you haven’t got much beyond legal work.  Therefore, make it look like a business CV.  Clear statement of your organisation and roles.  Bullet points, not paragraphs, two pages max, keep numbers in it, bring forward the volunteering side, don’t hide it away e.g. leadership role in your church etc. The bits of your day job that people don’t realise are important.

Letter: Spell client right! Tone is critical, often there’s too much “I”, not enough heart.  Need a story that builds empathy.

Interview coming up… how do you get a sense of the organisation before interview? What interaction can you hope for?  Many will build in a conversation with a decision maker to allow you to ask questions etc.  Do ask for this if not offered.  Remember the individual decision maker will also be making judgements at that meeting.  As for auditors etc. wait until the right late stage of the process. By short-list time it’s often about fit rather than the not skill set, hopefully, if the headhunter has done their job well.  This is even more important in a non-profit than a commercial organisation.

The pool of candidates is probably not as strong if no headhunter has been involved in the process, and the pool is harder to get into if you are not in the right network.

SaxBam’s appointments lately have been comprised of 53% women, 38% bme, but the diversity afforded by the socio-economic background is also critical … Much harder to see from the CV itself.  Life experience is able to add something very different which a board may value.

Lots of digital skills required at the moment in searches.  It’s easier to attract those individuals as they don’t dwell on their personal accountability.  But the operational end of delivering services is much harder.

Charles Randell: “The best way to get NED roles is through relentless networking”

We recently welcomed Charles Randell, currently Chair of the FCA, to BCKR.  Charles joined Slaughter and May in 1980 and stayed for 33 years, despite various efforts to ‘escape’.  He interviewed widely for other jobs before becoming a partner, but concluded they were equally as ‘bad’.  So, he took partnership but set himself a target to leave by the age of 50.  On approaching 50, he accepted a job chairing a government owned business which was in the process of being privatised but he had a change of heart over the weekend and pulled out.  This decision set him back quite some way on future jobs in the public sector!

He was still at Slaughters when the financial crisis hit.  By the end of the crisis period, he had nothing left in the tank for transactional client work – particularly pitching to clients and the ensuing rejections. But he did know many more people in government and the Bank of England. One of these rang to encourage Charles to apply for a non-executive position on the Prudential Regulation Committee at the Bank which was to be his cornerstone commitment, and he finally handed in his notice at Slaughters.  There had been hope of him remaining as a partner while fulfilling the Bank’s role but, at his first meeting at the Bank of England, there were so many conflicts that he realised he had no choice but to leave.

At around the same time, he joined the Department of Energy and Climate change board, which again came about through personal contacts gained through his work.  He ended up Chairing the Audit and Risk Committee there too.

In his experience he has found that visiting head hunters was universally a disappointing experience. Despite that, he still did the rounds with them all.

It is well known that Chairs don’t actively seek to have lawyers on their boards, for the reasons we all know too well.  He still gets asked if he has any comments to make on the minutes!


Reflections on the role of a NED

  • The job of a NED can be quite lonely and certainly an enormous contrast to being at a law firm where you can have useful conversations about issues with colleagues on a casual basis. It is difficult to find the right level of engagement, so you are not isolated from what matters in the everyday workings of the organisation you are working for.  The dangers lie in not being able to walk about and find out what’s going on.
  • The Bank of England was initially very structured and difficult to penetrate – though it is becoming more relaxed.
  • Good governance is key. There is the Code but, in his experience, good governance is incredibly rare.  In a financial services firm, the tell-tale signs are:
    • Chief Executive dominance
    • Culture of high executive pay
    • An imbalance of material information between the executive and non-executive teams
    • A chronic lack of succession planning by powerful Chief Executives.

The PRA does have a watch list of financial services firms and plenty are on it.

With this in mind, the most critical thing in looking for a NED position is to have/choose the right NED colleagues.  If you are not the Chair, it is obviously much harder to change the culture of the board and organisation.  NEDs are most effective when working persistently to raise issues with the executive – as a group.  Be dogged in a constructive and helpful way.

Freedom to poke about and a good quality exchange of information with the executive are essential.  If you are not getting that, something is wrong with the culture of the organisation.


Risks of being a NED

Compared to the unlimited liability you undertake as a lawyer, the risks are minimal.

Yes, there is a risk of public humiliation if things go wrong.  Personally, Charles doesn’t think the risk is so great.

Financial services are no worse than many other industries and at least they are highly regulated so you have the comfort that others are also doing the checks.

The key risks relate to there being a lack of diversity of thought amongst the board.  If you are just reacting to stuff being fed to you rather than delving into the underlying issues perhaps you aren’t giving it the mental space that is required.  You need to maintain a freshness of approach.

Charles has found it useful to look at the agenda and identify the issues before reading through the board pack.

He has found being the Chair of an organisation much more intensive.  The workload is considerable and the challenge as chair is to ensure that the right things get to the top of the agenda – focusing on the core objectives. This is not always easy.




How did you find the public appointment process?

It is formalised and less open.  If the process doesn’t produce the right candidate, they will ring up the right candidate and suggest they apply.  You need to assume that those making the appointment have an agenda.

There is undoubtedly more bureaucracy around the process in the public sector.

The approach of ministerial boards go either way.  The willingness of the Secretary of State to engage with the board and use it as an advisory body varies enormously.  Departmental boards are a very mixed bags.  Your best bet is to ask around before joining a board.  They can be very dependent on the minister (as Chair) – from full engagement to not turning up at all.

Non-departmental public bodies/Quangos are much more settled environments as they are not subject to the vagaries of reshuffles etc.


What signs should you look out for recommended to the when applying for senior public appointments?

Each post will have two candidates recommended to the minister so that he/she always has a choice. The key is in the integrity of the selection panel.  Ministerial add-ins do happen but don’t necessarily get far.


How do you break from the issues of the day as board Chair and get time to add the right things to the agenda?

It is a job you never finish.  It is usually more a question of getting stuff off the agenda.  Often on government bodies it is part of the reward structure for people to present papers to the board.  These things appear on the agenda months in advance.  The struggle is to get control of the agenda and to fill it from the top down.


When you look at when you left Slaughter and May did you get the timing right?

Charles thinks he lucked out.  If you look at the triggers enabling him to be able to find a job, it came down to random chance and the result of happy coincidences, chance conversations and luck. You have to make your own luck by working your contacts.

Like many lawyers he does not enjoy self promotion.  He is happiest with pen in hand.  A lot of lawyers think they don’t have a network.  You have to start with the people you know through work and personal contacts and then just plug away making new connections with every cup of coffee you have.  It does get easier as you go through the process as you realise what you need to get out of the conversations.  If you lack that persistence, then you probably aren’t cut out to be a good NED anyway.


When it comes to risk – as a NED – how do you know what you don’t know?

When he joined the Bank of England, he took about 6 months to learn what it was all about.

In 2-3 years your insight will be better informed.  You will pick up areas which you think should be on the agenda.  If you are fobbed off – don’t give up. Don’t be afraid to ask the dumb question and have the strength of your convictions.  For instance, with Carillion, the board papers would have said one thing, but the reality was different.  If the executive team aren’t providing the board with the right information, how can a NED be expected to know what’s missing.

You won’t catch everything. If you want total control, being a NED is not for you.  You can though, keep an eye on areas that might typically show up problems:

  • Sales incentives
  • Accounting anomalies
  • Divergence between cash and P&L


Ask the basic questions. Do the best you can.

Suzanna Taverne: play to your sectoral strengths and develop your network

Suzanna started her career as an investment banker at SG Warburg after which she moved into Finance and Strategy Director roles at Saatchi and Saatchi and then at Pearson.  Her next move was in to the public sector when she took on the role of Managing Director of the British Museum, overseeing the Millennium Great Court project.  This in turn led to a role at Imperial College, in what was effectively a COO role.

At the end of that phase she decided she didn’t want to work only in the public sector, so she decided to embark on a portfolio career which she hoped would offer an opportunity to use her not-for-profit, commercial and public sector experience. In doing so, she was clear that it was important to pursue only organisations that had a clear sense of values.

She made a plan to take on up to five positions – two or three commercial roles (her ‘earning engine’), one in the public sector and up to two not-for-profit roles.  There were endless opportunities in the not-for-profit sector, but the commercial roles were harder to come by.  She hoped that her previous board experience was a strength but realised that head hunters like to target candidates with a strong functional or sectorial skill set.  With her mixed career experience, she didn’t necessarily tick all the head hunter boxes.

Her portfolio went on to include:

Nationwide Building Society where she was on the Board during the Financial Crisis

  • NED at Ford Credit Europe. The issues surrounding Brexit have been particularly challenging
  • Serving on the board of the BBC Trust
  • Chairing the board at Marie Stopes International and also serving on the board of Age UK.


What has she learned about NED life?

Her first NED role (with Gingerbread, the charity for one-parent families) coincided with a huge professionalisation of the not-for-profit world.  In that sector there

is now much greater clarity on the level of commitment and professionalism required; on how NEDs are recruited and on Board evaluation

Suzanna stressed that the key is to work out your strengths, what you enjoy doing and to check that the purpose and values of the organisations you work with are in line with your own. It is also essential to have a good working relationship with the Chair.

Suzanna found it important not to spread yourself around too thinly, and that it helped her to have an ‘anchor’ role (2-3 days per week).  She has really enjoyed taking on Chair roles, which allows you to help shape an organisation.

As a trustee, playing to your strengths is important.  You need to work out what you can specifically contribute.  Be strategic.  Your conversations with other board members outside the board room are equally as important to the meetings themselves.  It is also important to work out how your sectoral experience can help.


How to get the role

Networking is essential.

All the things you gain from your full-time job you need to replace in your portfolio life.  It wasn’t obvious to Suzanna where you got your personal development from.  This is taken for granted in the day job.

  • The portfolio life can be a lonely business and you need to approach it in a deliberate way.  Suzanna took to reading the papers much more seriously to keep abreast current affairs and the business world.
  • Surround yourself with people whose brains you can pick and talk things over with, such as recent events in companies etc.  Don’t be afraid to put forward a hypothesis and see how others react.  You will learn through that experience.
  • Be purposeful with your diary planning.
  • Lack of infrastructure can be challenging i.e. arranging your own travel, managing your diary and the lack of IT support.
  • Think about what your network can do for you.  They are most likely to be the source of your next job.  Every interaction is of value to both sides.

When it comes to lawyers Suzanna admits to a degree of prejudice –

  • Comparative lack of practical experience
  • Lawyers have spent their whole professional life as an adviser not as principal
  • Lawyers are employed to consider risks and provide for them which is very different from the role of a board member, where decisions have to be made in a short period of time

Saying that – Suzanna worked under former lawyer Geoffrey Howe – where he steered Nationwide through the financial crisis incredibly skilfully.  He was a steady and rational person who didn’t crumble under the immense stress.

