Interaction's Thrivalism

The Law of Attraction: The War for Talent in The Legal Sector with Helen Hodgkinson, TLT

October 18, 2022 Interaction Season 4 Episode 3
The Law of Attraction: The War for Talent in The Legal Sector with Helen Hodgkinson, TLT
Interaction's Thrivalism
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Interaction's Thrivalism
The Law of Attraction: The War for Talent in The Legal Sector with Helen Hodgkinson, TLT
Oct 18, 2022 Season 4 Episode 3

In this episode we talk to law firm TLT's Chief People Officer Helen Hodgkinson. We discuss the launch of TLT World, the firm's "work anywhere" policy, the role of the workspace in attracting talent and why legal firms need to take notes from other sectors if they want to win the war for talent.

Head to to find out more about working with TLT, or head to if you'd like to find out more about how Interaction can help you design and build offices that are fit for your flexible future, 

Thanks for listening! Check out Interaction's website for more workplace culture content and case studies (or just follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter).

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode we talk to law firm TLT's Chief People Officer Helen Hodgkinson. We discuss the launch of TLT World, the firm's "work anywhere" policy, the role of the workspace in attracting talent and why legal firms need to take notes from other sectors if they want to win the war for talent.

Head to to find out more about working with TLT, or head to if you'd like to find out more about how Interaction can help you design and build offices that are fit for your flexible future, 

Thanks for listening! Check out Interaction's website for more workplace culture content and case studies (or just follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter).

Interaction's Thrivalism - Helen Hodgkinson 

Helen Hodgkinson, TLT: There is definitely a need to be more developed than you've been before, but it's not a new set of leadership skills. It is about just being more pronounced and more intentional about them.


Toby Brown, Interaction: Hello. Welcome to Interaction’s Thrivalism. I'm Toby Brown, Head of Marketing at Interaction. And in this episode I'm joined by Helen Hodgkinson, who's the Chief People Officer at law firm TLT. TLT have recently launched TLT World, a fully flexible working policy designed to attract and retain top talent in what's proving to be a trying time for the legal sector. We discuss how larger organisations can get similar initiatives off the ground and we delve deep into some of the issues faced by HR departments in modern law firms. It's a really interesting chat. I hope you enjoy it. 


Helen Hodgkinson, TLT: So my name is Helen Hodgkinson. I am the Chief People and Places Officer at TLT. In essence, I run both the HR team but also the facilities team and more recently post-pandemic, we put the two together because we knew that part of office working and part of the employee experience absolutely needed to join in order to create the best experience that we can for our people. It's an absolute joy to have done both, you know, and actually as we're going to go and talk about during this podcast, it is absolutely served as well in creating that experience for all people.


Toby Brown, Interaction: There's so much to dive into there. I'll go back out to the big picture stuff for a second. I guess obviously we're hearing so much about the great resignation, about the war for talent, and it feels like the legal sector is one where that is an acute issue for people. What have you seen over the course of the pandemic in the trends of being able to attract and retain the best talent?


Helen Hodgkinson, TLT: Let's start off by saying I've been in the people field, the HR field for decades. And I probably want to mention as part of this podcast, I have never seen anything like I've seen in relation to the need for talent in the legal sector. I've worked in many other sectors previous to this. I've been through a number of recessions. However, post the pandemic has created a set of circumstances that is eye-watering and certainly gaining that talent, grabbing that talent, being attractive in the marketplace, but also holding onto it has been probably some of the greatest challenges I have faced in the last 18 months. I've got a great team that's around me, have dug absolutely deep in order to understand what it is our people want, how we can actually make them as comfortable, as productive and as supported as they possibly can, but also then how they can be advocates into the marketplace for us. So all our traditional normals of reaching deep into that supply chain, working with our recruitment support, having a great team that brings individuals in, looking at that candidate experience, all of that is still absolutely relevant. But I think one of the biggest things that we've had to focus on is the offering that we've got. What makes us different? Why might people want to be with us? What is it that we've learned both pre during post pandemic that actually means that we can be that little bit (I think a lot) different to other law firms and therefore our retention remains the same pre during post pandemic. That is astonishing. And secondly is we've grown by 20% in the last year, 20% by headcount. So we've brought an additional 20% of our workforce in and they're staying with us and we'll go into it, I'm sure, to talk a little bit around what that is and what I think has made the difference in a minute.


