Case study: Addleshaw Goddard coaches counsel in self-care

How the law firm teaches staff resilience to cope with mounting pressures. Beau Jackson reports

The organisation

Addleshaw Goddard’s history is rooted in the very first public records of UK solicitors, published in 1775. The law firm as it’s now known took shape in 2003 following a merger between Leeds-founded Addleshaw Booth & Co and Theodore Goddard, which counted David Bowie, Michael Jackson and Catherine Zeta-Jones among its high-profile clients.

Popular among listed companies, the firm represents 48 businesses on the FTSE 100 and more than 50 on the FTSE 250. When Ford and Volkswagen formed a strategic alliance in 2020, the firm led legal negotiations, expected to help create billions of dollars in value for the carmakers across 170 markets.

Fact file

Number of employees
2,553 (2,207 UK)

Number in HR
92 (84 UK)

Locations worldwide

Global revenue
£377 million (2022)

The problem

Pre-pandemic the learning and development (L&D) team at Addleshaw Goddard had already been seeking ways to enhance employees’ resilience due to the stress of client demand and the need for consistent high performance. All training was classroom based, which employees preferred.

When Covid hit the firm had to change the way training was delivered. The ensuing crisis also reinforced the value of a programme that would give staff the tools to take better care of themselves, and still feel able to thrive.

Many staff were feeling the pressure. Head of L&D Sophie Manson gives an example of the reaction of one colleague: “She was at a point of her life where she didn’t have any children at home, but she was aware that some members of her team did have kids to look after at the same time as trying to manage their busy careers.

“Her solution, for good reasons, was: I’ll take on more of the work. But actually, that’s not necessarily a sustainable way of doing things.

“It added fuel for us within the L&D team to think about what we can really do to help people that are in that position and feeling that they want to help but the only way they know how is by just taking on more themselves.”

When training was moved online as a result of the pandemic, the team saw a cultural shift, and realised just how in-demand training was. Manson adds: “Within eight weeks, there had been a 400% increase in the number of people signing up to sessions. We went from running one developing self-confidence course to there being a waiting list of literally over 100 people for the virtual training.”

As demand for the training was widespread, the L&D team’s solution had to be suitable for managers, senior leaders, and junior staff alike. Rather than run more courses to keep up with demand, the team also wanted to create something that would have a lasting impact on how staff helped themselves and supported colleagues.


The method

To maximise the benefits to staff at more senior levels, the team decided to build a pool of internal coaches. These coaches would then be responsible for supporting other, more junior members of staff through a programme called Sustainable Success.

The programme was intended to enhance colleagues’ emotional intelligence and help protect their mental and physical health.

Manson says: “The programme is set up for people to sign up and put themselves forward to get support if they need it – whether they’re surviving, thriving or wanting to go for promotion.”

Each cohort is split into pods based on their reasons for seeking support including, for example, to build confidence. The pods are then assigned an internal coach who supports them for the six-month duration of the course and offers optional coaching on a one-to-one basis.

The online courses covers six themes: scoring your goals, achieving mental fitness, winning habits, surviving stress, building your fan base and maximising your performance.

It is run flexibly through live streams made available on demand, so colleagues can opt in to the sessions most suited to them and their schedule. The first and last sessions are essential however to make sure people are set up for the course and reflect on it afterwards.

Manson says: “All the modules and sessions in between they choose – one minimum per module – are run by experts in the topic. Some of them are run by us internally, like navigating challenging conversations and developing self-confidence, but then we also use specific industry experts.

“We’ve got a few people from a company called Leading Minds that run things around sleep and meditation. We have different people that run things around managing your hormones and stress levels.”

As time can be scarce for personal development, the company has found the two-pronged approach, of course learning and coaching, particularly effective at keeping employees engaged.

Manson says: “It was the first time we’d ever used pod coaches and now a couple of years on we’re using pod coaches for the majority of our programmes.

“It does help people feel supported; the feedback has been extremely positive.”


The result

The fourth Sustainable Success cohort completed its training at the end of February this year meaning more than 150 people have now benefited from the programme.

Since taking the training, 82% gave an improved score when asked if they are good at recognising when they’re under too much pressure, and 60% gave a higher score for how energetic they feel throughout the day.

Just over half (55%) improved their score for how well they manage to avoid spending a lot of time worrying too.

As part of a wider investment in growth across the firm, in the year to 30 April 2022, revenue increased by 18% to £377 million.

For Manson, establishing Sustainable Success has been one of the highlights of her career so far. She says: “I’m incredibly proud of this programme, probably more than any other programme in my career because we were able to set it up quickly, it was the right thing to do, and we’ve got 159 people who, across the board, have said that it has been practically helpful to them in a number of different ways.”

As well as helping people with the stresses of their day-to-day the programme has proved a valuable retention tool – no one who has taken the training has since left the firm. A quarter (26%) have been promoted since taking the programme, including two who became partners in 2022.

The success is now informing how the company does all its L&D.

Manson says: “It’s inspired me to think of what else can we do and based on Sustainable Success; we’ve decided to refresh our Flourish programme, which has been around for 10 years, bringing in the use of pod coaches, adding an altruistic lens, and it’s just opened the doors for a lot of things.”

Her advice to other HR leaders looking to do something similar is: “Keep your end goal in mind.”

She adds: “If only 30 people take it up and say they need the support that’s 30 people in the business who are going to feel less stressed, have better wellbeing and be more satisfied with their ability to manage their work/life balance.

“Consider the programme with that kind of end in mind, as opposed to ‘we want to drive performance,’ or ‘we want to drive the bottom line.’”

This article was first published in the April/May 2023 issue of HR magazine. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk.