Friday, 19 March 2021

Matt Kay

Vario managing director Matt Kay is missing the randomness of office chat and thinks our professional life risks being the poorer without it.   

 I took the opportunity to speak to Matt as he settles into his expanded role as head of Pinsent Masons’ new professional services practice group, Vario. He has made such a success of the firm’s contract lawyer resourcing arm since taking over the lead five years ago, that he has now been given a key role in the wider firm’s  journey to transition from a law firm to a ‘professional services business with law  at its core’.  As Matt is a leading expert in workforce dynamics and resourcing teams for best effect in all sorts of different and changing circumstances, I was keen to hear his insights. 

“In Lockdown our days have become far more structured now that most of our meetings are conducted online”, he told me.  “On the plus side, this has proved to many more bosses that employees can be trusted to be more, not less, productive when working remotely.  But on the other, in a different sense people’s output is in danger of being watered down because our interactions are so much more formal, narrowly task-oriented and to that extent straitjacketed.  We no longer bump in to people, have unexpected chats that spark new ideas which we might then set up a meeting to explore.  Everything is far too scheduled and pre-booked to allow for this serendipity.  Yet we can see now that pre-Lockdown this was so often the way new ideas and initiatives got started.  Teams and Zoom are great for allowing us to carry on and get done what we need to do to keep things going.  But little happens outside of that.   

“Also”, he continues, “We spend a lot of time online with the same people. The professional bubble of people we interact with is a lot smaller, ie only the collection of people we need to interact with directly to do our job. What’s being lost is the ad hoc interactions that normally just happen by chance in the office.  The opportunity to bounce ideas off someone as you have an unexpected conversation. This is part of the everyday process of operating in a large office environment.  Indeed modern offices are designed to encourage exactly these sorts of random interactions, because experience has shown how valuable they are to businesses: open plan, comfortable seating around coffee areas, breakout spaces.  The challenge for us now is to rediscover this in the virtual environment. The answer? To build more casualness in to our scheduling.” 

We often talk about the importance of business certainty. But Matt has given me a completely new perspective on the value of unpredictability and uncertainty. Vario is a brand known for turning established business practices on their head, doing things differently and leading where others follow.  Every time I speak to their managing director he makes me think again about business norms I’ve accepted as a given. I’m looking forward to the next chat Matt! 


Complex personal injury specialists Bolt Burdon Kemp claim to be “Champions” for their clients … and rightly so! They have just conducted a study that reveals only a paltry 2% of British civil and criminal courts are fully accessible. Why haven’t we heard more about this before? Credit to BBK for bringing this to our attention. This clearly needs to change. 

As they say in their report, “for many people, going to court is seen as a necessary evil…a way to help them gain justice or get redress for crimes committed against them or negligent behaviour that has adversely affected them”. Its’ a daunting process for anyone to go through, we know. But even more so for clients who have issues with their vision or hearing, or those with mental health issues or childcare responsibilities. In 2019 the Government admitted that 31 out of 56 courthouses in the Greater London were inaccessible. Did BBK find anything had improved one year on? You can read the detailed results of their investigation here. 


Regular readers of this blog will know we are all fans of award-winning freelance journalist Catherine Baksi hereI just love her totes minx style, and her humour. We spotted on Twitter that she was preparing a talk this week to the Westminster Legal Policy Forum about the state of legal aid and to sum up her thoughts on the matter she created this brilliant graphic (with a little technical support from @LegalCheek_Tom, she tells me). Genius!   

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