Toby Brown, Interaction: So in terms of what is important to those candidates you're seeing at the moment and the best people are showing you, what do you feel has changed over the past few years? What's driving, what's motivating people now when they're looking for their next role?


Helen Hodgkinson, TLT: We've quite quickly forgotten that we did go through a pandemic, you know, and actually let's not forget that because it was singly one of the biggest things that any of us from a work perspective have experienced in our lives. Up until that point, before the pandemic, we were a great business. You know, it's a business with a heart. It's a business that cares. It's got its people, it's got its clients at the forefront of what it does. You've got to start with some good cultural raw materials, and we have that going into the pandemic. We did this same as every other business did during that time. We looked after our people. We followed government guidance, we survived. We actually thrived as a business, and that's because we kept people at the forefront. So we're quite lucky in that people are our product. So there isn't a product in between people and clients is people to clients. That makes it very easy from any business perspective to talk about looking after our people. We did that throughout the pandemic and what happened is our people gave back to us in spades, absolute spades. We had a couple of the most successful years that we've ever had, and that is because we looked after them. So what do you learn from that? We talked to our people all the way through the pandemic. We understood what was important to them. We absolutely stayed connected. We did what we could do during that period. And at the end of it we took all that learning, including having the great business pre the pandemic, put it all together to make what we believe is the best offering we can have, both to our current people but also to future.


Helen Hodgkinson, TLT: And the cornerstone of that, the absolute core of it is trust. You know, during that pandemic, our people trusted us to do the right thing. We're now trusting them to do the right thing. And that absolutely, from an engagement perspective, comes out time and time and time again. So in essence, what does that mean from a proposition? We've adopted full flexibility. We've said that during that pandemic period, when we asked people, when they were out of our mind's eye to do the job that we expect them to do, they did it and they did it in spades. So why would we ask them to do something different? Because actually, all of a sudden, restrictions were lifted from those. So therefore we formulated something we've called TLT World, which is at its core is our approach to flexibility. So that is around we are a business because we're client-led that doesn't operate 9 to 5, five days a week. So as long as you keep your client in mind, your team in mind and your individual need in mind, you can flex your hours, your location environment is about our office environment. So we create an environment that actually when you visit, will operate in the way that you need it to do. But you do, you operate your hours, your location and that environment to make sure that you deliver your best work. And we absolutely know what people are delivering their best work.


Toby Brown, Interaction: And how much of an organisational shift and change was that to get that off the ground and get that working, or were you sort of there already, and it was just a shift in perspective?


Helen Hodgkinson, TLT: It was massive. If we hadn't had the pandemic, you know, the pandemic gave us some positive things as well as and there are still a significant amount of negative things that are hanging around as a result. But what it gave us was that massive cultural shift. We went from what was fully office occupied and we were very much about in the office in a client or not working to clearly being fully at home. So that forced change allowed us to look at systems, processes, protocols, policies, approaches. That meant that people could work from different sites. So whether that be a client site, whether that be our site, whether their own site, some of the examples of that is we still continue to do it now, but we did it during the pandemic, setting people up at home with kit. Other people, it's about maximising the space that they've got, but we kit people out in order to make sure they can be as comfortable as they possibly can at home as well as being comfortable in the office. So the pandemic gave us the unique opportunity to do something that we knew was in our mind's eye. But we probably will. We just wouldn't. We'd never have got there as quick as that. Never, ever. What it also gave us is the learnings. And so therefore, hold on to it, keep it dear, hold on to that engagement capital, because then actually it works.


Toby Brown, Interaction: You've obviously taken an approach where you are using flexibility and listening to people as a way to retain and other firms are looking at sort of big bonuses and crisis payouts and stuff like that. Obviously you've got perspective on which of those you think is most effective, but it'd be interesting to hear your thoughts on how those other firms are positioned and whether you think that's going to work for them in the long term.