Overall, lawyers embarking on a portfolio life need to play to their sectoral strengths, develop their network and get good hard experience thinking as principals.



When you left Warburgs you decided you would prefer to be a principal rather than an advisor.  Why? 

I was more interested in how deals were developed than the actual transaction.  However, Warburgs provided an invaluable experience of the inner workings of the board room and an understanding that good governance is key.  Being part of a professional services team for a while is a great training ground for later corporate life.


How do you get started on the NED journey?

Suzanna became a trustee at Gingerbread quite early on but had had no other board role; after a while she was asked to become the Chair.  Later she left Imperial College with no role to go to and began her portfolio career from a standing start.  Her previous experience at Gingerbread was very important in her thinking.  It helped her to do (though not to get) her first NED position.

She got started by using her existing network and stresses that a network is really only an idea until you develop it.

You can’t embark on this journey without firstly putting in the leg work and secondly having the passion to do it.  Every job has to work on its own terms but doesn’t have to be your ‘dream’ job.  Nobody will hire you as chair without solid experience.


What is your view on headhunters?

They are a necessary evil but ancillary to your network.  Remember that head hunters work for their client so limit your expectations of them.  Work out which head hunters work in the area you’d like to work in.  You will learn a lot from the questions they ask you.


What does a lawyer have to do/say to convince you that they are not just an adviser?

She would want to see that you are able to contribute to the big strategic questions being faced by the organisation.  Your covering letter should allude to an aspect of the business of that particular organisation.  Can you be illustrate that you can help the organisation achieve its strategic goals? You really need to provide some sort of evidence that you have succeeded in doing this in other roles. For all NEDs it is about being able to articulate relevant leadership, commercial and strategic skills – so for Lawyers, contextualising your experience to non-lawyers is vital.


How do you judge an organisation that you are about to get involved with?

Talk to as many people as possible.  Current and past board members – just as if you were taking out references.  And do remember that organisations always put forward their best case when recruiting NEDs. So, finding the ‘fault lines’ can take some digging.


Sir Nicholas Young: Lawyers know how to ask the right challenging questions – a much-needed skill in a Trustee

We recently welcomed Sir Nicholas Young to BCKR where he shared his thoughts with us. He began with some facts about the voluntary sector.

It is a huge sector with 170,000 charities in the UK with a combined total income of £45 billion per year.  Add in housing associations, private schools the total yearly income reaches £73 billion compared to, for instance, the car industry (£71 billion) or the farming industry (£5 billion).


Of the proper established charities about:

  • 45% of their income comes from the public/individual donations
  • 30% comes from central and local government in the form of contracts/fees for services provided.
  • 25% comes from trusts, investments, lottery funding etc.


Charities are hugely diverse in their make-up.

  • 34% have an income of less than £10k per year
  • Only 2000 have an income over £40,000
  • Just 40 have an income over £1million


As a sector they employ 765,000 staff most of whom are part-time.  This represents 3% of the total UK workforce.  There are 14 million charity volunteers in the UK who volunteer at least once a month.

Nick started his career as an M&A lawyer at Freshfields.  After 5 years, he took time out and went back-packing with his wife. On their return they left London and moved to East Anglia where he joined a small legal firm but a had nagging feeling that his interests didn’t really lie in making big businesses even bigger.

Sue Ryder was a local charity to him, with nursing homes in the UK, 50 homes in Eastern Europe.  Nick contacted their head office and ended out being put straight through to Sue Ryder herself.  The next day he went to meet Sue and she spent ½ a day with him talking about her life.  She was in the SOE and had worked with survivors of the concentration camps.  After their meeting, they established a relationship and eventually she persuaded him to quit the law and join her organisation.

He stayed for 5 years at Sue Ryder Homes, but it was the organisation was the ‘founder’s child’ and that meant that many of the ideas Nick had for putting the organisation on the right legal footing were met with resistance.  A complex relationship to manage.

He left and went to the Red Cross which at the time was an organisation which had lost its way.  The management and trustees had fallen out.  The organisation had undergone huge changes after the war with the introduction of the NHS. In the following 40-50 years they got involved in a variety of different things.  Essentially it was organised like 93 separate county charities.  Nick was brought in to run ‘the UK’, but given its structure, it took a while to modernise.   With his legal hat on, looking for a way to collapse the structuring,  he realised that the trustees were unaware of their personal liability in their roles and when Nick wrote to them to highlight this fact it made a lot of trustees sit up and think and subsequently leave.  Restructuring was underway!

After 5-6 years with the Red Cross he left to join Macmillan Cancer Support as their Chief Executive.  This was a wonderful, slightly happy go lucky, organisation.  They had very dedicated volunteers who raised lots of money.  The relationship with government became very interesting.   A little before Tony Blair was elected, Nick had a meeting with Chris Smith (shadow Health Secretary) and Harriet Harman.  He sold them the idea that they needed a strategy to counteract the post code lottery in relation to cancer care services.  During that meeting Harriet realised that this could be a great mandate for their manifesto and when they came to power, there was a transformation of cancer services. Macmillan was then able to work closely with government on a strategic level.  Which was very interesting.

After 6-7 years Nick went back to the Red Cross as their Chief Executive running the UK and overseas.  At the time they had a deficit of £14 million so needed a restructuring.  He only stepped down from that role quite recently.



The governance of charities is becoming increasingly important issue due to the public’s waning trust in charities in general.  This concerns particularly the charities’ relationship with donors and potential donors, and, since the Oxfam crisis, with ensuring the safety of beneficiaries.  That crisis has been a huge wake-up call for charities, heightened by the fact that The Charity Commission’s role is now that of the regulator rather than there simply to support charities.  This leaves a lot riding on charity trustees, who now have a big responsibility for people who are part-time volunteers.  For large charities in particular, it is a weighty responsibility, and trustee boards have found it difficult to get to grips with the public scrutiny.

So, there is a real need for better trustees and a better relationship between trustees and the management.


What makes a good trustee?

  • Passion and enthusiasm
  • Relevant expertise and experience
  • An ability to ‘bring it to the table’. To challenge management.  To ask the right question.
  • Time commitment. Charities will always want more time they have asked you for.
  • To have the ability to strike the right balance between support and challenge. There should be a creative tension between management and trustees.

In big charities it is an oversight role.  In small charities you need to be prepared to roll up your sleeves and do a bit of everything.

Working with volunteers is a challenge.  You can’t manage them in the same way you manage staff in the private sector.  It requires patience and understanding.  It is important to understand that the staff are there to support the volunteers and channel the volunteers’ passion constructively.


Lawyers – why do relatively few trustee boards have lawyers on them?

One great skill a lawyer has is the ability to get to find out what the real problem is.  To ask the right challenging question.  There is much need for these skills on trustee boards and Nick is always keen to encourage other lawyers to join the sector.  It will offer you the chance to feel good about ‘giving back’ and also to have fun.

  • There are lots of recruitment consultants to help you get charity roles e.g. Saxton Bampfylde, Spencer Stuart and Odgers being the main ones.
  • The key is to do something that really interests you. Make sure the organisation supports its trustees
  • Be clear about what you are taking on in terms of time commitment


How difficult is it to sit on the board of a charity verses a listed company?

The gulf is not so huge between the two.  There are greater differences between a sitting on the board of a small or large charity.  There is a gap in the support for charities, left by the Charity Commission’s role now being that of regulator rather than to support.


Is the lack of lawyers on boards a problem sitting at the desk of the headhunters?

When Nick went to see a charity headhunter they questioned why he would want to leave the law!  Lawyers are still perceived as one dimensional “we don’t need a lawyer now”.  Lawyers need to get better at marketing their business skills:

  • A good understanding of how organisations are structured and work.
  • A general understanding of law is incredibly valuable to a board.
  • A commitment to doing things the proper way.


Are there too many charities in the sector?  How should the problem be addressed?

As an example – there are 700 charities with the world ‘cancer’ in their title.  There isn’t an obvious answer how the government can stop people wanting to help other people.  It is hard to halt the passion of volunteers.  There is an absence of collaboration.   Perhaps this is an issue lawyers could push to the forefront.


Are there sectors where there is more need for trustees to join their boards?

Organisations do struggle to get trustees in the ‘un-sexy’ sectors such as mental health, prisons and crime, refugees and INGOs, partly due to reputational exposure.


Where should you start your search?

  • Define which sector interests you.
  • Go to a headhunter that specialise in charity trusteeships
  • Research a charity you are interested in and then approach the Chief Executive or Chair. You’d be surprised how welcome these types of approaches can be.

Will Dawkins: Tactics for getting that board role – Get skilled-up, widen your horizons and prepare

This week we welcomed Will Dawkins, Head of Board Practice at Spencer Stuart to BCKR to share his thoughts with us.


The current situation

The current situation for lawyers on FTSE 100 boards has neither significantly changed nor improved over the last 5 years.  There are currently 12 NEDs who come from a true professional lawyer background on FTSE 100 boards.  In the US it is more like 50% of companies who have a lawyer on their board.

The reality of the FTSE 100 market is that there are probably only 780 positions available at any one time and 1% of those will be open to lawyers.

A typical board will have the following NED seats to fill:

  • 2 executives (these will be people who have managed a large business)
  • 1 SID
  • Chair of Audit (a CFO or Audit person)
  • Chair of Remco (someone who has lived with REM e.g. a former CEO or perhaps someone from an HR background)
  • 2 seats will go to the next REM and Audit chairs
  • This leaves 2 potential seats for newbies – one of which could of course be a lawyer.

In general terms in the UK, a board’s role is about strategy and ensuring its implementation and challenging management on their business decisions.  There is therefore an emphasis on the possession of business skills.

A very typical question a headhunter will ask a prospective candidate is “tell me a story about how you coped with an alien situation?”

  • Do you have the ability to deal with complex scenarios?
  • Are you able to make big decisions based on limited information?

There is therefore considerable benefit in looking at roles in other organisations.  Other options might be:

  • Regulatory agencies
  • Government departments
  • Trade organisations
  • NHS trusts
  • School governorships
  • Major charities

The organisations are interesting and really need people like you.


What are the pros and cons of inviting a lawyer onto your board?

