Hello, my name is Maxine and I am the Managing Director of Furse Sanders. I am a Solicitor and also a Private Client Specialist.
To understand the firm and why we are a bit different to most it may help you if you understand a bit more about me and why I want to do things differently. I hope that that difference translates into a difference for our clients and also our employees.
I am passionate about my area of law which basically involves dealing with older clients and their affairs, you can read a bit more about that elsewhere on our website rather than me take time here to explain all that's involved. Before Furse Sanders I wasn't very happy about how the firms were run that I had previously worked for. They tended to be partnerships and without exception had extreme difficulty in making good quality decisions which were also going to be beneficial to the firm and the clients. This impacted the investment they were prepared to make in the firm and its staff and this had a knock on effect as to how the firm thought about its clients and the work, often making the firms old fashioned and stagnant, hence why we are now a limited company with the people running the firm (I am not the only one!) and its shareholders being separated from each other, just like most other companies in the UK.
One of the things I also resolved to change was that all my life I have put much of my success as a lawyer down to the fact that I have always treated people as being equal to me. I try to treat people from where they are at rather than from where I am at. I hated the way that many lawyers, particularly Solicitors, looked down their noses at the people who were paying them. I wanted to have my staff treat people the way I do. That's partly why we don't tend to wear suits but smart casual clothing, that's what the clients tend to wear, that's what we mostly wear at home so why not also at the office?
As a fairly young person I started working in a law firm as a secretary. I was encouraged to learn as much as possible and got involved in fee-earning, often doing the work of more experienced Solicitors. I was very fortunate to be mentored by a couple of very successful women in the firm who clearly saw something in me that I was perhaps not aware of myself and who encouraged me to become qualified. So I took the next four years working partly as a secretary and partly as a fee-earner, spending most of my free-time studying to become qualified as a Legal Executive. I then moved firms to well respected firm in Winchester where I worked as fee-earner but also I was responsible for training all the newly qualified Solicitors in the private client department. As all the newly qualified Solicitors were paid much more than me but knew little and could do even less I resolved to qualify as a Solicitor which after a further four years I did. However the firm continued to treat me a if I was no different and eventually I decided that any future career wasn't going to happen with them, so I went to a firm that recognised my achievements and was glad to have my skills. I then went on to get a Masters degree (I never went to university before) in Elderly client matters and further qualified as a full member of Solicitors for the Elderly and a full member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, I am also the first named founding Fellow of the Agricultural Law Association (which deals with Agricultural legal issues and area I have also always worked in). Why does all this matter? It's because, I who left school at sixteen without much in the way of formal qualifications, now head up a law firm which I started and which now has seven offices. It has always been my belief that if I can do it so can others, even if people don't want to end up in the same place as me (we all have our own paths and our own opportunities) so I am always trying to give our staff opportunities to learn and grow and develop and train and that in turn enables them to be happier in their work, more enthusiastic and more diligent as well as giving them more experience and more expertise, all of which translates into a much better experience for the clients.
Just over ten years ago I was working for a largish firm in South Devon who wanted me to become an equity Partner. Having worked for a few firms over the last twenty four years, both small and large, I wasn't very happy about the way any of the firms were run and also how they dealt with the clients. So I rejected the offer to become a Partner and resolved to leave the safety of a large firm and go off on my own. Being a private client specialist makes it incredibly difficult to start a firm from scratch and because of this most smaller firms tend to be either started or run by litigators or conveyancers. To have my own firm I needed to find a firm which I could afford to buy and so I started to look for a firm which I could take over. I was very fortunate that I was able to take over a firm in Devon which meant that although I had to move house eventually to be close to the office I was initially able to commute from home.
Ironically, having bought Furse Sanders (the firm) in North Devon without knowing very much about the person who founded it, I later found that most of the values John Furse Sanders had when he ran the firm were those same values which I have. You can read more about his story elsewhere on the website. So, what are some of those values which I feel he and I share?
One, which is perhaps not surprising in spite of what you sometimes hear in the press, is OPENNESS AND HONESTY, by this I mean not just openness, honesty but also trustworthiness and acting according to the high ethical standards that are generally expected of lawyers. Without this a legal firm is worth nothing. I also place a very high value on PERFORMANCE. I value achievement, knowledge, experience and responsibility. I want our people to act as if the firm was theirs and to take responsibility for their work, doing whatever we need to, to get the job done. I want our clients to experience that drive and energy. This also means setting ourselves goals and challenges and striving to exceed those which are set for us; it means taking responsibility for our mistakes and learning from them, even if we have to eat humble pie, and not spending all our time blaming others for what are almost always our failures. Leading on from that, TEAMWORK is another important value, one which in this inter-connected world is of increasing importance for us to get the job done. This means that our people to actively support the firm, what it stands for and the values which I am talking about, it's direction, how it operates and its short and long term goals. It means we recognise that the clients and the firm provide us with our livelihoods and so they must come before us as individuals, we have no room for prima donnas or those who act as if they are so much better than others; we also work together with others both inside and outside the firm to provide opportunities and assist each other whenever we can. This includes suppliers and clients. In these days it usually means that clients are also an integral part of the team to deliver the clients results, clients often do some of the work and contribute their knowledge and experience and time to achieve a good result.
The last two values are linked (in a way they all are) but I have made them separate to provide an emphasis so, CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT this means we look to improve the way the firm works as well improving ourselves. This includes improving the systems and processes and work we do and also the way we do our work, how we deal with the clients and each other. We want our interactions with others to be a positive experience handled well even if the news is bad. We embrace change, seek new opportunities and better ways of doing things, as well as identifying and eliminating all types of waste activity including time, money, resources, and activities which add no value to the work we are doing. Lastly, and perhaps if you have read this far, not so surprisingly is PERSONAL GROWTH AND LEARNING for me this means that each person seeks personal as well as professional growth and development. That we support each other materially and emotionally on our individual journeys and that includes the many clients who come to us for help with their diverse range of issues. We are also continuously looking to learn new things which add value to us as people and to the future development of the firm and what we can deliver to clients.
I know you can often see mission statements and pronouncements by firms who have employed consultants to come up with how they ought to look and trot out a corporate line to say how wonderful they are. I suppose one of the things that makes us a bit different is that these are my values and when we recruit and train people, we look for people who also have these values as their values. Those who don't or who choose to pay lip-service just to get a job don't tend to either join the firm at all or if they do slip through the net, they don't last too long. We aren't robots, nor immaculately perfect so of course we make mistakes and slip up sometimes, but we strive to make things right and I would hope that everyone who comes into contact with the people in this firm in some way experiences the values which I have.
So that's a bit about me and some of the things I think are important, I hope you have enjoyed finding out a bit more whether you are a person looking for a law firm to help you or a relative or you are reading this as a potential staff member looking for a new position. Elsewhere on the website we have, under the headings of the various types of legal work we do, included some clients stories, some of them are joyful, some are sad, some show us what we or the client should or could have done, but all of them were real and I hope that you find them in someway meaningful. If nothing else they will give you some idea of the range and depth of the issues which we deal with on a day to day basis.