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Horwich Farrelly at 50: Abby Jackson shares her #HFhighlight

 This week, in the latest of our series celebrating the achievements of our people in our golden jubilee year, Development Manager, Abby Jackson, shares her #HFhighlight.

IT Development Manager, Abby Jackson

When did you start working at Horwich Farrelly?
My current role is actually my second spell with the firm. I first joined the IT department as a developer back in 2013 but left later that year when an unmissable opportunity came up.

However, in early 2017, I was contacted by a former colleague at Horwich Farrelly asking if I might be interested in the Development Manager position that was available. Having spoken to him about the type of projects the firm was working on and, having always liked the workplace culture, I couldn’t resist re-joining!

Before joining the firm what was your most unusual job?
A different type of developing! I used to work at Max Spielmann in Southport, Merseyside; I really enjoyed my time there and, yes, as part of quality control you would occasionally see the odd risqué photograph!

What does a typical day look like for you at Horwich Farrelly?
The day starts with a ‘stand-up’ meeting where everyone in the team gets together for half an hour. Each person has two minutes to discuss what they did the previous day, what they plan to do today, and any issues that might get in the way. Gathering everyone in this way means we can pool the team’s knowledge, share solutions and quickly resolve issues.

During the day I’ll also be reviewing code. For example, we might need to make changes to our case management system after winning a new client so we will need to ensure any alterations don’t cause unexpected issues for the business. I’m also involved in a number of different projects – one of the most recent has been getting our systems ready for our newly-opened Glasgow office.

How as your career progressed since joining the firm?
In my new role as Development Manager I’ve taken on a lot more responsibility which has included growing and nurturing our development team. We’ve recently grown from 12 to 14, which includes some who, like me, had left and then re-joined the firm.

Like a lot of law firms I think in the past we’ve at times been guilty of working in silos. However, Horwich Farrelly paid for me to study an Agile Practitioner qualification which looks at how different working styles suit different types of project. As a result I’ve been able to introduce some changes, like the daily stand-up meetings, to ensure we’re working more collaboratively.

More recently I’ve been getting more involved in championing diversity and inclusion. I’m a founder member of the HF NoW (Network of Women) steering group which is looking at ways Horwich Farrelly can support women’s aspirations to move into senior roles. I’ve also just signed up to become a mentor in an initiative called Inspire to Aspire which looks at how professionals can provide support and career advice to young people aged 16-19.

Abby Jackson, pictured above left, at Horwich Farrelly’s first Network of Women meeting

What has been the biggest highlight of your time at Horwich Farrelly?
Our IT Director, Chris Jekiel, suggested I do a talk at the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) conference, about a search tool that our development team had built in-house. With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming in last May we needed a way to quickly search and locate documents based on key words. Whilst we could have purchased an off-the-shelf solution to ensure compliance with GDPR, using our own expertise to create a bespoke solution meant it could adapt and evolve with changing business needs or new regulatory requirements.

The ILTA conference brings together 300+ technology leaders from a range of global law firms, so it was a great opportunity to share details of the project. However, while it was initially only meant to be an informal five-minute discussion a few weeks before the conference – which took place last November in Bishopsgate, London – my involvement had morphed into an hour-long panel discussion and audience Q&A alongside three prominent tech leaders!

It was quite nerve-wracking to appear in front of so many of my peers but it was absolutely brilliant, and I got a real buzz from taking part. I even had a queue of people come up to me afterwards!

Capping off the month saw the same project win in the category of Excellence in IT Security at the British Legal Technology Awards. We were up against some stiff competition so to triumph the first time we’d entered the awards really validated the success of the project and the work the team had put into it.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and outside interests?
I’ve just started to learn kick boxing, and I’m currently writing my first fantasy novel. I also love food and you’ll regularly find me eating out in Manchester.

What makes working at Horwich Farrelly different from other firms?
Having worked at four other law firms, I would say it’s the team culture that makes Horwich Farrelly unique. With eight offices and 750 employees we’re a large organisation but on a day-to-day basis it feels like a small family firm thanks, in part, to there being a firm wide open door policy. You can speak to anyone at any level if you have a query.

We’re also very sociable. I head up the IT Social Team called Fundercats who are organising a pub quiz to support our 2019 charity, The Christie. As a development team we also like to socialise together, regularly going on weekend hikes and at some point this year hope to climb Ben Nevis.

What advice would you give to others starting out in their career with the firm?
Be honest and try your best. It sounds straight-forward advice but I think honesty is truly valued and respected here. I’ve worked at places where employees are expected to toe the management line but at Horwich Farrelly your opinion is always respected so don’t be afraid to give it.

Everyone is encouraged to have and share opinions, and to offer constructive criticism; we’re all just here to do our best for the firm, our colleagues and our clients.

To see #HFhighlights from other Horwich Farrelly colleagues please click here.