Vicky Fraser, Executive Services and Office manager

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Vicky works across our Leeds and Manchester offices managing the day to day running of the office and our Executive Support Team (ESS).

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Working for the same partner for thirty nine years…

My first permanent job was as a legal secretary at Booth & Co (now Addleshaw Goddard) working for David Salter.  I never wanted to work for a firm of lawyers: visions of dusty old books/offices working for very serious people wearing wigs in a very formal environment put me off.  I couldn’t have been more wrong. When I started, I vowed never to stay in the job for any length of time (a colleague had worked at the firm 8 years which at 16 seemed like an eternity).  In fact, I started working for David Salter in 1979 and stayed at the firm for twenty eight years before moving with David to Mills & Reeve in 2008.  We worked together right up to 31 October 2018, when David retired from Mills & Reeve. I am not sure there are many people who can claim to have worked for the same person for nearly forty years! David’s retirement from practice was a huge change for me, but we are still in touch regularly.

My progression from junior to manager…

From starting work as a junior legal secretary in 1979, I was promoted to a Senior Secretary in 1987 which transitioned to a Group Secretarial Coordinator role in 1998. I joined Mills & Reeve in 2008 as Secretarial/Facilities Coordinator for the new Leeds/Manchester offices and then transitioned to my current Executive Services and Office Manager role in 2015. This is a highly responsible role where strong leadership and management skills are needed.

Lawyers now would not be able to imagine a world without…

…computers, emails or mobile phones. Years ago we all had physical diaries and there was no such thing as diary stalking.  Lawyers had to be where they said they would be, when they had to be.  You wrote letters and it took a fortnight to get a response.  Now, you are expected to respond to emails by return. We worked in a fog of smoke and a layer of ash (as everyone smoked in the office back then), surrounded by files/papers on every available space, including the floor.  None of your clear desk policy back then.  Every lawyer had their own office.  Secretaries took shorthand, used carbon paper and a manual typewriter, which meant there was no room for errors.  There was no digital dictation, no multiple versions of documents, strike out or comparisons. You had to be perfect first time and any amendments had to be done in manuscript, witnessed and initialed.

I have been involved in Family work almost all of my working life…

I think people are drawn to this particular area of law because of the human element.  In Family work there is a huge amount of client contact, who all need support and a sympathetic ear as well as good legal advice.  You really become involved with the clients and no two cases are the same.  You are dealing with emotional people and some of their most personal details at what is one of the most difficult times of their lives.  

One of the highlights in my career happened in Rome…

In 2008, I organised an international conference for family lawyers in Rome on behalf of the International Academy of Family Lawyers (IAFL).  The conference took place just two months after opening the Mills & Reeve Leeds office.  Over two hundred lawyers attended from all over the world.  It was a fantastic event to be involved in, but it nearly did me in when balancing this with the client demands of moving to a new firm and setting up a new office! I was lucky enough subsequently to organise other international seminars including Krakow, Singapore, Saltsburg, Bordeaux and not forgetting Harrogate.  In 2012, I was presented with the IAFL Distinguished Service Award.

There is no such thing as a typical day for me…

I wear a lot of different hats: from managing the day to day running of an office, being responsible for the management of all aspects of Executive Support Services (ESS) team, implementing change, providing business support, front of house and everything else in between. In any one day I can be dealing with management issues, project work, client work, marketing events as well as dealing with water leaks, security issues or IT problems.  I really like the variety and people management side of things in my role.  I couldn’t do this without the flexibility and support of my colleagues. 

What’s great about working at Mills & Reeve?

Quite simply it’s the people and the culture. We share a common set of values that guide how we work.  We treat each other as equals, have respect for each other, are supportive, loyal and enjoy collaborating together for the benefit the business. We are led by a great management team who actively promote openness and transparency and challenge inappropriate behaviour. It is fantastic to see how motivated and committed everyone is to participate in and ultimately benefit from the firm’s success. We are proud to have been named in the Sunday Times’ Best 100 Companies to Work For for the 17th year running.

My one piece of advice...

…is to really embrace how much you can learn on the job. Communication and reliability is key. One of the most important things is to build the confidence early on to clarify things so that you don’t make assumptions. I also think it is important to be aware of your own emotional intelligence, and the impact that this has on your role within the team. I hope that, even with all the advances in social media, we can still encourage people to maintain the art of the conversation, speaking to people rather than texting/emailing so that we can truly understand how they are and what they need.

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