The Pros

  • In relation to quoted companies there is an increasing emphasis on diversity and not just in gender and race but the desire to have diverse insight, personal characteristics and thought around the board table.
  • In this highly regulatory environment, the agenda is often focused on compliance and regulatory matters. Lawyers are well placed to add value on these complex issues.
  • The ability to read board papers and drill down through the detail to come up with 3 important questions is second nature to a lawyer.
  • A commitment to accuracy is useful in the boardroom and reassuring.
  • Morality – need people who are able to make the right call.
  • Business-minded – law firms are one of the most successful business sectors. Lawyers broad exposure and perspective on business should help. But you need to be able to present yourself as good business people through your role as a lawyer.
  • Managing ego.
  • Complexity – your ability to deal with complex financial structures.
  • Commoditisation: the experience of addressing the business



  • They don’t need a lawyer on the board for legal advice.
  • You have the wrong skill-set. A lack of business background to challenge the CEO.  A lawyer is happier advising than making decisions.
  • You are too precise in your thinking.
  • Your perceived lack of commercial acumen – for example, not being good with numbers.



  • Skill-up
  • Adjust your expectations – don’t restrict yourself to PLCs
  • Preparation


Skilling Up

At the long-list stage you will be ranked against other business people so try to build evidence of your business acumen.

  • Build experience through work in the charity sector
  • Learn the language of business
  • Look at your weaknesses in business and train up.
    • Management training
    • MBA
    • Advanced Management Programmes are run by most business schools
    • Spencer Stuart also runs a 3-day (invitation only) board role-play course

It will show that you are serious; it will take you outside your sphere of experience, increase your network and make you a better interviewee.



Take a look at the full range of options.  Don’t restrict yourself to PLCs.



Before you go to a meeting with anyone – research them for example in BoardEx.  Check their connections.


How to promote yourself with the headhunters?

Headhunters are looking for people for their jobs – not looking to contact people for roles which may appear.  Your CV should state plainly near the top what you are looking for, which makes it easier for the headhunter to make a match.

If you want a coffee/meeting with a headhunter give them a reason to talk to you.

  • You may have your eye on a particular board.
  • You may have an introduction from someone who the headhunter won’t want to offend.
  • You may have an introduction from a client or senior adviser. Cold calling doesn’t really work. The headhunter will only think about you passively through a cold call approach.  They are only proactive for their clients.  They are reactive for potential candidates.
  • Identify a particular sector you are interested in, so you reach the right person within the headhunting firm. The Board Practice should be your first point of call not the Legal Practice.
  • Find a link within the firm through your contacts. The leading firms in the corporate sector are:
    • Russell Reynolds
    • Heidrick & Struggles
    • Spencer Stuart
    • Lygon Group
    • Korn Ferry
  • In the not-for-profit sector, it is easier to become aware of roles as they have to be publicly advertised. The main firm in this sector is Odgers and Berndtson (who deal with two thirds of the public-sector roles).


What will make you liked or not?

If you can evidence that you’ve thought carefully about what you want and who might be interested in you.


Government appointments

Government departments are a very different option from a PLC.  There is less focus on strategy and more on operational efficiency and effective delivery.  It can be very challenging.  Their boards are typically made up of academics, business people, lawyers and accountants.  They do have to advertise their roles and they have to demonstrate that all candidates are given exactly the same process.  However, it can often be a two-pronged approach, with sought-after candidates being asked to apply.

If you don’t receive a call from the headhunter in advance of your interview it will be indicative of the interest in you.


You will be interviewed by a panel, where all candidates are asked exactly the same questions.  However, it is an accessible world for a lawyer.

The downsides are that ministers have often chosen their preferred candidate and so, if possible, you should try and find out (discretely) whether there is a preferred candidate.


What kind of remuneration can be expected of these different roles?

  • FTSE 100 companies pay approximately £70k for a NED role – unlimited personal liability.
  • A public NED role will pay somewhere between £10-20k
  • A charity role £0


Do concerns around liability affect people taking on these roles?

To a degree, especially in the financial services sector, companies and most (major) charities have D&O policies but you should recognise that reputational liability is a greater risk than legal and financial liability.

Kirsty Watt and Gavin Robert: Lawyers are highly sought-after at multi-academy trusts

We recently welcomed Kirsty Watt from Academy Ambassadors and Gavin Robert, former Linklaters partner, to BCKR to discuss academy trusts and how lawyers make a good fit for their boards.

NED roles for BCKR members are being offered through Academy Ambassadors who came to speak to the group today, together with Gavin Robert – a BCKR member who found a NED role with England’s largest primary academy trust through the AA – BCKR relationship.

Lawyers are particularly sought after for the boards of multi-academy trusts for their ability to provide scrutiny and challenge. Academy Ambassadors provides a free, bespoke service matching business people and professionals with multi-academy trusts looking to strengthen their boards. Since 2013, the not-for-profit programme funded by the Department for Education has introduced over 900 business people and professionals to trust boards.

The NED role at an academy trust has impact and makes a significant contribution to improving education and life chances. As multi-academy trusts (MATs) grow and develop they face significant challenges and the skills and experience of lawyers can help these trusts and their pupils to succeed.

Academy Trusts have expanded massively over the last 5 years, which has not been without its own challenges.  Academy Ambassadors came into the picture at the beginning of this expansion when it became obvious that these new organisations needed the backing of a strong board.

A school usually converts to an academy when the Department for Education asks for a school to be taken out of local authority control.

  • If a school fails Ofsted inspection and goes into special measures.
  • A school is doing well but wants to convert.

Is there ever hostility when a school decides to convert?  It varies.  Some parents are hostile to the idea.  It is a question of doing the right thing for the locality.  The need is for organisations that can raise standards in a short time and Academies have been successful in doing that.

The usual route to becoming an academy is either:

  • A business sponsor taking over a school (usually a failing school)
  • A strong head who is asked to get involved in other schools (which is the most common model) – with a structure where one corporate body oversees a number of schools.

Obviously, it can be a big leap from being a primary school teacher to becoming Chief Executive of an organisation with a budget of £10-200 million.  Academy Ambassadors come in to help match people who want to make a contribution on a pro bono basis to support these teachers by joining multi academy trust boards.

The educational environment is stimulating and has plenty of governance challenges, in particular, a number of growing Academies need to establish an independent corporate body/central board to oversee the local school governing bodies.

Gavin was introduced to Academy Ambassadors following a BCKR breakfast and was interested in having a mixed portfolio which included the voluntary sector.

He joined REAch2, which is one of the largest primary multi academy trusts, with 58 schools.  It is the largest primary-only academy and covers the UK up to the midlands.  Reach4 and Reach South cover Yorkshire and the South Coast.

The challenge with primary school Academies is that they are made up of many more smaller schools.  REAch2 has an income of £100 million and a staff of 4000.

It was established by Sir Steve Lancashire who developed a scalable system, with central services to keep pace with the rate of expansion.  It is all funded through grants per pupil – though extra funding is received for converting a school to an academy.   The board are not involved in any external fundraising.  The bare facts are that increased occupancy equals more income.  Academy schools all come from the state system.

Gavin’s first role for REAch2 was to join one of their Regional Boards.  There are 4 regions with 15 schools in each region.  There is also a central trust board.  This is quite a governance-heavy model.

On the Regional Board Gavin stepped up to be Chair of the Education Committee.  It was a fast learning curve, particularly learning to disseminate educational data.  As a competition lawyer, Gavin didn’t feel particularly well versed in Corporate Governance.  But the Committee consisted of two head teachers and one governor who were experienced in education which helped.   The focus was mainly on strategy, direction and also risk and audit.

He later moved to the Trust Board where he became Deputy Chair.  They formed a Rem Com and he sits on that too. The statutory accounts, which are published, are heavily scrutinised.  Executive pay is a very hot topic as is gender pay gap.   Education has the 2nd/3rd worst gender gap.

Now Gavin is also on a Governance Steering committee set up to examine the governance model, allowing greater power for the Regional Boards.  He has found the regional board level to be very interesting – in particular, the detailed discussions about improving local schools.

The heads teachers report to the Regional Director who has a team of 4-5 assistant directors who go into help turn schools around.


What are the advantages of an Academy Trust role?

It is very clearly a NED role (not a governor role).  Multi academy trust boards are definitely corporate roles.

Do schools in these large trusts still have local governing bodies?  Yes – they are a mix of parent and non-parent trustees.  They play a governing/supervisory role in relation to their individual schools, but they cannot, for example, hire or fire a head teacher.  They tend to oversee the following areas:

  • Disciplinary and performance issues
  • Parent/staff surveys
  • Holding the Head teacher to account
  • Curriculum – the local offering to pupils

They are not involved in the strategy of the trust.

Resources are shared across schools – which is really the most valuable asset of the MATs.  For example, a good leader from one school will share best practice in failing schools.

Financially, MAT boards focus on the reserves policy.  Finance for the MATs is received through ‘top-slice’.  Each school in the trust receives money directly on a per pupil basis and the trust will take a percentage off the top.  The role of a trust includes:

  • Educational performance
  • Creating capacity
  • Challenging schools on resources
  • Top slice policy


If you are looking to take on a role what should you look for?

  • Think about the nature of the challenge you want
  • 5% of trusts are in a turn-around scenario
  • A match has a lot to do with geography and time available. Anticipate 5-6 hours a month but realistically it will be 8 hours.  Gavin does 4 days per term.  Initially you need to get up to speed with a lot of jargon
  • Your decision will most likely come down to how you think you will get on with the other members of the board.

Gavin has found it to be a manageable and very rewarding role.  You learn an enormous amount from fellow trustees and it is a very good intro to NED roles.

If you are interested in pursuing a role with an Academy Trust, BCKR members can have a one-to-one conversation with an experienced adviser at Academy Ambassadors to help match them to a role. The locations where roles are currently available for lawyers are: Bexley, Leicestershire, West Midlands, Warwickshire, Wolverhampton, Barnsley, Sheffield, Rotherham and Liverpool. However, further roles are coming on-line this month in London, the South-east, South-West as well as northern regions. By registering your interest now, you will be informed of these roles when they are available.


Further information is available here and BCKR’s contact is kirstywatt@newschoolsnetwork.org who you can email to express interest.


Lord Falconer: The nerdiest of lawyers can make a decision without reading all the papers or having all the boxes ticked

This week we were delighted to welcome Lord Charles Falconer to BCKR.

Looking back Charlie’s experience as a lawyer could seem quite depressing.  Between the ages of 22-45 he was the nerdiest commercial barrister. He had concluded that success was brought about by serious hard work and always being on top of things – mostly on top of reading the papers.  But now – after broadening his career with a stint in politics – he can look back and see how completely absorbed in the day job he was and that there actually other approaches to success beyond being the best-read person in the room.

Having made silk at 40, he was appointed to the post of Solicitor General at 45 (this had no relation to the fact that he used to share a room with the PM at school).  Charlie had come to believe that lawyers were the cleverest, most hard-working individuals out there but he was disabused of the opinion during his time as Solicitor General.  As a politician, the ability to think strategically and to connect with other people was equally as important as being across the facts.  He learned that lawyers aren’t very good at that. You sometimes have to make decisions without knowing absolutely everything.  He felt a bit at sea to begin with.