Helen Hodgkinson, TLT: They all have a place. What we know, particularly in the legal industry, wage inflation is a problem currently, and there definitely has been a moment where other law firms we've had to do some of it ourselves as well, has been around creating a reward package that's incredibly attractive, incredibly attractive, as well as starting to navigate some of those jurisdictional issues outside London regional versus what we've had to consider all of that and we've had to stay in the market. But we also know that money only ever goes so far, needs to be there or thereabouts, needs to be right, needs to be absolutely in recognition of the value of the contribution that individuals making. But what also matters is that flexibility to live your home life alongside your work life. And that is not gender specific. It's not characteristics specific. Everybody has a home life that they want to blend with work. And they also know that sometimes home life spills into work and work spills into home.


And actually that as an offering has been incredibly well received. And to any business out there, I would say to you during that pandemic period, your people gave you spades. You also what we learn was we saw a levelling of everybody. We all realised that we had home lives and we saw pieces of people's lives that we've never seen before. Keep hold of that because it was really special and we won't get it again, so don't lose it. Keep hold of it because it matters. There is also a third part, which is about actually the culture that people are operating in, the fact that they need to be recognised, they need to be valued, they need to be understood, they need to have their contribution consistently recognised. All three of those things are really, really important. So if you take one of them, if you only run on money, it's going to run out. If you only run on culture, it's going to run out. If you only run on flexibility, it's going to run out. You've got to do all three.


Toby Brown, Interaction: So let's settle on the culture element of that trifecta for a minute. Obviously, the challenge that many organisations face with being remote and flexible is they feel their culture is weakened or dissipated slightly and they have to think really hard about how to keep their culture structured and together and sort of safeguarded. How have you approach those issues?


Helen Hodgkinson, TLT: I think this is an incredibly interesting subject because the idea that because we're using a different communication channel which is online, you all of a sudden dilute your culture. I just think this is a bit of a misnomer for me because we all live our lives online outside of work, and we still manage to connect and feel belong or part of the belonging to family, friends, circles, whichever. So while that changes in the workplace, I just don't know if I'm genuinely honest. Does it mean you've got to work a little bit harder? Of course you have, because you've not you're not engulfing somebody every day in the building that you're operating in, but actually you've got a unique moment to be in and part of their life. So again, all the normal parameters, the line manager, the communications, the engagement, all of those have to be slightly over indexed and you have to make sure that you're absolutely evidencing what makes you different. But to say that it's. A significant impact on that cultural glue. I just I'm just not there. I just don't believe that.


Toby Brown, Interaction: Do you not feel that maybe people can become a bit remote if they're not having as much unstructured and transactional time with colleagues? And I know it's very easy for people who might be a bit more introvert maybe to be less visible online and sort of slip back and maybe not get noticed so much. How do you balance out those sort of things?


Helen Hodgkinson, TLT: There's a couple of functions that all people have an innate sense of belonging. They have to belong. That is, you know, it's history, it's heritage. We need to and it is absolutely the line manager, the leader, the team leader's responsibility to make sure that they are being way more intentional in their leadership than they've ever been before. Is that made a little bit more difficult because they're not in your mind's eye, sat around you? Possibly. But actually it is just about new styles and new modes of leadership. And if you are operating in a regional and international business, you'd have been operating in this way anyway. So it's just about dusting off some of those skills and using those as well. This isn't new. It is just post-pandemic and it is more whole scale than we've ever seen before.


Toby Brown, Interaction: Do you think there are any specific remote management skills that other companies aren't teaching their managers properly or that you've seen fail across the market? Because as you say, it is a discipline and the skill and quite often it's one that you don't get taught. You just assume because of your position or your sort of promotion. So are there any ways that people can get better at that, do you think? And what might they be?


