My career story: “I moved from an accountancy role in London to be CEO of a Lincolnshire law firm”

Wilkin Chapman chief executive Des Mannion gives his perpective of moving from accountancy to law.

What made you leave London and the accounting world to join the Lincolnshire legal market?

I got to a certain age and I was thinking about my career and where I was at Grant Thornton, and what challenges lay ahead. I used a headhunter quite a lot at Grant Thornton and I said to him I was thinking about the future.

He contacted me in September and said ‘I’ve got this role, they’re looking for a CEO’. He said it was in Lincolnshire and I said ‘No way’ and put it to one side.

About a month later he came back to me and I thought I might as well go for the interview. I came up here, liked the people, liked the culture and thought I could work with them.

Des Mannion article image

What was the process like?

The firm had been through the process twice and not found what they were looking for, so they were keen to get on with it. I had an interview in November and another a couple of weeks later and was offered the job within 24 hours.

What are the differences between your old and new job, in terms of working life?

It’s very different! It’s much quieter than working in London. It’s not as fast but then everything in London is manic – this is probably a better norm.

I bought a house near Grimsby but my family are still in Buckinghamshire and I try to work from the Lincoln office on Fridays and hit the road south from there.

What do you think a non-lawyer can offer when it comes to managing a law firm? Why should other non-lawyers consider such a role?

From what I’ve seen lawyers tend to want to be lawyers. Generally while they want to have their say they’re quite happy to let somebody like me get on and run the business.

You shouldn’t make assumptions about what you think lawyers do know or what they should know. Make sure you ask a lot of questions, try and understand the business and what they do and what makes them good. Accountants all want to be involved and they all think they know the answer.

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