He moved from the SG role to being in charge of the Millennium Dome.  Pretty disastrous for him.  He was then moved to the Department of Housing which was a liberation.  This gave him experience of a job outside of the law, with few papers to read, where the aim was fundamentally to help as many people without means as possible to get housing.  This required developing relations in and out of politics to secure the necessary help.  It is true to say that he became completely obsessed with housing.

After a year however, lawyers in politics were in short supply and he was moved to the post of Criminal Justice lawyer for the Home Office.

When Charlie left the world of politics he really wanted to continue working in housing.  By that time housing associations were the biggest sector building affordable housing, local authorities having been deprived of the ability to build after Thatcher introduced the ‘right to buy’.  Housing associations have their beginnings in charities or religious organisations and most range from small and local to huge associations worth billions with strong covenants relying on large numbers of tenants receiving housing benefit.

Charlie chaired Amicus Horizon for 9 years and found it to be an incredibly worthwhile experience.  When he joined, the board was mainly populated with resident trustees but over the years they expanded numbers.  More independent professionals including accountants and people from HR backgrounds.  When he joined, at the start , they were actually in supervision due to a range of bad decisions that included:

  • Bad maintenance contracts
  • Health and safety issues
  • Fraud and corruption

Between 2008-2017 Amicus merged, came out of supervision and built more houses than any other association in London.

Housing associations are keen to get high calibre professionals on their boards and lawyers’ skills are a good match.  You get a much better understanding of the issues at a board table if there is a broad range of people, especially if you include those whom you might not come into contact with otherwise.   You do need to be able to think strategically and it can be time consuming when you are firefighting.  But housing (or the lack thereof) is an incredibly important aspect of social justice.  If the issues aren’t addressed the UK may find itself in a similar situation as the US where communities are polarised – the extremely wealthy living in one area, next to those living in poverty.  A two-tier city like Los Angeles.  It is a massive social problem.  But because of that, sitting on a housing association board gives you much needed insight in to a world that would otherwise pass you by.

Lawyers aren’t thought to bring much to the table.  Can fall into two categories

  1. Big rhetoricians
  2. Read all the papers

In between are people who are able to deal with others, and to come to a conclusion about a problem without dotting every ‘i’.

Lawyers are reluctant leaders.  Happy to dominate and control but ultimately shuffle the actual decision onto the client.


There is a balance somewhere between outrage and detail.



Ultimately his full engagement with a topic made him more willing to offer his views on issues, to form a view then provide the support for that view (where the reading remains useful), and always followed by leadership.  As Solicitor General he had to engage in public policy issues as a lawyer – he was not particularly well liked by lawyers or politicians at that time, and he was particularly struck by the ability of non-lawyers to make good strategic decisions drawing on insights rather than by reading all the facts and figures first.  Despite his political career he will always be perceived as a lawyer.  There were people who questioned the decision to have a lawyer as Chair Amicus Horizon – even though he had been Minister for Housing!  So – there are definitely hurdles to overcome.


What motivated you to go into politics?

Charlies absolutely loved the commercial bar but he had always engaged in politics and after the Labour landslide, when the role of Solicitor General came up he thought that it would be a two-year job and then he’d go back to being a barrister.  He didn’t go into politics because he’d had enough of the law.  He measures real success as gaining the approval of judges and lawyers …. He is still waiting for that!


In Housing Associations now, there is a tremendous tension between the profit making machine and developing enough affordable homes.  How do you Housing Associations best deal with this tension? 

Between 2010-2015 the government was pressing hard on Housing Associations to use their assets to make more money e.g.  building 3 large houses in Mayfair and using the profit from those to build 30,000 affordable homes.   A political issue – having assets which you should sweat for greater good.  But housing is very dependent on grants, regulation and goodwill from government.  The politics has changed as government has become aware that they need to put more grants.  Simplistically more government money will equal more houses.


What are the warning signs to look out for if you are thinking of joining a Housing Association board?

  1. Strange movements of cash in the accounts
  2. Resident complaints
  3. Contractor manipulation


How do they recruit NEDs?

  1. Headhunters – Saxton Bampfylde and Odgers
  2. Inside Housing Magazine


There is no shortage of vacancies for these roles and in the next 18 months there will probably be a number of Housing Associations refreshing their boards as terms reach their end.  If you make an approach to a local association they may suggest you start on a committee first and then transfer you on to the board


The most important thing is that you need to be engaged and represent and stand for the values of the organisation.

Josyane Gold: Networking, focus and persistence – the key to attaining your first role

We recently welcomed Josyane Gold, retired lawyer, to BCKR to share her thoughts with us.

Zygos appointed Josyane to the board of Electra Private Equity, a FTSE 250 investment trust, 5 years ago, after retiring from her 25-year career as a corporate partner at S J Berwin.  At that time there was no structure or support for senior partners thinking about life after the law, so she felt she had to be very strategic about her transition, particularly once she’d decided to go down the route of looking for non-executive roles.

She spoke to her managing partner about this transition, explaining that it would take time to find the first roles but that if she succeeded, it would be positive for the firm and would reflect well on the practice.  She negotiated a phased departure over 3 years, reducing her equity accordingly and then moving to a consultancy role at 3 days per week.

Josyane felt she needed the time to draw a line under her legal career.  She suggested a financial package to the managing partner that included access to a senior coach or career adviser of her choice (at the firm’s cost) for 18 months.  She felt this was necessary, so she could learn more about the world outside law since she had been so heavily focused on her legal career, and she didn’t really know what her skills were beyond the legal ones.

Josyane began the process of looking for her first role by examining her goals, skills and what really mattered to her.  The consultant helped her recognise and understand her skills and how they were transferable and also helped with creating a new CV.

Networking was where it started.  She had lots of introductions from people who had gone through the process of retiring, or joining the non-executive world.  She began meeting with headhunters and looked at roles in listed and unlisted companies.  She didn’t really know where she was heading.  Without fail, the headhunters told her that they NEVER received a mandate for lawyers – which was rather deflating.  Though saying that – her first role did come through a recruiter.

Critically Josyane’s recommendation is that you focus on your own network.  She had coffees left right and centre with clients, letting them know that she was looking, making connections all the time.  Your first role will inevitably come directly or indirectly from your connections.

She attended seminars, joined the FT NED club and took relevant courses.

She spent time on her on-line profile, creating a website and up-dating her Linked-In profile.

After a few months, she received a call from a headhunter regarding the role at Electra, who were looking to recruit a non-exec (to replace a retiring board member) with someone with a legal background!  Josyane felt comfortable in that sector and coincidentally the retiring director was an old client who had come to see Josyane 6 years prior regarding taking on the role herself at Electra.  There is no doubt – for the first time in her career – that diversity worked in her favour for this appointment.

For Josyane it was a perfect starting point.  She undertook plenty of due diligence, got up to speed on corporate governance and got straight down to a full induction process.  There were 6 board members, all fully independent non-execs.  The role of the board was to choose and supervise the fund manager.  A wholly non-executive structure, which works to a point but when something crops up, it all falls apart a bit.

Josyane was engaged for 20 days a year including the AGM and strategy day.  The board was diverse in terms of men and women and skills.  There was an excellent dynamic and they built constructive relationships with the manager.  Josyane learned a lot from her fellow board members.  It probably took 3 years to feel confident in that role but thereafter, she felt she had properly made the shift from the role of an adviser to that of principal.

She wasn’t initially clear where she could contribute.  It took time to find her feet and understand that she had something to say.  The process was accelerated by the arrival of an ‘activist’ board member.  It was a fascinating, if time consuming, period but it proved that she did have something to bring to the table.  During that process she saw the best and worst of listed boards.  Ultimately the activist took control of the board and most of the previous board members resigned.

After leaving Electra Josyane joined the board of advisers for Palamon, where she is highly involved with the investment team.  She has built up an ambassadorial role with Palamon.

She is also mentoring several former clients and doing some charity work alongside.


  • Seek assistance at the start of your transition to help you with re-packaging yourself.
  • Work your own network.
  • Start thinking about this step early.
  • Focus on an industry sector where you have experience – all options are open after your first role.
  • If serious about building a portfolio – take on other roles during your first role – don’t wait.
  • Undertake careful due diligence before taking on your first role – but it won’t tell you everything.
  • Continue learning and networking through seminars etc.
  • Persevere – it is a satisfying and challenging route to take post law.



When you joined Electra did it operate in the way you expected?

The first thing that hit her was that so much is financial.  Looking at performance, running through valuations (not her background).  Others around the board table were better equipped.  It took a while to recognise that this was not a problem.

She thought she’d be required to be a funds specialist but that wasn’t really the case.  She was put on the Management Engagement committee which was all about building relationships managers and this really spoke to her skills.

Taking time to understand the dynamics of the board and what other members had to add was important in recognising her own skills.

All your preparation can only take you so far.  The rest you learn on the job.  On the whole as a lawyer, you don’t get to see the decisions being made, so you are not there seeing the full panoply of things the board are discussing.

Josyane was lucky to have a very supportive Chairman who took her aside once and said she was doing a good job but that she didn’t look like she was enjoying it (which was probably true).  At that point she gave herself permission to do so.


Were there skills that you had never been required to use as a lawyer that you have since had to learn?

She was attracted by the notion of being a principal rather than adviser.  That was the main change.  During one verification process at Electra, Allen & Overy were up all night working on the verification notes.  Josyane went to bed and just had to sign the papers in the morning.  That really brought home to her that she was now in a different role.

It is good to get out of your comfort zone.  Comfort can mean coasting.  You learn quickly on the job.  It is scary but suddenly you realise from a business perspective that you understand so much more about how a business runs.  You never lose the fear that things will go wrong – but that is what keeps the adrenalin pumping.  Don’t shy away from the numbers.

Lawyers haven’t helped themselves by not building their profiles whilst in full time practice – so take more time to prove themselves.


How is being a lawyer informing your contribution around the board table?

  • Analytical skills – the ability to assimilate and articulate
  • Breadth of contact and industry knowledge
  • Risk




Karen Brown: “Why would you want a lawyer on your charity board? Why wouldn’t you?”

We recently welcomed Karen Brown to BCKR to share her thoughts with us.

When asked the question why would you want a lawyer on your charity board, Karen’s response would be – why wouldn’t you? Maybe the better question might be “why would a lawyer want to be on a charity board”?

Things have changed dramatically in the last 5 years. There has been a huge shift in governance with the external environment requiring much more formal governance procedure to be in place. Some charities are still adjusting to this.

How lawyers would be viewed on boards depends very much on the lawyer. Boards are there to help create an environment where the organisation can take risks but achieve its mission safely.

