Pushing the boundaries

June 4, 2019

David Towns spearheads the innovative Agriculture, Estates and Rural Property team at Muckle LLP. Simon Rushworth met an individual who epitomises agile working at its effective best

Saturday morning. A family home in Morpeth. Sat around the Towns’ dining table, genial host David and his client are hard at work. Boxes are being ticked, final agreements signed off and vital business concluded. “There was some urgency to a matter I’d been dealing with for a while,” explains David, head of Agriculture, Estates and Property at Muckle LLP.

“I was cooking lunch for some friends but this was a job that I wanted to wrap up before the start of the next working week.

“I invited my client to come over, have a cup of coffee and talk over the final details. We sat at the table, before I’d laid it out for lunch, and got to work. I had my laptop and my mobile phone and that was all we needed. We had the necessary documents and I was able to use the scanning app on my phone to get things moving.

“I could see my client was impressed with the personal service but also a little embarrassed that they’d been invited to my home at a weekend. They actually asked me if it was any trouble and I reassured them that it was the perfect solution. We could have spent a day in the office the following week finishing everything off – in actual fact we spent a couple of hours in my dining room and had the rest of the weekend free! It’s unconventional, I suppose. But then law isn’t the conventional business it once was.”

As an example of the agile working approach encouraged at Muckle, David’s ‘open house’ policy offers a perfect snapshot. And as a committed professional whose clients span the length and breadth of the UK, frequently juggling complicated issues related to the sale and purchase of land and property, his is a role that continues to benefit from the firm’s forward-thinking view of the working week.

“That’s the beauty of the agile working approach. There’s a freedom to the working week and a feeling that there are no barriers to doing the best work that you can – when you can.”

As a father, local councillor and DIY enthusiast, David has experienced the positive impact of agile working on his personal life too. Since moving to Muckle in 2018 he spends less time stuck in traffic, more time with his daughter and even manages to hit the gym most mornings before work.

“I certainly feel more relaxed,” adds a convert to agile working…and a self-confessed fan of Muckle LLP’s open plan office in the centre of Newcastle. “I don’t feel that there are the same constraints or confines on my time. If I want to then I can arrange my working day around my four-year-old daughter. I can make time to go to the park or make myself available to volunteer on the school trip. Agile working requires discipline and I suppose it’s not for everyone. But I saw my move to Muckle as an opportunity to achieve a more positive work/life balance.

Agile working and teamwork are by no means mutually exclusive. It’s Muckle LLP’s commitment to combining both that persuaded David to take on his new role last year.

“I’ve been given a great deal of freedom heading up the Agriculture, Estates and Rural Property team but I had to ask some serious questions when I started,” explains David. “What’s going to be different about this team? How am I going to present what we can offer to multiple clients? Who might have a need for this additional service? How will I persuade new clients that it’s what they need? And how do we get noticed?

“We saw a gap in the market and saw a chance to offer greater choice and flexibility to clients. Early on I had a chat with our copywriter Steve [Odle] and laid out what I thought we could do. He went away for a couple of days, digested everything, and came back with the idea that we could use the hashtag #MuddyBoots. I loved it. We had banners made for the Northumberland County Show and gauged the mood.

“People there got the whole #MuddyBoots slogan immediately. They understood that it meant we’re not tied to a traditional working week. We’re not desk jockeys. We’re not dictated to by time sheets and hours. It’s more about the delivery of an exceptional service and the provision of an exceptional – and personal – experience for clients.”

Given the increasing accuracy of Google Earth, the Land Registry’s innovative Map Search UK service and Muckle LLP’s own in- house technology, David and his colleagues are pushing the boundaries of efficiency and proving technology can work hand-in-hand with the firm’s famously popular personal approach to working with clients. Expanding the Agriculture, Estates and Rural Property team is the next challenge.

“I don’t really need to sell Muckle because people are well aware of the firm’s reputation for treating its people well,” he adds. “The agile working approach is another string to our bow. In itself it proves there is a high level of trust underpinning everything we do. Agile working is all about trust – it wouldn’t work otherwise. We’re proving it can. And it does.”

Muckle LLP

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