Helen Hodgkinson, TLT: I think you've mentioned something that's really important. Leadership is innate. You can develop leadership, but you've got to have it in the first place. There's got to be something there in order for it to do to be developed. So as a business, you've got to be really clear that you're putting the right people into your leadership roles because again, they've just become incredibly important. They've always been important. A bit more important possibly. Time again, let's not ask those leaders, you know, if your core role is to make sure your team performs, then let those leaders have that time to do that, because then to ask them to do a whole shed load of other stuff on top is unfair. Leaders have also been through the pandemic. They're also repairing, you know, they're also human beings. And so therefore, they absolutely need the same level of support that the rest of your business needs. Do I then therefore think they have to do things differently? They've got to use channels differently. And that word into I'm going to use that word intentional again. It's really important to be intentional in the actions that you're taking. So where you might have bumped into somebody in the office, you're going to have to make an intentional decision to contact them and to be in touch with them where, you know, you've got to learn and know your team. You've also got to know when your team is at its best, when it's at its worst or the things that you should be looking out for. So yeah, there is definitely a need to be more developed than you've been before, but it's not a new set of leadership skills. It is about just being more pronounced and more intentional about them.


Toby Brown, Interaction: Interesting. Thanks. And have you seen since going fully flexible and launching TLT World, you've mentioned the national versus regional conversation with regards to where and how you can recruit. Have you seen an increase in diversity of your workforce and stuff from that as well?


Helen Hodgkinson, TLT: Yeah, definitely. There is no doubt that even at its very simple level from the agenda, it is absolutely affecting it. So one of the brilliant available options to us now, available consequences of flexible working, which never was before, is about the ability to balance in the home. So whatever your home looks like, whatever it looks like, we've all got a family unit, it tends to have one or two of you in it. It tends to have a support network. What flexible working is offered is the ability for whatever that unit looks like to give a bit more time and to balance some of those accountabilities in the home. And certainly if you had to talk to I mean, we're 70% female in our business, if you to talk to those females, they will turn around and say, actually, not only am I more present and present, so I'm physically present, I'm mentally present, but actually if my partner is also afforded flexibility, then actually they're also present and present and all of a sudden that's given me way more contentment than I've had before. And even on practical levels, you know, again, when we've done our engagement surveys, we have shed loads of debate and comments from, Do you know what? I'm actually just able to have dinner, able to have dinner with my family through to actually I can work at my peak times. Actually, I can I can do this. Go in a school run applies to me. It's great there are time with my children that I've never had before. Similarly, an opportunity to show I couldn't exercise because I couldn't fit it in. Now all of a sudden I can. But what I also need and we hear it time and time again, do you need to come in? Still want to connect with with my colleagues. I still want to hang out. But that goes back then to that office design that turns around and says, Want to do come in? I'm not doing tasks anymore. I'm connecting. I'm collaborating. And I'm communicating. So therefore, have you got spaces where I can do that?


Toby Brown, Interaction: So yeah, that's I mean, that's really interesting to us, obviously. So let's talk about your vision for the use of a workspace over the next five years or so. What is your vision of how that office is used and is that aligned with your employees perspective on how it's used and what the steps to get there?


Helen Hodgkinson, TLT: So I can do a little bit of this based on experience because of course, we have just opened our new concept office up in Glasgow. Cad Works. We're really proud of that building, so proud of that building. So this all began pre the pandemic. We knew that we needed new office space. We were having massive deliberations around how much we might need from a square footage perspective. New. We wanted to grow new, we wanted to get bigger mentioned. Already we've grown by 20%. We also know that that's our ambition going forward. So the idea of pinning down a space that might have five years growth ambitions inside already was a bit of a dilemma. I'm not going to lie. However, hybrid working, flexible working has allowed us to take space and use it differently. We all the way through the pandemic and our Scottish colleagues were way more restricted than we have ever been. So we had to talk to them consistently online. But we did engage. We talked to them about what does this work like for you? There's a bit of leap of faith because actually you don't know what post-pandemic working looks like. But actually, if we would talk to you about what you might want to use your office for in the future, what might it look like? We talked about that from a client perspective, a tech perspective, the building itself. [00:20:00] What kind of work might you want to do? What have you missed with your clients? And it was time just so well spent.