Enabling lawyers were the ones Karen liked when she was working in broadcasting. The prejudices against lawyers are well known – that they have a tick-box mind-set, aversion to risks etc. – but Karen is yet to come across one of those. Lawyers’ experience is all about dealing with messes and they are able to bring:

  • Good analytical skills
  • All round abilities
  • The right questions to ask
  • Values that match the organisation
  • Strategic brain

They are people who know how to flex, roll up their sleeves, advise at times and insist at other times.

We overlook the point that lawyers have a far broader experience than they are generally credited with, managing large businesses dealing with many of the same issues as other organisations. Issues around law and fundraising are under-resourced in terms of legal support within charities so it can be very useful to have a lawyer on your board.

How does selection work?

Some charities only use search agencies for Chair recruitment. But the principles are the same whether the search for trustees is being done through an agency or by the organisation itself – so building your networks is the first task.

Usually, the board will go through a standard skills audit and look for the experience that is lacking. Look at the diversity of the existing board in terms of all protected characteristics e.g. gender, BAME, also where you live, socio economic mix, age etc and mode of thinking (lateral, creative, strategic).

Achieving the optimum board skills can be a difficult balance to strike. Very often, recruiting organisations can be blind to the breadth an individual can offer. So it is up to you – the applicant – to demonstrate that.

Expect to prep hard. Quite often a potential trustee gets turned away only to be appointed at a later date. It is important to understand the reasoning behind a board’s decision not to take you on. Get to know the organisation better, if appropriate, and apply again.

Another route to board appointment is to do other volunteering for the organisation such as supporting the legal department, being on a sub-committee or doing a piece of work for the organisation.

How do you decide if the organisation is right for you?

Think about what your interests are.

  • Do you like large or small organisations?
  • What drives you? You need passion for the organisation. Think hard about whether you are prepared to be up at night worrying for them.
  • Do your due diligence – think about what might go wrong.

Due diligence – how do you start the process?

  • Ask questions.
  • What does the organisation say about itself?
  • What do others say about the organisation?
  • What are the main issues facing the organisation?
  • Insist on talking to the company secretary.
  • Check regulatory record.
  • Check fundraising practices.
  • Spot check e.g. Is their website compliant?

The most important thing is to have an understanding of the organisation’s culture. Talk to other trustees (including outgoing trustees) though choose carefully. Meet the Chair and CE.

How do you diagnose the functionality of the board?

  • Ask questions and listen out for ‘weasel words’.
  • Look at annual governance review.
  • If you are offered the role but feel that you need more information, you can say yes subject to further due diligence.
  • The risk is usually not so much what is known (but perhaps not disclosed) but the information which should have been known but isn’t.
  • It may be useful to talk to the Finance Officer too.

Lawyers on boards provide mixture of advice and insistence but avoid being an unpaid professional adviser. It has always been the right of trustees to get legal advice paid for. Obviously, a lawyer on a board should not be the provider of that advice (while still giving their views and suggesting sources of advice).

Lawyers on boards should be aware that they will be held to a higher standard in carrying out their role given their professional background.

How do you get the best from board members?

Be clear with each other about requirements and expectations.
Conduct annual reviews. Give feedback.
Understand things from the organisation’s perspective.

There is nothing grand about being the trustee of a charity. Think of yourself as a servant.
It can be incredibly rewarding, working with brilliant people doing extraordinary work.
The important point is never to lose sight of the mission of your organisation.

Have you seen lawyers exploited?

The very nature of being a trustee in the charity sector is in part to be exploited for your experience. When inappropriate, you can say no.

General Discussion

The Charity Commission guidance is very vague. Regulators seem to deliberately leave requirements that way with considerable scope for interpretation. They then, in retrospect, hold you accountable.

Oxfam and others have been working on how law firms can provide help to charities in a pro-bono way. Firms could make a huge contribution to the charity sector not just through being trustees e.g. there might be scope for joint procurement to increase opportunities and reduce costs.

It is very important to have at least one trustee with finance expertise on the board, who understands accounts. Finance is such a crucial aspect of a charity’s success and survival.

If you look at a number of charities in crisis, a common theme is that they are doing good but feel they are above compliance with the rules at the same time. This challenge is not helped by the volume of guidance on the rules by lawyers, accountants and the Charity Commission but without these, charities do not have the know-how to put the rules into practice.

Some suggestions for strengthening governance

– For trustees ideally, there could be a simple core set of guidance – with an online test to be completed before becoming a trustee.
– There should be more reliance on audit and external reviews.
– Trustees shouldn’t be paid – but for larger charities the model could be a supervisory board made up of (unpaid) NEDs responsible for governance and an executive board made up of senior executives responsible for management.
– Charities need to spend more money on governance and resource areas of concern.

A large proportion of the country’s services in social welfare and the education sector are delivered by small charities. The country is increasingly dependent on them.

Challenges facing the charity sector:

  • Charities don’t have the resources for dealing with a media crisis, where there will generally be a long period of being scrutinised by the press.
  • Need to draw a distinction between charities who are also contractors and other service providers.
  • There is a proliferation of ‘any one can have a go’ small organisations, with inherent weaknesses (including approaches to compliance with the rules).
  • With so many different challenges for the sector, the Charity Commission lacks the resources to address the issues.
  • Small charities, with few to no employees at all, are subject to the risk of founder’s syndrome or abuse of the charity.
  • It is easy to characterise organisations as thinking the mission is more important than the meeting the rules. Having said that, some rules are a major impediment to the mission of some charities. For instance, the money laundering/banking rules make getting cash to a disaster zone safely virtually impossible.

Denise Jagger: “Being on a board gives you skills – which can help your law firm”

We recently welcomed Denise Jagger to BCKR, who shared with us her wealth of expertise acquired on her non-executive journey which, rather unusually, began when she was in her 30s.

Top tips:

  • Getting a portfolio takes a long time, so you do have to start early and put in the effort.
  • Do not underestimate the power of your network. Denise found her most interesting roles on her own. Your contacts are important; you can use them for several things, not just getting you introductions to roles but also later on to introduce donors to charities, for example.
  • Do not assume that people will think of you as a candidate, lawyers aren’t good at self-publicising, so you need to let people know that you are looking for non-executive roles.
  • It’s important to start looking for NED roles while you’re still in an executive role and your contacts are in your reach. Before you leave your firm!
  • Educate yourself, using organisations such as BCKR, or taking finance courses for non-accountants, to become financially literate. You have to have a way to overcome that prejudice.
  • Do use a separate CV for non-executive applications. It should be completely different from your legal CV.
  • Don’t rule anything out. Denise used always to say she wouldn’t do financial services, but then got offered a role in insurance and it ended up being one of the most important and interesting things she’d ever done.
  • Get yourself known with the headhunters. Use your contacts to help with introductions.

Skills rather than deals

There is an increased focus on diversity on boards now, so it is getting easier for lawyers (despite still being presented as the ‘wildcard’ on headhunters’ short lists).

Boards never look specifically for lawyers; there is a massively out-dated stereotypical view of lawyers. We don’t need a lawyer; we can buy in that skill/we have a GC already/a lawyer will stop us from doing what we want etc. So it’s important to bring out your skills rather than your deals.

It can be easier for in-house lawyers who have sat on committees and boards, or even for lawyers who have run legal teams or departments. You need to point out your managerial skills in that case. Show your vision and strategic capabilities.

Sector experience can be a benefit, depending on the situation, but not necessarily. Some don’t want their board members to have sector experience because they have it in drones already in their executive team, but there can be situations where it’s appreciated.

Charity trustee role

Get experience early on. For example, start by becoming a charity trustee, get your first role under your belt, and build your experience from there. These can help hugely if you want to move into commercial roles later, because you meet the right people and develop the right skills.
You can learn so much, there are some hugely talented, resourceful, creative, interesting people on these trusts and trustee roles are not that difficult to get in comparison with listed company NED roles.

Denise was once on a museum trust, where she learned lots of useful skills she could use later on. She got it because she was a local. Find something that fits your interests e.g. conservation, riding, education, NHS etc.

Don’t wait for a job notice, just get in touch, write in and offer your skills. In smaller trusts you may be asked to chair a committee, so it’s a great opportunity.

How did she get her first roles?

  • 1st role: While she was in private practice, she did an IPO for a healthcare client. Years later, the client called her up and offered her a board role.
  • 2nd role: Whilst GC at Asda, a friend of a friend met the chair of a building association who needed someone with consumer experience.
  • Next roles: Local museum trust and other smaller industry panels. Started to build out her CV.
  • 1st PLC role: Redrow, the house builder, she got the job following her responsibility at Asda for onboarding subsidiaries. This led to other PLC roles such as Belway, another house builder.

How does she manage her executive and non-executive career simultaneously?

When she joined Asda she already had a role, asked to keep it and they let her. Then she took on additional roles within Asda. It’s harder in private practice but not impossible. Sometimes there can be conflicts of interest, or at least perceptions of them.

Now she’s a 3-day Partner at Eversheds and not a fee earner, which takes off some pressure. It takes a lot of planning and time management.

When she returned to private practice she was able to negotiate and brought her portfolio with her. It’s easier to make the case in point when you’re closer to retirement. It has definitely given her skills, which have helped her firm.

What roles would you decline?

Don’t just take the first role that comes along, as you have to commit to minimum three years. If you can only take on one role whilst you’re working full time, you need to make sure it’s the right role.

You’re doing it for interest, not for money, so pick well.

Meet as many people as you can. Do your due diligence. Insist on seeing the people you think are important. You have to get on with the Chairman and build a relationship.

Is there a danger that you get perceived as ‘non-commercial’ if you have a couple of charity trustee roles?

It’s a catch 22. The danger is there, so be weary. Do take on 1 or 2 charity roles as a way in, you’ll be meeting people on those boards who are perhaps on other commercial boards.

Are boards really looking for governance experience?

The smaller firms certainly are. Even if you’re not a governance specialist, as a lawyer you will intuitively know where to look. You will have a good sense and can get up to speed quickly. You can spot problems that to lawyers are common sense, but perhaps not to a commercial person, and you can come up with quick solutions. So governance is helpful.

Is it getting easier for lawyers to get on boards because of the regulatory environment?

It is becoming more important, so lawyers tick the box. Even if it’s not on the job spec and they’re not specifically looking for it, you should point out where you have an advantage.

How do you get headhunters to take you seriously?

Once you’ve been placed once, they will keep calling you, so you just need to get your foot in the door. Keep plugging at it, and after a while you will move up the pecking order. It’s all part of networking. Keep in touch. Always be helpful to them if they’re looking for names.

The Lawyer: What law firms are doing about retirement assistance – and where they’re failing

By Matt Byrne 6 March 2018, The Lawyer magazine

The idea of offering partner retirement assistance is heartily supported by top law firms. However, the results of our survey reveal that what they actually provide lacks the structure and innovative thinking found at the big accountacy firms.


“To what extent do you think that both firms and partners nearing retirement benefit if the former provides specific retirement-related assistance to the latter?”

While UK law firms continue to face criticism in many quarters for their approach to retirement-related issues, the results of our survey suggest that an overwhelming majority have at least recognised the potential value of providing assistance.

Some 71 per cent of total respondents said they agreed entirely that both firms and partners nearing retirement could benefit if the former provided retirement-related assistance to the latter. Another 18 per cent agreed to an extent, while the remaining 11 per cent were neutral. No respondents said they disagreed with the statement.

What the market says:

Jane Harris, partner, Milestones: More firms are taking retirement-related assistance more seriously than ever before, though they are somewhat behind the accountancy firms when it comes to structured programmes and alumni networks.

Traditionally, law firms have only thought about supporting their partners when there is a problem with performance or behaviour. However, there is now a realisation that it makes sense to be more proactive about this and treat retiring partners well so that they can leave healthy, happy and as ambassadors for the firm.

There is clearly a need for practical support, yet firms are also starting to recognise the value of placing emphasis on emotional wellbeing and providing support that helps to strengthen personal resilience when it comes to retirement.

Tony Williams, principal, Jomati: It is encouraging, at last, to see that firms now recognise they have an issue and that a constructive and proactive approach to retirement is necessary, even if they are hazy as to how to achieve this.”

Anna Ponton, head of legal and professional services, Odgers Berndtson: Ending the relationship between partner and law firm on a sour note or with a sense of lingering disappointment is not good for either party, particularly the law firm. Happy alumni can be useful alumni in terms of promoting the firm’s brand in a general way.

Loyal alumni who move on and get involved in other things will always think of their former firm first if they are asked to give recommendations.


“To what extent do you believe there is a business/marketing opportunity for firms to differentiate themselves by offering specific retirement-related assistance to their partners?”

This question sought to identify specifically whether or not UK firms believe that the provision of retirement-related advice could offer them some sort of commercial advantage. It was designed to assess the extent to which there is the potential for firms to differentiate themselves by offering retirement-related advice.

While the results were less clear-cut than those to Question 1, the overall picture is clear: the majority of respondents say they believe there is an opportunity.

In all, 29 per cent of firms agreed entirely with the statement while another 43 per cent agreed to an extent. Another 18 per cent were neutral, while 11 per cent disagreed to an extent.

What the market says:

Elizabeth Holden, director, BCKR: The benefits of helping retiring partners extends deep into the firm and beyond. Trainees sitting with those retiring, aspiring partners and longstanding clients all watch how the firm treats its partners.

Williams: Leaders apparently recognise that doing the right thing in terms of retirement is also good business whether in terms of better retention, improved engagement, living the firm’s culture or creating ambassadors for the firm rather than detractors.

Ponton: Providing help reflects on the culture of the firm and its standing as a ‘good place to work’. It can be a positive move on the age-related diversity and inclusion front too. But fundamentally this is about treating people with dignity and respect – people who have, let’s remember, devoted much of their life (usually) to one firm.

George Wilkinson, partner, Milestones: The larger accountancy firms and business consultancies have been quick to see the commercial value of putting in place a supportive framework for their partners when it comes to retirement.

What we have seen in the legal sector mirrors these findings in that partners are likely to continue to be active, many will bring new client work back into the firm, others are involved in charities or start-ups, creating potential new income streams. Yet many law firms continue to be slow to react, failing to place sufficient emphasis and focus on this. It takes a senior sponsor to make this work and it should be higher up the HR agenda. Only then can the benefits be realised.


“If you agree, what would you say are the primary opportunities/benefits to the firm of doing this?”

The survey now turns to specifics, asking those firms that agreed with Question 2 to state why they did so and also to detail what they would consider to be the primary opportunities or benefits to a firm of providing retirement-related assistance.

“We agree that there may be a marketing opportunity for firms offering assistance for retirement as it can be a valuable tool for those in the position to take advantage of it,” pointed out one firm.

“However, aside from the marketing opportunity we believe that partners benefit greatly from assistance with preparing their retirement, both in a practical sense and in relation to the psychological side too. It can be a challenging time for people who have dedicated a great proportion of their life to their work. This is particularly true for many of our partners who have not infrequently spent a great deal of their working life, if not all of it, with the firm.

“Partners are more likely to feel comfortable about retirement if they have received assistance from the firm in preparing them for it, meaning they feel positively about it and are more likely to work with the firm to hand over relevant matters, information and contacts, and leave their successors better prepared to take over their clients.”

One firm flagged up the issue of retention as an increasingly important market issue at all levels of seniority due to the increased mobility of lawyers.

“Partners who can see that their eventual transition from partnership will be managed well are more likely to stay; and, when they do leave, to remain positive towards the firm,” said this firm. “It also has a positive impact on morale as senior partners are often highly respected and popular individuals who have played major roles in training the next generation of lawyers.”

Another summed up the benefits neatly: “1) It helps the firm proactively plan succession for key roles, client relationships and skills gaps. By encouraging the partners to prepare for retirement, they are more likely to open up their client relationships to others and develop others in the team. 2) If the firm understands the aspirations and needs of retiring partners they can tailor the support provided and, where appropriate, retain expertise within the business in a non-partner role, eg senior counsel. 3) Partners that retire and leave the business feeling well-supported will remain advocates of the firm and potentially create work referrals from within their network, e.g. from non-executive networks or offer mentoring support to remaining lawyers. 4) It can send a good message to staff if they see a positive exit from the business, and relationships maintained post-retirement.

All of the above, if delivered correctly, should certainly help differentiate a firm in a competitive marketplace. Another firm addresses this point, stating “whilst I do not see the primary aim of retirement-related assistance as creating a business or marketing opportunity, there are benefits in ensuring that partners leaving a firm ‘leave well’ and act as advocates for the firm. This may include creating connections and referrals, consultancy opportunities for the individual within the firm and building a network of individuals who feel a sense of pride in having worked for us during their careers. Any assistance/support provided to partners approaching retirement demonstrates that the firm treats retirement seriously”.

The latter point is echoed by another firm, which states: “It shows they care from the cradle to the grave not just for the new recruits – who will all become old one day.”

Another, even more pithily, sums up the benefits of a firm offering its partners better holistic care: “Everyone is an alumnus eventually.”

What the market says:

Harris: What is clear is that when individual partners feel they have something to move on to they are better at succession planning, clearer about client handover and more transparent with the firm. These behaviours help to reduce all the commercial risks associated with a senior person leaving.

Those who don’t feel supported or part of the wider alumni of the firm will tend to talk negatively about the firm and their experience, which damages the firm’s reputation and can often mean clients go elsewhere as they feel their relationship has also ended when the partner leaves.

Treating people with dignity while acknowledging their contribution makes for a successful, supportive retirement programme. The benefits are many but perhaps the most poignant is the strengthening of the relationship between partner and firm. Giving partners permission to think about their next steps impacts all aspects of their lives, and all the people around them. Ultimately, it is the right thing for the firm to do.


“Specify the most significant initiative/area of assistance your firm has introduced in recent years that was aimed at helping its partners prepare for retirement”

Staying with firm-specific information, we asked firms to tell us about the measures they have in place to help partners prepare for retirement. ‘Coaching’ looms large among the responses, with schemes including one-on-one sessions with an external provider to help partners start thinking about career planning, and coaching ‘for the life change’.

One firm said it offered “dedicated retirement planning”, with additional training on related areas. Several responses suggested that the sense that firms are behind the curve in terms of offering structured retirement assistance to partners is not too wide of the mark.

“Sadly, very little of note,” said one firm, while another said “None, other than making decent profits to enable them to retire.”

This respondent went on to say that their firm was “at the outset” of developing initiatives to support partner retirement.

“Our focus to date has been on having honest conversations with our partners about potential timescales for their retirement,” the firm added. “These conversations allow us to be more proactive around our plans and gives partners a greater sense of confidence that we will work with them to ensure their knowledge and experience is gradually transferred to future leaders.”

One firm argued that succession planning was a two-way process for the clients and lawyers.

“Clients should know of any plans well in advance and I have not come across any evidence of any push from clients for new relationship partners,” added the firm. “As long as a quality service is still being undertaken clients are happy. Firms should recognise this like US firms do, with no compulsory retirement age. Medicals should be provided FOC to protect both sides.”

One UK 200 top 30 firm highlighted its partners’ ability to reduce working days over an agreed period, while another said it held annual lunches with retired partners, who are also invited to all the firm’s partner retirement dinners.

“We provide them with our quarterly news magazine [while] partners are offered support with IT training and assistance,” added the firm. “Coaching as to specific needs is also freely available.”

Only one firm, a large international player, specifically highlighted financial planning advice:

“We use the firm’s private wealth offering and offer an in-house legal allowance to partners to use for financial planning, tax and probate services. Last year we launched an awareness campaign around this benefit to all partners to encourage them to draw down on [it] to establish the essentials they should have in place, whether or not they are nearing retirement. We offer this to all partners including newly promoted partners and lateral hires.”

Another firm seemed much more geared up to assisting partners on retirement-related issues than the norm, at least judging by its response to this question: “We created a collection of documents which are issued to all our partners considering retirement in the next two years.

The documents include a retirement handbook which covers a range of practical advice and support for personal and professional considerations when approaching retirement, and retirement form templates for the partner to complete. The latter detail: the matters on which partners are involved to help the partner conclude them in an organised and methodical way; suggestions of tasks that should be considered ahead of retirement, matter-related and non-matter related; at what stage before retirement the transfer of leadership roles should happen and the way this is undertaken; and the transfer of key relationships to others in the team, training and mentoring responsibilities. In implementing the use of the forms we invite the relevant departmental managing partner, HR and the individual to meet to agree the information that will formulate the pre-retirement plan.”

What the market says:

Ponton: This is a very personal and critical career transition point. Being given a handbook that details what you need to do to hand over clients is frankly rather impersonal and only really benefits the firm. One of the Big Four allows partners in their 50s to attend a group seminar about life after the firm.

Once they have given their year’s notice they get sent a form/handbook that outlines what they have to do to transfer their client relationships. That’s it.

What individuals need and want is somebody to spend a little time with them. There is a tendency to feel ‘scrap-heaped’ the minute you have declared your hand. Suddenly, these partners feel they are ‘yesterday’s people’.

One of the big issues here is timing. Partners leave it far too late to start thinking about life outside the firm, but can you blame them when they see what has happened to their colleagues? This needs to be addressed at an earlier stage and the stigma of talking about and positioning for the future removed.

One suggestion would be to encourage a discussion about life outside the firm for all partners and staff, so it is not always focused on life ‘after’. So, at the point of stepping off they have relevant experience to draw on and can offer referees and a network who have seen them in action beyond being ‘just’ a lawyer.

One-on-one coaching for, say, four sessions can make a huge difference and help partners understand what lies ahead. It helps them identify their strengths and weaknesses, and, quite frankly, just provides some ‘me’ time. A good coach can help them to establish what they want, identify their network and give them the confidence to strike out into the new world. Life in a law firm is extraordinarily cocooned.

In a room of 25 soon-to-retire partners at a recent event I spoke at not a single person was being given any one-to-one help, although all professed to wanting it. They were all at big commercial firms.

Wilkinson: Our experience is that law firms are particularly cautious when it comes to spending money on development, assistance and support for their partners. There is often a difference in opinion and perspective between partners and HR. This, in turn, leads to a difference between what is delivered and what is experienced.

Many firms struggle to get the messaging right, and the content aligned with what is of most value for partners. Having a fresh pair of eyes and an external perspective makes a big difference. This is often not something that can be managed internally by the firm, particularly in the early stages.

Holden: There is much that can be done in this area, often involving extending a partner’s valuable contribution to the firm or increasing the likelihood that their activities during retirement will also benefit the firm.

Our experience over recent years is that firms are definitely improving in this area. The key to a successful retirement is good early planning, made available to all as a matter of course.


“Do you believe there is a benefit to your firm of partners taking non-executive directorship (or other external appointment) roles post-retirement?”

Moving on to non-executive directorships (NEDs) and other external roles, the response to Question 5 which asked whether firms thought there was a benefit to the firm of partners taking these on post-retirement was again overwhelmingly in favour, with 89 per cent of respondents saying they believed there was a benefit to the firm. Just 11 per cent said no.

What the market says:

Holden: It is great to see this level of enthusiasm for post-firm NED roles but, as those embarking on this path know, there is much to be done to bring it about. Being a lawyer, even a very successful partner at a top City firm, does not guarantee you any roles.

Wilkinson: The reality is that for many partners getting the time to focus on NED roles outside the firm is simply not on the agenda. Firms could do more to promote and support this, as clearly there are tangible benefits for both parties. Some firms have an excellent system for sabbaticals and perhaps introducing something similar where time spent working in different sectors or for clients in-house could make all the difference.


“If yes, what is your firm doing to assist these partners to obtain such roles? If no, what do you see as being the biggest barriers/risks to them doing so?”

In the follow-up question, we asked both sides to provide their reasons. One respondent highlighted the issue of reputational risk with any appointment.

“Lawyers are likely to be more natural NEDs for public sector/quango roles and trustee roles,” argued this firm. “Unless partners are familiar with, and can present in, a listed company environment, in a non-legal role, they are likely to be perceived, often unfairly, as being too risk-averse, and too concerned with detail rather than strategy. This means they need to be able to present themselves as businessmen with a legal background rather than the reverse. My firm, recognising the above issues, advises lawyers on how to present themselves appropriately, inter alia by meeting with exemplars. Frequently, the missing element is not knowledge but confidence.”

Another firm admitted that “whilst we can see the benefit likely to be gained by firms from former partners securing NED-type roles, we do not undertake any specific activity to encourage or support former partners in doing so”.

More encouragingly (although in a comment that also seems to confirm the general lack of retirement-related infrastructure for partners across the UK’s largest firms), one firm insisted that it seeks to encourage partners, when appropriate, to leverage its network of clients and other contacts, adding “we are about to establish a more formal alumni network (and would be interested to learn from the experience of others)”.

Another firm, which admits to providing “very little” by way of practical help other than “introductions”, pinpoints and confirms the key issue facing lawyers hoping to secure a lucrative NED role post-retirement: “Often, boards are resistant to having lawyers as NEDs as they are perceived as being not commercial enough and too focused on speciality areas. Compare that to the ‘T-shaped accountant’, with a broad range of experience backed up by deep expertise.”

What the market says:

Williams: For a white, male, private practice lawyer in his mid-50s to expect to walk into FTSE100 NED role immediately on retirement is pretty close to cloud cuckoo land. There are plenty of roles of various sorts available after retirement, but a partner needs time and help to explore these, and to develop a relevant contact base.

Given the pressures of practice it can be hard to make time – or to admit that time should be made – for considering one’s future options, which is why specialist help from outside the firm may help to provide a level of objectivity and confidentiality.”

Harris: There is this strong perception that partners will go on to take up NED-type roles, yet many have no real desire to do this. It comes down to exploring a partner’s identity and how they see themselves.

There is genuine merit and value in exploring the full spectrum of possibilities and opportunities that present themselves. This can be achieved once some of the exploratory work has taken place.

Holden: Lawyers can do much to reposition themselves in this market, but it takes effort on the part of the individual and genuine encouragement on the part of the firm. Too often only lip service is paid to it by management.


“Do you believe there is a benefit to your firm of partners taking non-executive directorship (or other external appointment) roles while still practising?”

The answers to this question were entirely consistent with those to Question 5, with 89 per cent of respondents saying they also believed there was a benefit to the firm of partners having external appointments post-retirement and just 11 per cent saying they disagreed.

What the market says:

Holden: While the response here is encouraging, much more could be done to make it a reality. Many firms talk about the benefit without finding ways of supporting partners to achieve it. Simply permitting these roles is not enough. The firm should actively support partners in developing themselves, their networks and the firm’s brand by taking on such roles.

The interests of individual lawyers and their firms have converged. It has become clear that, in order to survive a challenging professional life, an individual lawyer needs to create a hinterland in which they can happily exist even at times of extreme professional stress. That hinterland can exist in family life, creative art, sport, politics or in many other places. Increasingly, however, it is also coming to exist in the governance of businesses, charities, public agencies and similar organisations.

There are also likely benefits for the firm’s clients – new skills, new insights and unlimited networking opportunities. Put simply, a lawyer who understands clearly how a client thinks and reaches a decision through the experience of being one, sitting on a board, is rather better placed than one who lacks that experience. This advantage is not limited to commercial lawyers, it is applicable to all practitioners.


“How would you describe the firm’s approach to partners holding external appointments (such as non-executive director roles and trusteeships)?”

In this question we wanted to dig deeper into the culture of UK law firms and their philosophy towards NEDs and other external appointments for partners, asking how they would describe their approach to this issue.

It is notable that a large majority, 64 per cent, say they encourage it. And yet the answers to previous questions suggest that this ‘encouragement’ lacks something in terms of practical assistance.

Just 14 per cent admitted that they tolerate it, 7 per cent said they discourage it and 4 per cent prohibit it.

What the market says:

Holden: All too often we find that ‘encouragement’ falls well short of active support, amounting instead simply to a permissive approach with little training or guidance. However, the best firms are changing their programmes.


“Please state why this is your approach”

Asked why they were in favour, most firms reported benefits including gaining wider experience or additional skills and, of course, an extended network of contacts. One firm went further, stating “one of our firm’s values is ‘freedom’ and so we trust our partners to work in a way that complements their commitments outside of work. Wherever possible, we would look for ways to ensure a partner could hold an external appointment and accommodate this as part of their working week”.

On the opposite side, one firm admitted a potential “negative” was that they could be “a distraction from fee-earning”. Another said “the potential for conflicts of interest in our practice areas/localities is huge”. A third was blunt about the risks and equally blunt about the action the firm has taken to protect itself: “In previous years we lost partners to the bench and to employment tribunals. There was the additional factor of time lost to the firm and its clients. We decided that to be an equity partner you had to be fully committed to the firm. This has proved to be correct. We no longer lose equity partners. Anyone who wants to follow other careers has the opportunity to step down from equity to fixed-share partnership.”

What the market says:

Holden: It is clearly disappointing when partners leave a firm earlier than the firm would like, but it is surely more exciting when others stay longer as fee-earners because of a more progressive approach. Personal wellbeing is vital for the successful delivery of professional services. One ingredient of wellbeing is a hinterland that is not simply a retreat, but also a source of inspiration. If you want to be a good lawyer, get a life outside the law.


“Outline any opportunities your firm offers to partners who are looking to scale back their work levels/hours as they approach the end of their career”

For many firms this question touches on one of the most contentious issues relating to the retirement of their senior lawyers, namely when or how (or indeed if) partners can scale back their hours.

Some firms’ responses were precise and detailed in terms of the options they offer. Others’ were equally precise as to what they most definitely do not offer.

“None,” said one firm. “We expect all serving partners to devote the whole of their time to the business. If partners wish to undertake NED-type roles that will demand significant time away from the business, it is highly likely that profit-sharing arrangements will need to be adjusted.”

“Considered on a case-by-case basis they could step down to fixed-share partnership, but as a rule we want full-time, fully committed equity partners, not part-time, not fully committed partners,” said another.

At another firm partners “may reduce their hours by up to 40 per cent for a maximum of three years culminating in retirement”, while at another partners have the ability from the age of 62 to demand reduced hours “and if they choose they can scale back in one go or, for example, drop one working day a week per year”.

What the market says:

Williams: Many partners are reluctant to scale back as this is tantamount to admitting the partner is retiring in one or two years, ie ‘I’m in the departure lounge’.

Why quality talent who just wish to reduce their workload (and income) should feel this is the only option is an indication of a lack of imagination on both sides.

Ponton: A lot of firms allow their partners to be consultants for a year post-retirement. This is quite an expensive way of giving them a soft landing.

Addressing the issues earlier may mean that partners are ready to leave the firm and do something else on their retirement date rather than perhaps feeling like a bit of a spare part.

Read the full article from The Lawyer here.

A Presentation from The Fore Trust: Focusing on smaller charitable organisations

The Bulldog Trust owns and operates The Fore Trust, founded in 2012. They operate out of the stunning Two Temple Place, built by William Waldorf Astor in 1895.

The Fore Trust make grants to small charitable organisations. They are a seed investor in the charity sector, looking for small organisations at the early stages looking for an injection of cash to take them to the next stage.

Funding for first timers is hard. You often don’t get any feedback on failed applications. It is easier for corporate funding to go to larger charities. Not only do they get a pronounced reputational bump but less due diligence is required. Small charities don’t have the network to draw on.

The Fore focus on these small organisations with no more than £1 million turnover.
They provide feedback on all applications to help ensure the same mistakes aren’t made on future applications.
They offer £30k over 1 to 3 years.

They also offer access to a pro bono network. Mid to senior level executives in accounting, law and finance. Matchmaking people who are looking for ways to get involved at a level commensurate with their skills. Offering real strategic assistance.

You can join their mailing list of available trustee and adviser roles by emailing rachel@thefore.org or check their website for current roles.

They hold monthly workshops held in-house on topics such as:

  • Fundraising
  • Law for charities
  • Trustee recruitment strategies

The Fore offer three funding rounds a year. They are led totally by the organisations that apply. They try to be friendly and supportive.

