Tag: Manchester

Stepping out for vital legal services

We are taking part in The Manchester Legal Walk, a sponsored 10k around the city to raise money for local advice services.

It’s an annual event – sadly ruled out by Covid last year – that raises funds to ensure people most in need get legal help they might otherwise be denied.

Advice agencies do a fantastic job. They prevent homelessness, resolve debt problems, gain care for the elderly and disabled and fight exploitation for some of the most vulnerable in our society.

The need for free legal advice has grown in recent years so we’d really appreciate any donations to help us support a really worthwhile cause.

The event is organised by the North West Legal Support Trust, which covers a wide area that includes Cumbria, Lancashire, Merseyside, Cheshire and Greater Manchester.

We’ll be stepping out on Wednesday September 29 – wish us luck!

Anyone who wants to help can donate here:  https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/Merrick21

March 2020? It seems a lifetime ago

Looking back to early 2020 can seem like peering in on another life.

Days were busy, work was hectic. No sooner had one week started than it was over as we, like many others, were caught up in the minutiae of our day-to-day routines.

And then, of course, BAM. Lockdown. It all stopped.

Except it didn’t really, it couldn’t. We just had to quickly adapt – overnight in fact – to a new way of looking after our family law clients.

So, while we’ve always prided ourselves on being flexible and happy to meet clients wherever they feel most comfortable, face-to-face meetings were now out.

Thankfully we had seen the way the wind was blowing with Covid and were set up for remote working. Our electronic security was up to scratch, wi-fi speeds were good and, so long as we could find a space to put a laptop and phone, our work could continue.

Of course, back in those days, we had no idea just how long lockdown would continue – and still continues in some form for those in Greater Manchester and elsewhere.

Contacting divorcing clients and ensuring them we were able to keep on top of their affairs was paramount. Ensuring the team could talk and update on their stresses and strains was obviously also crucially important.

Pretty soon we realised we would be ok and with that bit of security our thoughts turned outwards again. Lots of people weren’t alright. Lockdown had created a new hell for those suffering in silence in abusive relationships.

Generous friends

We followed the lead of some of the great charities in this field and set up our own free phoneline. We made it as visible as we could online and on social media in the belief that if just one person in need used it and got some professional advice that would help them, then it would be worthwhile.

In the event, there were many more calls than one.

Thanks to some of our generous professional friends and colleagues we were able to make their services available as well. Lots of people wanted to do right by those who needed help in these strangest of times.

And that’s the main positive we’ve taken from the last six months. That willingness of people to do something for others. We all saw the sacrifices the NHS and other frontline workers were making, and it felt important to also play our part.

Unfortunately, all these months later and coronavirus is still with us and will be for some time.

Our city centre office has now re-opened but it currently makes sense to remain home-working as much as possible. But if clients prefer a face-to-face meeting we have a Covid-safe environment in our meeting room at The Lightwell.

And the freephone helpline – 0800 285 1413 – remains open. So please, if you know anyone who might need it, pass it on.

Sharon’s using her voice for Manchester

Sharon Amesu: Former barrister turned coach and professional speaker and now Manchester chair of the Institute of Directors

If she hadn’t got lost on her way to a guitar lesson, Sharon Amesu may not now be a voice for Manchester businesses on the national stage.

The newly-appointed city chair of the Institute of Directors (IoD) was practising as a criminal barrister when she decided to take up guitar lessons at a local college. A mix up over rooms meant she missed her music class – but stumbled across her next career move.

She said: “I got to this room and there were about five women in there, none of them had guitars! By this time, I was really late for my lesson, and they said: ‘well, come and sit down, you might as well join us’. Turns out that it was a coaching group.

“I listened and was inspired and I thought, ‘this is really how you change people’. You’re still using the power of the question, which as a barrister, I was used to doing, but through coaching. you’re asking questions with a completely different purpose.

“You know the knowledge, the wisdom and the insight lays within the person. What you’re seeking to do, is to draw that out.

“It just gradually developed from there and moved me towards the work that I do now with leaders, and also as a professional speaker.”

Sharon had first been inspired to use her voice, when she was young, by her community activist father. He would bring together the collective voice of West Indian parents who at the time were facing real frustrations around discrimination.



The right time to go

By age 14 she knew she wanted to be a barrister. But later in her law career she focused on domestic violence and became increasingly frustrated that she couldn’t support and help women break negative cycles.

Sharon said: “By that time I was very much ready to leave the Bar. I knew that season of my life had come to an end, and it was the right time to go.

“I knew I was taking away key skills that I’d learned about speaking, engaging, activism, advocacy, all of that sort of key stuff that I can bring to this role now.”

Since making the move five years ago, Sharon’s second career has developed organically. She’s now a sought-after speaker at leadership conferences across the UK and member of the Professional Speaking Association (PSA).

