Vacation Scheme Blog – Coffin Mew Searching for the New Sound
I’ve never been to a firm like Coffin Mew. There’s something different about them, from their pop coloured seats to Lyn, their animated receptionist. The average age of the firms’ Partners is closer to 40 than 60. Related or not, Coffin Mew has more an air of the creative industries than a solicitors. And in many ways that’s what sets them apart: they approach their work in a creative, progressive way.
This week’s Vacation Scheme was something new for Coffin Mew: part of their relentless process of introducing new things, new dress code policies, new appraisal processes, a new office in Brighton, new strategies and a new brand. The board and Partners seem keen to push at the edges of what the firm does. Coffin Mew isn’t a new firm, or even a young firm. They have been operating on the South Coast for years. Yet by orientating themselves around growth and change they remain unencumbered by their heritage and able to navigate the demands of a millennial market place, where new is king.
Part of our week is to work on a project for one of the Firm’s clients, and this starts on day one. Jack Symons is a social entrepreneur whose company Gamban provides software to support problem gamblers stay away from online betting sites. He set us a challenge to produce and pitch a product that could help with another problem facing our society. While half of the group decided to apply the same logic of Gamban’s blocking software to another internet-based compulsion, impulse shopping, our group went a little further left field.
Drawing on my background in sustainability, recent research published in Science, the academic journal, and another student Laura’s Instagram knowledge, we designed an app to encourage and empower shoppers to buy more sustainably. Trying to develop an idea with a new group of colleagues with no design or tech experience was challenging! But on Friday, as if by magic, the projects fell into place, and when we pitched the ideas to Jack he seemed genuinely excited.
Shadowing Hayley Bevis, Partner and Head of Corporate, I accompanied her on a trip to London to meet some clients and private equity colleagues. “Our London clients want people who are on their wavelength, regardless of if they’re two hours down the motorway”. This epitomises the optimistic, boundary-breaking outlook of the firm. After lunch with two newly established corporate finance advisories and a meeting with clients who Hayley and her team will support through selling their business, Hayley articulates a view widely held in the firm: ‘The firm is growing. In five years the sort of deals that we’ll see will be bigger and international’. I really enjoyed working with Hayley; bright and driven, she is energetically building a carefully curated team that she is keen to stretch and push into new areas.
Some firms have their targets as their screensaver. Coffin Mew has a colourful hexagon with the firm’s core values: personable, collaborative, inquisitive, enterprising, modest and supportive. By reiterating these values in everything the firm does they evoke real investment of time, effort and thought from their employees. Linked to values is their CSR approach, which I sensed was of collective importance to the staff. The causes the firm supports are one of the many things on which the employee body votes in an impressive dismantling of old-school hierarchies into an almost socialist emphasis on democracy. In a meeting with the board we were asked what we would introduce if we were to act as the employee’s representative and they had thought about or were already acting on every single one.
This week, Coffin Mew didn’t leave themselves many places to hide, by design or otherwise, and though our group was given some well-choreographed talks about the firm by the hiring team, the week was nicely unstructured and we had free reign to speak to who we liked. We spent a lot of time with the current trainees, including an evening barbecue and a rounders match with the Junior Lawyers South Division and the staff party in the box at Goodwood Racecourse where their interactions with us were honest and open, perhaps more so after some celebratory bubbles!
I left feeling energized and informed by a firm whose staff are looking forward to a future of brokering international deals, giving clients advice that reaches beyond the letter of the law and attracting a cohort of bright, thoughtful millennial lawyers at home in the flexible, colourful, enriching environment the firm has crafted.