Applicants need to write a 3-page compelling pitch to convince The Fore they are right for funding, including details on how the funds will be transformational, how much they need and over what period and what they will do with it.

They are trying to inspire change within the sector.

The Fore also work with businesses to become funding intermediaries, raising money to give away through grants. Organisations looking to invest CSR funds in a different way. The Fore offer themselves as a partner to do due diligence or perhaps choose which charities to support. It can be an exciting offer to businesses to give something back to their staff. Millennials value the social involvement of the companies they work in very highly.

The Fore position themselves between organisations looking for capital and people with capital looking to spend or invest. 75% of organisations who receive this initial investment go on to find further funding.

The Fore would like to be bigger and their business model is designed for expansion.

The Fore Trust host an annual Winter Exhibition, this year’s subject is Rhythm & Reaction exploring the impact that Jazz had on Britons from 1918. The exhibition is free and runs until 22nd April.

A copy of the presentation given at The Fore can be found here.

“Enthusiasm over aptitude!  If they like you, you are 80% there” Anna Ponton and Stuart Morton – Odgers Berndston

This week we were delighted to welcome Anna Ponton and Stuart Morton from headhunters Odgers Berndston to BCKR to share their thoughts with us.


Law firms are generally not very good at helping their partners and alumni to make the transition to life outside law. Unhappy alumni are not useful alumni; some law firms are beginning to react and ask for advice on how to improve.


How they work

Both Anna and Stuart are lawyers.  They run the Professional Services team at Odgers Berndtson and both sit on the board practice, chaired by Virginia Bottomley.

They understand the challenges that face lawyers who want to take on outside roles and though it isn’t an easy path to take – it is doable – but you do need to work hard at it.

A great example of someone who threw themselves into getting an outside role is Caroline Goodall, who made a concerted effort to get her first role, ending up with a role on the board of the Investment Trust which was a listed role and gave her a great PLC anchor without creating conflict.


How to get noticed

Lawyers don’t recognise how important their network is.  50% of roles will come through your own network – particularly the first one.

You need to spend an afternoon mapping out who can be helpful to you and then you need to get out there.  It is easier to let people know you are looking whilst still in full time practice, when you are still seeing clients etc.

But you need to banish thoughts that asking for a coffee with someone is being a bother.

Raise your profile – speak at events.

When you meet with someone, try to leave the meeting with 2-3 other introductions.

Having more than one entry point into a headhunter is a good idea.  Don’t rely on one contact.

Don’t expect overnight results.

If you are systematic in your approach it can actually be quite energising, you’ll be gaining snippets of information all the time.

Don’t leave home without your business card.

Don’t forget Linked-In.  Keep your profile up-to-date.  Redraft so that you have the right key words and skill sets – search engine optimisation!


What to expect

Headhunters can be likened to a Labrador – cold nose but warm heart.  They are also gatekeepers.

Getting in to see a headhunter can be hard.  One of the best ways is to get an introduction.

When you do get a chance for a cup of coffee make sure you are prepared.  You will probably only get one coffee, so make it count.

You need to have a clear pitch about who you are and what you are looking for.  Don’t expect to be spoon fed by the headhunter.

Choose your headhunter carefully.  Make sure you research what each of the headhunters do. What is their practice area?


How to keep in touch afterwards

Headhunters love inside gossip and knowledge.

A short 2-3 line email every six weeks updating them on where you are, what you have done recently in your search, who you have met – show you are working hard at getting a role.  This will help keep you top of mind.  An email is better than a phone call.

Having more than one contact within a firm will help build up an important picture.  And there is a lot of cross referencing within a headhunting firm and also between firms.  The pool is quite small.


Private sector

Beware the fireside chat.  What you think might be a casual conversation may be masquerading as an interview.  Make sure you are prepared.  Be strategic; if you are meeting a Chairman for coffee make sure you know what you want to get out of it.

Headhunters love to be able to reference you with some big wig.  They like to be able to qualify you so keep them posted on important meetings. Or get an introduction.


Public sector

Respect the process.  It can be quite brutal.  The is a bar and if you don’t reach it there is no nuancing your way through the process.  You have to be ok at everything they are looking for.  Consider what they are looking for and match it paragraph by paragraph in your application.

Much more preparation involved.

  • As an aside they have just placed two partners on The Law Society Board. Despite being advertised on the BCKR website and of course more widely – they had very few applicants.  Why wouldn’t you throw your hat in the ring?  Once you get your first role it is then easier to get the next one.



We are all too familiar with the negative perceptions of lawyers:

  • Not commercial
  • Too detail conscious
  • Not creative thinkers
  • Not risk takers
  • Think tactically not strategically
  • Servant of the board – not on it

The positives are:

  • Intellectual capacity
  • Ability to identify the elephant in the room
  • Highlights important detail
  • Good antenna for risk
  • Diligently reads board papers
  • Suits a regulated environment

There has undoubtedly been a bias for Chairmen to say they have a GC already and don’t need another lawyer. But really, a good NED is someone who asks difficult questions and lawyers are good at unpicking questions.

What you need to find is the right vocabulary for describing your skill set in a non-lawyer context.

Numeracy is another stumbling block for lawyers.  Make sure you can read a balance sheet.


The interview

It’s all about the preparation.

You need to sell yourself and your strengths.  Provide strong anecdotal evidence relevant to the role.

Don’t underestimate how important it is to show enthusiasm (smile – make eye contact – look engaged).  If they like you, you are 80% there.

Make sure you have questions to ask.  Look and act engaged.  Be energetic.


In summary – It is doable, but it is a long slog.  Headhunters are more likely to be helpful to you once you already have a role.  It is your network that is most likely to help you get your first role.


Is there a different set of bias towards a GC/in house lawyer?

As a GC; you are probably better placed because of your exposure and interaction with boards through your day job.  Your ability to see things through the client lens is a place where you can add value.


Your CV

Skill set is more important than deal list.  Headhunters are not interested in your introductory paragraph.  Introductory email or application letter are more important.  From a headhunter’s perspective the CV isn’t the most important aspect of you.  They are more interested in who introduces you, and who your contacts are.  They will use Linked-In so keywords in your profile are important to ensure your profile comes up in searches.


BCKR holds regular CV workshops for lawyers in search of tips for writing or restructuring their CV.


For a copy of Odgers Berndston’s presentation please click here.


Nick Vetch: Pick your NED role with care

We recently welcomed Nick Vetch to BCKR.  Nick is on the board of several companies and is a trustee at Bedales School and also of The Fund for Global Human Rights.  He has NEDs and is a NED.  His experience of being a NED for a commercial organisation versus a non-commercial is that there is some commonality – dependent on the size and sophistication of the organisation.  Large organisations differ from smaller ones.  In general, the NGO sector is some way behind on a corporate governance and organisational front.


A major trap around becoming a NED is that you either end out running the organisation or having no role at all.


Running it:  this happens when you have misconceived organisations with poor management and no vision.


No role: when you become a non-exec of an organisation where you have no influence either because they are so big that nobody has influence and you attend endless board meetings and talk of nothing but corporate governance.  Can be frustrating and boring.


So pick carefully and don’t fall into the trap of becoming too involved or unable to make a difference.  There is a sweet spot in between where organisations are looking for involvement from outsiders.


Executives generally have NEDs to meet their regulatory obligations.

  • Some view NEDs in the role of policemen, there to represent the shareholders, and are viewed as an extraneous break on activities like pay etc.
  • The more constructive view is that NEDs are there as sounding boards.


Since 2008 Nick has probably made six really big important strategic decisions.  Those decisions were critical to where Big Yellow have ended up in the present day.  So – Nick wants enablers of better decision making around him for those critical times.


For instance – if Nick were to call Tim Clark – it would be about making a big decision on which he is looking for a different mind set and challenge.  He is not expecting to be challenged on most of the day to day decisions by his NEDs as they don’t have the technical expertise and he can buy that in.  He certainly doesn’t look to Tim for legal advice.  It is his value judgement, common sense, probity and having confidence in Tim’s moral compass.

The only exception to this is the head of audit.


When you look at the board and the dynamics, how do you choose who to join your board?

The starting point would have to be as fundamental as you have got to like them.  He might have started with skill sets but has evolved into choosing diversity of thought over and above everything else.


The traps of the corporate life are that you end up in the same school of thought – stock market politics etc. – but it can result in ending up in silos.  You want someone who is not in the same silo.


Generally boards put a high value on sector experience.  Nick puts no stock in that.  You should have that expertise in-house.  Big Yellow is a curious mix of public company and founder-led.  It has its own style.  It is not as formal as most corporates.  They are certainly not sloppy when it comes to corporate governance but they do have a more entrepreneurial approach.  It would be very different in a big FTSE company.


How do you assess ability of your NEDs?

You make your best guess.  Will they strike the right balance of being challenging, but not for the sake of it.


How does that compare to your role as a NED?

Nick is a self-confessed control freak so does find the NED role challenging.  Fund for Global Human Rights does wonderful work but business wise they are quite primitive.  So Nick feels he can make a real difference there.  His biggest challenge is not charging in and taking over.


How do you find the right role?  A lot of organisations just want NEDs to tick the box.  If you want to make a difference usually your network is your best resource.


How do you respect the challenge from your NEDs on those big decisions if they don’t have sector expertise?

NEDs can’t guarantee right decisions are made.  It is the collective brain power that improves the chances of making the right decision.  You probably make the right decision 65% of the time.  You want to make sure that those six big decisions are in that 65%.


How to you avoid the traps and make good assessments of companies – e.g. Carillion?

Traps can be glaringly obvious in retrospect, though would you really invest in a contractor with a 3% margin?  You need to do your due diligence.  Ask yourself ‘would I invest in this?’ If you had rung insiders at Carillion you would have found out something was up.


How do you prepare for an interview?

  • Do your due diligence e.g. ring insiders, brokers & others.
  • Ask questions so that you understand the DNA of the business.


What is your view on taking on younger NEDs?

You need youth on the board to understand fast moving areas like technology and change.


How do you approach organisations you want to get into?

  • Luck plays a big role. The more work you put in, the luckier you get.
  • Don’t focus on your legal skills but how you can help executives come to better decisions. Emphasise your common sense skills and strategic thinking.
  • Your experience as a lawyer can bring different thinking and approaches into the board room. The way you think can have a very distinct impact.
  • Lawyers have a special ability to structure thought.





The Lawyer: How to deal with retiring partners

In their March 2018 issue, The Lawyer is to undertake an analysis of retirement-related issues facing law firms. “UK law firms should be doing significantly more to assist partners in the run-up to retirement and could benefit materially by doing so, experts have claimed.”

Click here to read Matt Byrne’s introductory article where BCKR Director, Elizabeth Holden, suggests that law firms could be “missing a trick” by not sufficiently investing in their retirees.