While diversity, equality and inclusion are never just ‘nice to haves,’ they are part of some businesses’ DNA.
One such business is UK law firm Irwin Mitchell.
Irwin Mitchell is one of the UK’s largest law firms, providing a full suite of legal advice to both individuals and businesses, as well as helping with financial planning and asset management. Being a responsible business, supporting clients’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) needs and celebrating diversity is central to the business, which services a wide range of clients from people with life-changing injuries (including many with brain injuries) through to business owners, families, multinational corporates and retired professional sportspeople.
Irwin Mitchell’s partnership with Verve began in 2021, when Client Voice, Irwin Mitchell’s insight community was conceived and built. Harry Mirpuri, and Rachel Parry, Irwin Mitchell’s Head of Client Insight and Client Insight Manager respectively, chat to Kate Downer, Director and Irwin Mitchell account lead at Verve, about the motivations for building an insight community, and how it’s helping diverse voices to be heard across the business.
Tell us a bit about the work you do through the Client Voice community
Broadly speaking, we are reasonably unique in our sector for putting our clients’ voice at the heart of the business. With this community we’re setting out to understand needs, gather feedback and to test and validate our ideas. So, we reach out to the Client Voice Insight Network with a wide range of research questions. One week Kate and her team might be doing one-on-one depth interviews with businesses about what they look for from their legal advisers; the next my team and I might run a quick quant survey among a variety of client audiences to check our brand differentiators ring true.
We’re always hungry to listen, look out for and understand the patterns that emerge at different points in the client journey. Where we do well, what are the implications for our brand? Where there are pain-points, what are their consequences and what can we do to address them?
What were your motivations, and how did you set the community up for success?
Well, we’re committed to putting clients at the heart of what we do, and to developing relationships that allow us to understand their needs now and in the future. We’re also committed to personalising our ‘human touch’ digitally and flexibly – and to being recognised as a responsible and diverse business. Creating an insight community is key to achieving those ambitions. Our thinking was that it would bring us closer to clients, help us understand how to meet their needs, and support the move to being a digital business while retaining that personal touch.
I’ve specialised in designing and embedding insight communities since their infancy: they’ve been a fundamental part of my career. In fact, I was approached about joining Irwin Mitchell specifically because the business had recognised the value that could be derived from having the voice of the client even further inside the organisation. My expertise was a good fit.
I’d previously delivered research for another law firm specialising in medical negligence and personal injury, so I knew the sector and of course I knew Irwin Mitchell by reputation. When I heard they were planning to build an insight community, I asked immediately if I could be involved! I wanted the challenge of working with such a variety of audiences, while delivering a research experience to them that was both on-brand and very personalised – I knew that would be vital to the community’s ultimate success.
How do you strike that balance, and deliver something that feels personalised to a community that’s so diverse?
This is a crucial piece of the puzzle with Client Voice. It’s not a group of people affected by a particular legal challenge, or a network of business owners or wealth investors: it’s a network of all the different voices that Irwin Mitchell needs to hear. So, on one hand we brand the community as being ‘for all of our clients,’ but on the other, we design highly tailored experiences, with our profiling, the activities we invite them to, and the way we go about interviewing them designed to match who they are and what they are interested in. To give a really simple example, we might run an engagement activity at the start of the year that asks private clients what they’re most looking forward to in 2023. We run another in parallel that’s only visible to clients in one of our business segments, asking about their challenges, how they balance being a responsible business with their commercial objectives and how we can best support them to achieve their goals.
Insight communities are well-known for their ability to shine a light on diverse audiences. What have been your highlights?
It’s always a privilege to hear feedback from our clients, but one of the standout moments for me had to be a ‘live’ depth interview with a client who had experienced a life-changing injury, telling us about her experience working with Irwin Mitchell – from building the case through to her ongoing relationship with us. Some of my colleagues were moved to tears by her story: it really brought home to me the value of bringing the client voice closer to our C-suite – literally into the boardroom.
Every client we speak to has a unique story to tell, but what has been consistent for me is the way they form life lasting relationships with our legal teams. They come to us in need of support at difficult times and find our colleagues’ experience, empathy, understanding and expertise very comforting, helping them greatly when they need it most. Their voice is being heard - we now stream client closeness interviews into Exec Board and department meetings, using Verve’s technology – that’s probably what I am most proud of so far.
For me, it has to be interviewing professional athletes. Irwin Mitchell has partnerships across many sports including British Rowing, England Rugby, UK Athletics and Boccia, so it’s pretty well known in sporting circles. In 2022 we helped the Commercial Growth Team to understand reactions to an event Irwin Mitchell had run, looking at player welfare and the sorts of legal and financial advice that professional athletes need at different stages in their career. It was a chance to understand the perspective and needs of a tiny and little- understood audience, and to help Irwin Mitchell translate that into a service proposition.
How do you embed the insights across Irwin Mitchell?
The two aims are for a regular drum-beat and a varied format. We find showreels and spotlight, in which we show highlights from one particularly interesting client, are a very impactful way to remind colleagues, ‘who we are servicing across the business.’ Following or preceding those with one-slide pen-portraits that provide ‘teaser’ content about members of the community we’ve spoken to recently is a good way to drive up interest in the showreel, and vice-versa. The Verve team also tag all of our video interview content, so that we can easily pull clips to evidence particular themes, experiences, and service lines – right across the whole range of all these diverse audiences.
So, not only does the community comprise diverse voices; it means our lawyers and financial advisers can begin to understand clients outside their own caseload. Listening to diverse voices from across the Client Voice community brings together a broader range of perspectives. It’s one of the core pillars of our client insight strategy and is fuelling ideas, enabling better experiences, and leading directly to business success.
Reach out to talk more about using online communities to bring wider perspectives into your business.