Helen Hodgkinson, TLT: And in essence, really, our Glasgow colleagues co-designed the space with us and absolutely time, time again what they told us they were missing communication, collaboration and that contact, that's social contact. So less desk space, more collaborative work in space, coffee shops and food. That's what brings people together, gets used incredibly. One of my greatest moments in that office has been not only do we use our coffee shop area for people, but we also use it for our clients now as well, which is just great. Lots of light. Absolutely about productivity. And if I'm there, I want to be able to make sure that I'm at my best. And actually the added icing on the cake for our building is a building with social values. So not only is it at the moment one of the most sustainable buildings in Europe, but also it's got an incredible connection into the local social community through different charities and different representative groups which we work with as well. So there's so many dimensions in there that is either about creating a great experience. Once you there, you being able to do the things that you've missed from being sat at your desk at home or actually if there's a little bit more that you want to add and add back into the community that's available as well.


Toby Brown, Interaction: Those layers. Layers. Are you finding that sustainability and community and social angle is as important? Your employees on the ground as it is to the board, for instance, or is that an organisational drive that then filters down?


Helen Hodgkinson, TLT: I think it's important to all, you know. So I think certainly when we were coming out of the pandemic and we were thinking about what we wanted to do in the flexibility space, we had a debate at board level and it was, it was a great moment. I really enjoyed it. But we based all of our decisions, in fact, data, employee opinion, what was some client opinion at that point… But clients were struggling with the same issues that we were struggling with. So in some respects they wanted to work with us around what we might choose to do in the future. We had a big debate that said, Are we going fully flexible or aren't we going fully flexible, slightly out of step with the rest of the legal market? That also feels right because that's what our people are telling us that they want to. I definitely could see in my fellow board members a head and heart moment. They were a bit scared because we can't it's not what we've done before. It's but we haven't done anything that we've done before in the last two years. So actually let's just capitalise on that. It was great. We've had early adopters, we've had some people who've been fast followers. We've still got some of our leaders that still find it a little bit difficult. Of course they do, but we've also got a workforce that's in that same place. So all of our interventions now, all of our change activities is about capitalising on what we've got, but also helping those who may not want to be working in the way that we're working in the future.


Toby Brown, Interaction: You mentioned your retention rates and your growth rates. What are some other metrics you're looking at to understand if this has worked over the next few years?


Helen Hodgkinson, TLT: So we of course, we look at engagement and we are doing annual engagement surveys at the minute. Everybody has moved away from those at one point, doesn't they? But we're back to doing them because again, when you've got people who aren't directly with you, you do need to know and you need to understand. We do lots of pulse surveys, so we do lots of check ins. Of course, we use the performance appraisal process in order to get that feedback. And interestingly, in all of those, we hear time and time again, this is the USP for us, this is the USP. We use the supply chain feedback and again, particularly from a brand development perspective, we know that our employer brand development has gone massively in the last 18 months where we haven't had it previously. And similarly what we're seeing is we've now got so from a recruitment perspective, we used to be 40% direct, 60% from using supply agency. We've turned that around completely and we're now in 70/30. So we know that people are seeking us out because of what we what we talk about.


Toby Brown, Interaction: It sounds like it's going to be incredible for years for you coming up.


Helen Hodgkinson, TLT: Yeah, I absolutely believe so. There is one ambition of the firm. Absolutely. We know that we've raised our profile, whether it's by client brand or by employer brand. This is all about capitalisation for us now. It's about working on the basis of what is a great, great platform to work from.


Toby Brown, Interaction: And if you could leave other listeners maybe with one bit of advice and knowledge about your journey so far and how they might begin that in their own organisations, what would be the key takeaway for other people?


Helen Hodgkinson, TLT: Listen to you people, they know what they're doing, they're grown ups, you know, and actually listen to them, understand them, respond where you can just hold on to the brilliant stuff that we captured as part of that pandemic working, which was the piece around, we became equal. We were all where we needed to be. Yes, people need belonging. They need hierarchy. Of course they do. But don't lose what you gained during that period and capitalise on it.


Toby Brown, Interaction: Lovely. Nice finish, Helen. Thank you so much for coming on. If you’re looking to work with TLT head to

If you'd like to find out more about how Interaction can help you design and build offices that are fit for your flexible future, just head to www.interaction,

Thanks and see you on the next episode.