Brian Gibson, head of business development at BW Legal in Leeds, on giving back to the community, and building one that supports colleagues
At BW Legal, we are proud to be the UK’s largest independent debt recovery law firm. We have achieved this by always implementing innovative new ways of working, both internally and externally, to deliver best-in-class recovery solutions for clients in an ethical, fair and sustainable manner.
As a firm of solicitors, we combine our experience with a fully bespoke platform that makes BW Legal the obvious choice for organisations looking for effective debt recovery solutions. Being non-sector specific, we understand debt across all sectors. We carry out the capabilities of a volume debt collection agency (DCA) but with the additional ability to proceed with legal services, which provides an unequalled service to clients.
BW Legal takes the time to understand the business needs of our clients where we implement procedures and technologies to best facilitate those requirements. Being an agile practice, we focus on exceeding expectations, providing a service with a rapid turnaround to the highest standards of quality.
Through offering access to our secure BW Legal Client Gateway, our clients are able to extract reports, respond to queries, upload documents and fully manage their accounts, including accounts in the legal process to edit and sign witness statements, track hearings, report on costs, agree or reject admissions, submit their own offers, and withdraw from hearings, all in a convenient online portal.
With API integration embedded, the BW Legal Client Gateway allows clients to seamlessly provide instructions and respond to their queries autonomously.
By employing a team of in-house developers, BW Legal creates solutions to our own high standards, maintaining a quick-thinking approach to technology solutions for clients without the constraints attached to an external off-the-shelf product. This enables BW Legal to tailor the Client Gateway to meet each client’s individual requirements and preferences.
Additionally, BW Legal provides clients with instant access to real-time reporting in a simple and easy to understand format layered to provide a breakdown over key areas. These vital statistics allow clients to gather a valuable understanding of their portfolio characteristics, which can be viewed by:
- Full portfolio level;
- Pre-legal stage; and
- Legal stage.
With litigation statistics, clients have oversight of key litigation stages and can select a date range to view incurred court costs, estimated court costs, and hearing outcomes.
In addition to providing a great product and service, being charitable with our time and raising funds is equally as important. BW Legal also has a longstanding and ongoing commitment to building strong communities by supporting local causes and looking after the welfare of its staff. We believe that this is an important attribute to a responsible company.
Making a positive impact
Giving back to the community makes a positive impact to the lives of others and builds strong relations. Leeds has helped build BW Legal so BW Legal is proud to give back in return by supporting local charities. Community- and charity-based work has always been close to our heart, so we hold a monthly charity focus to raise awareness for local and, at times, overlooked charities that have an enormously positive impact in the area. Everyone at BW Legal gets involved in our themed events and the support, donations, and time given by our colleagues to help raise awareness is inspiring.
In February to help Greenleaf Animal Rescue, we held a ‘share the love day’ over the Valentine’s period to raise more than £1,500 through generous donations from our colleagues, together with additional food, treats and toys to help rescue and rehome unwanted or abandoned animals, and support a sanctuary for animals with long-term medical and behavioural problems.
More recently, we held a ‘big charity Easter raffle’ and Easter-themed competitions to raise money and awareness for Leeds Children’s Charity at Lineham Farm, which is dedicated to brightening children’s lives by providing unforgettable breaks and valuable learning experiences. We couldn’t be more proud of our generous colleagues, who raised £2,992 in aid of helping local children.
Over the Christmas festive period, we organised a ‘festive day of giving’ to support The Salvation Army to help provide:
- Toys for nearly 900 children, with gifts for the parents and hampers for the families in the Leeds region;
- Bags of toiletries, gloves, socks and hats to the most vulnerable of Leeds, including those who are homeless, and good winter-quality sleeping bags to those who needed them;
- Toys for the HMP Leeds visitor centre and some board games for the residents at Young Offenders Institution of Wetherby; and
- A food programme to reach nearly 8,000 hot takeaway meals.
During our ‘kindness month’, we raised money, collected donations and compiled hampers for Larchfield Nursing Home, including essential supplies, plus treats such as chocolates, puzzle books and games for the residents (and prior to the pandemic, colleagues had previously attended Larchfield Nursing Home on Valentine’s Day to spend time with the residents playing pool and reading, and to brighten up the communal area with plants, flowers and books).
We also visited Leeds North and West Food Bank to deliver donations to support the work towards stopping hunger in our local area. And when we heard that Leeds Baby Bank had an urgent need for supplies, we held a silent auction to purchase baby stair gates, Moses baskets, bottles, nappies, wet wipes, potties and numerous toiletries.
Understanding and looking after people’s needs
Companies are also about people. People help shape the culture and the environment of a company with diversity and inclusion standing paramount. At BW legal, we take positive steps to recruit, progress and retain individuals from a range of backgrounds, and we promote social mobility through our apprenticeships and mentoring schemes to ensure that all colleagues at every level of the business have access to the knowledge and skills for their role.
As with any good company, we are striving to address gender balance together with diversity from minority backgrounds. We are proud that women represent 54% of our workforce with 39% in management, and 34% of our workforce are from minority backgrounds with 35% in management. Internal progression also plays a major part in a firm’s internal culture. We take pride that 73% of our management team have earned their promotion through the business. We have built a culture that is friendly, engaging and supportive, which enables all our colleagues to thrive as part of the BW Legal community.
We strive for everyone to be their best at BW Legal and the learning and development (L&D) team ensures that everyone has every opportunity to develop. We have looked at ways colleagues can access learning and take charge of their personal development. Learning comes in all shapes and forms, so we have provided colleagues with a handy guide on how to level-up their skill set.
As a business, we are committed to ensuring development is engaging, insightful and supportive. A big part of this is making sure that learning is accessible for all, both inside and out of work. Our Colleague Development Programme supports our colleagues’ learning journey and it provides information through courses, videos, and webinars to support skills and behaviours. Each month, we also embed one of the BW Legal 5Rs—Respect, Results-focused, Relationship-driven, Remarkable and Responsive—into the programme.
Supporting mental health
Mental health is something we all have, and it doesn’t always stay the same. As we move through different stages of life, our physical and mental health can change. Mental health can be very complex and it is therefore important to have access to help as early as possible. The mental health of colleagues has been in sharp focus during this time and we ensured everyone had access to extra help if required. “Be Well at BW” is a commitment BW Legal makes to ensure colleagues’ mental health is in the best possible position. We operate an Employee Assistance Programme to provide mental health and counselling support for our colleagues, together with trained mental health first aiders within the business. To support our colleagues’ health, we have an online GP Service, which can provide prescriptions to colleagues’ homes.
During the pandemic, colleagues have had daily communication from the engagement team, keeping them updated on business changes, government changes and news stories to keep people informed on current affairs, as well as wellbeing articles, fitness advice, creative competitions, and a constant stream of virtual events, from cooking lessons, bands and panto to quizzes.
All work and no play can make for a dull team, so it is also imperative for everyone to have some fun. Our engagement team have been running a series of online virtual events for all the family to get involved with, ranging from the tried and tested quiz nights, to BW Legal’s star pets with prizes for the cutest, golden oldie cuties, and most talented, as well as virtual bingo and highly popular and interactive ‘Master Chef’ classes that have produced some top class beef Wellingtons, and also some less fortunate results resembling more of a Wellington boot! We recently held the ‘BW Games’, where departments were split into districts who took part in four challenges in a bid to win points to make it through to a live final event to win a trophy, medals and vouchers.
Something for the children
Children have been severely affected by the pandemic. School is not only a place of learning, but a place of social interaction, a place to play, develop and maintain relationships with others. With the shift to online learning during parts of regional and national lockdowns and various burst classroom bubbles, children have at times lost a physical space to interact.
Over the course of the pandemic, BW Legal have sought to include colleagues’ children in special events, including colouring competitions, fully interactive themed parties (themes included superheroes, spy school, pirates, balloon making and Easter), and baking classes. The Easter kids party included magic, singing and dancing to burn off some Easter ‘eggcitement’. In December, we arranged live streams with Santa with lots more singing, dancing and, of course, LOTS more noise. These events have been a great way to bring kids together to be creative and alleviate some of the burdens that have come with isolation.
Embracing the challenge and moving forward
The world is now a very different place and while there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the challenges of today, a company’s contribution to communities and beyond is not just a matter of perception, it is a responsibility to society for which companies will be held accountable to make positive impacts.
Those who are agile and able to adapt at pace while answering to the questions posed in today’s society with a positive purpose are the ones who will have the most buy-in, internally and externally.
BW Legal’s progressive, forward thinking approach for high colleague engagement and high productivity with an emphasis on upskilling colleagues, providing them a true work-life balance and continuous community support, are part of the bright and exciting future ahead for BW Legal.