A healthy working culture in the legal sector? Just ask Gunnercooke

4 minute read

By putting customer and culture at the heart of what it does, UK legal firm Gunnercooke has created a flexible, innovative and technology-enabled culture delivering strong revenue growth, satisfied clients and a rapidly expanding workforce. It can now add two Business Culture Awards to this list

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Recognising and sharing the power of stand-out culture

Gunnercooke wins Business Culture Awards

Long hours, constant stress, outdated operating models focused on hyper-competitive billing, lack of teamwork, toxic internal politics and poor management: the legal sector is far from top of the list when it comes to modern working practices and fostering a healthy culture. So, when lawyers Sarah Goulbourne and Darryl Cooke decided to launch a firm back in 2010, they had two unyielding beliefs: customer needs had to sit squarely at the heart of the business and the working culture had to be one where lawyers could use the best of their legal abilities in a way that motivated them and did not sacrifice their personal life.

Eight years later this approach has paid off. Not only has the firm welcomed some 30 new partners each year (40 in 2018) but it has seen revenue increase by 20% in the past 12 months. And to top it all, it has walked off with two awards at the Business Culture Awards 2019, including the overall Business Culture Achievement Gold Award.

The Business Culture Awards, for which The People Space is the media partner, celebrates organisations that set up their employees to succeed and who recognise how their people’s employment experience is fundamental to business performance.

“Great culture is the Holy Grail of business because competitors can copy our products or imitate our services, even ape our strategy, but our culture cannot be replicated,” says Tim Pointer, founder of the Business Culture Awards. “Your culture is the unique DNA of your business, giving you a sustainable competitive advantage in our volatile, ambiguous and fast-moving world.”

With its flat hierarchy, transparent fixed-fee operating model, a rule that every lawyer must have at least 10,000 hours in practice, and a flexible approach to work, London and Manchester-based Gunnercooke has challenged the traditional law firm approach. All partners have a direct financial benefit from their work, retaining 70% of fees generated from a client fee. This enables them to have more control over their own income, develop business acumen and be in a better position to understand the commercial needs of clients.

Partners are encouraged to work flexibly from any location that benefits their clients or themselves. A bespoke online platform enables them to collaborate with each other securely while internal social network Yammer is also used to facilitate communication.

According to Gunnercooke, it is also the only legal firm in the UK to actively use the Net Promoter Score system as a key indicator of performance, something the Business Culture Awards judges identified as helping to transform the way of working. This, together with a strong focus on corporate social responsibility, helped it to win the Business Culture Innovation Award category as well as taking the overall Gold award. According to the HR practitioner judging panel, the firm is “revolutionising the legal industry, with great results and an impressive approach”. The judges also liked the way it introduced technology to support its objectives.

As the firm itself says, when lawyers are happy, healthy and have control over their workload, they offer a better level of service. It sounds obvious, but in a sector where employees have been hospitalised for exhaustion and where one in four junior lawyers suffer extreme stress at work (Junior Lawyers Division), a positive, healthy working culture is still too often lacking. Congratulations to Gunnercooke for being one legal firm taking active steps to change this.

Business Culture Awards 2019


Business Culture Achievement Award: Gold Award Sponsored by Culture IQ

Winner: Gunnercooke

Business Culture Achievement Award: Large Business

Winner: Odeon Cinemas Group

Highly Commended: Lloyds Banking Group

Business Culture Achievement Award: Medium Business

Winner: Dr Martens

Highly Commended: Volkswagen Group

Business Culture Achievement Award: Small Business

Winner: Cirkle

Highly Commended: Real Fundraising

Business Culture Achievement Award: Public/Not-For-Profit

Winner: Home Office

Highly Commended: London South Bank University + JCA Global

Business Culture Transformation Award Sponsored by KellyOCG

Winner: Dreams

Highly Commended: Innocent drinks

Business Culture Innovation Award

Winner: Gunnercooke

Highly Commended: TIPi Group

Business Culture International Award

Winner: Standard Chartered + Cirrus

Highly Commended: Barclays Internal Audit

Business Culture Champion Award Sponsored by Starboard

Winner: Craig Joseph & Becky Hunt, IntY

Highly Commended: James Devine, Medway NHS Foundation Trust

Business Culture Learning Award

Winner: John West Foods

Highly Commended: Jaguar Land Rover + T-three

Business Culture Diversity & Inclusion Award

Winner: Harvey Nash

Highly Commended: Capgemini UK

Business Culture Technology & Analytics Award

Winner: Southern Company

Highly Commended: Thomson Reuters

Business Culture Consultancy Award

Winner: elaworld

Highly Commended: Corporate Punk

Business Culture Next Generation Award

Winner: Drive Forward Foundation

Highly Commended: Post Office

Business Culture Corporate Social Responsibility Award

Winner: Patron Capital

Highly Commended: Sky Betting & Gaming

Business Culture Employer Brand & Values Award

Winner: Happy

Highly Commended: Wiser

Business Culture Team Award Sponsored by Aegis

Winner: Sky Sales Operations (Value Retention) + Tao Leadership

Highly Commended: Kellogg


18 December 2018. The People Space is delighted to be media partner of the Business Culture Awards

Your culture is the unique DNA of your business, giving you a sustainable competitive advantage in our volatile, ambiguous and fast-moving world

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