Caoilionn Hurley – Listener, Learner, Thinker, Chief: Secrets of an MD

Caoilionn Hurley

Managing Director: Caoilionn Hurley

CFI.co in conversation with Caoilionn Hurley, managing director of Co-op Legal Services.

What excites you about the business world in general?

There is always something new to try, whether it is capturing the market with new legal services or digital legal services, finding new distribution routes to market or testing new business models. It could be acquiring a good bolt-on business, there is always something new to experiment with. The buzz getting out of bed never wains.

What lessons did you learn from your earlier career experience?

My first jobs were with Guinness and IBM. I was incredibly lucky to work with amazing people and in businesses that were going through significant transformation periods. Both really focused on understanding their customers and on encouraging their people to understand every function of the business, and how the business connected through the teams to deliver to customers and to be commercially successful at the same time.

I was given enormous latitude to move roles within the businesses and learn, I received tremendous support and friendship from colleagues and managers. To this day I know I got lucky that the director in Guinness who read my CV (I sent it in after I finished my law degree) happened to have also qualified many years previously as a lawyer and he was just curious as to why I randomly (in his opinion!) decided I wanted to work for Guinness — not as a lawyer but in finance.

What motivates and enthuses you about the business you now lead?

We are striving to be the most customer-centric, digital-first law firm that is profitable, ethical and impactful in the community. New technologies give us so many new ways to deliver better legal services, exciting products and better customer service. It is incredibly motivating to have a vision for our business in our sector that could change how people engage with legal services.

We believe that we can shape better outcomes for people by integrating their financial decisions and legal decisions in easy digital journeys. If we can digitalise legal services and distribute them adjacent to the other decisions people are making that most probably have legal consequences, we can help people make much better legal choices.

I’m also passionate about bringing new talent into Co-op Legal Services and want to help erode the misconception that a career in law is for the privileged. We have implemented an apprenticeship scheme for level seven solicitors which means that successful applicants join us on competition of their A-levels and after five years, they are qualified as a solicitor – this qualification transcends a law degree. Our scheme can help young students save over £36,000 in expensive university tuition fees.

What is special about your organisation’s management style? Can you share some management or organisation secrets?

Our management team is long-serving, we have been together for many years and have tremendous loyalty and shared trust and belief in each other and our mission. The secret sauce is that we are there for each other through the good days and bad and we have bonded as a team.

What are the key strengths of the team you lead? How important is your support team?

We are motivated and honest. We want to deliver technology-enabled legal services and we are very open and relaxed about experimentation. When we nail it, and experiments are a success, we are delighted and press on, when it does not go to plan, we are very quick to accept the data and say, ‘Ok, what’s next’. We are one team, we don’t think of legal and support, it takes all of our skills, capabilities and character to achieve the mission.

What are the key traits of a good corporate leader?

Listener, learner, long-term thinker and loyal to the mission and the team.

Co-op Legal Services, which is part of the Co-op Group, became the first alternative business structure (ABS) in the UK in 2012 and is the largest provider of probate services in the UK.

 


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