Sharon added: “Often I’m booked by organisations who may have issues around their culture where people don’t talk about the elephant in the room and don’t hold people accountable.

“Often they call me in to help develop those skills to hold courageous conversations.”

On a personal note Sharon herself is committed to her own development.



Lifelong learner

“I’m a lifelong learner. The importance of personal and professional development has always been a keystone for me in my journey.

“I joined the Professional Speaking Association to hone the business of professional speaking and the art and craft of speaking.”

Now Sharon is Chair of the City of Manchester Branch of the IoD. When asked about why she took up the position she explained.

“I wanted to be involved in an organisation that enabled that to happen and the IoD ticked those boxes.

The IoD has 2,000 members across the North West

“When the opportunity came up to be a part of leading that group of people across the city region, where I’m not only based, but born and bred, I just didn’t want to pass that up. It was just an incredible opportunity to be at the helm of shaping that.

“I’m thrilled that we’ve got exciting things ahead that we’re going to be doing and engaging with people across the city.”

The IoD has around 2,000 members representing business in the North West, with Manchester its biggest area. So Sharon is not about to jump in and tell everyone how everything should be done.

“What I’ve found, certainly in the work that I’ve done with leaders, is the temptation to be appointed to a role, and then go ‘right, here’s what we’re doing, we’re going to implement this!”



A Manchester tram: Traffic infrastructure is a major concern


Lead fearlessly

“All of this is largely based on assumption. The best leaders listen. It’s a lesson I learned from my dad. He first listened. He listened earnestly, then he learned quickly, and then he led fearlessly. And it’s that same approach that I’m taking now to the way in which I want to lead this region.”

While there are no detailed plans, there are what Sharon calls ‘headlines’ for the three years of her tenure.

She added: “One of the key points we want to focus on in our region is around the disparity we see between our growing, strengthening economy and inequality.

“We want to look at the way in which we can bridge that gap between our thriving business community and these areas of disaffection and deprivation and have a strong agenda around social mobility. I believe the IoD can play a key role in this area.

“We’ll also focus on issues around diversity and inclusion. How is it that we close the gap between women in leadership, women in business and women on boards, and the extent to which the city region can really be a leader on closing the gap.

“And we want to have a look at how we can have a voice on transport infrastructure. We’ve got real issues in that area.

“We have got young future leaders who are coming up. It points to an area that I feel we need to focus on, which is the changing face of business. We have more young people, more young entrepreneurs of tech businesses coming through. How do we respond to that? How is it that we can be a voice into that and support them?”

Tale of two cities

And how does she view her home city as we move through 2019?

“I see it currently as the tale of two cities, in a sense. It is the best of times for many, but for others, it’s the worst. Manchester is not at all unique in this.

“There is so much to celebrate; so much to spotlight and for us to laud because Manchester in many ways is a thriving city.

“We are recognised globally for our innovation, for our research and development. We have global organisations who are placing their headquarters here and so on; so there is a lot happening.

“But there are other realities as well. There are real issues around poverty and homelessness. I’m thrilled that our Mayor Andy Burnham is demonstrating clear commitment to tackling these issues head on.

“I believe the business community and the leaders across our city have a real opportunity, and indeed an obligation, to respond and bring together the collective resource and leverage it for the good of the whole. And that’s why I say that we are a relevant and inclusive community of leaders, raising the bar for all.”

We’ve previously written about the work of the IoD here.

Manchester and proud for 30 years

#TOMs awards

Are you proud of where you work? I know I am.

It’s not often we think about that but last week Merrick was fortunate enough to be nominated in the family law category of this year’s Talk of Manchester awards #TOMs.

And this week marks the 30th anniversary of my working life in Manchester.  It was 3 October 1988 when as a rookie lawyer I joined the firm of Grover Smith & Moss to complete my articles.

It seems like a lifetime ago, but also like it was only yesterday.

The Manchester of those earlier years was undoubtedly a northern city with some clout.

Together we have since gratefully survived the three bomb attacks (at my desk for the first two) and Madchester.  We have commiserated the failed Olympic bid and celebrated the Commonwealth Games.  And always United during the downs as well as the ups!

Upwards and outwards

Today the city has become an economic juggernaut that continually spreads upwards and outwards.  A fact that is clearly reflected in this year’s 30+ categories and 250+ #TOMs nominations.

Some of the sector industries included weren’t around three decades ago, never mind the individual companies that are shortlisted.

Given the challenges currently faced by lots of businesses I am particularly struck by the ‘entrepreneurs’ sections. Firstly, because it’s such a burgeoning collection. A quick Google search throws up profiles of people doing great in advertising, fashion, technology, travel and many other areas.

Secondly, the award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year. We all know girls are the equal of boys, right, but sometimes we have to work harder and shout that bit louder to get ourselves noticed.

Perhaps no surprise then that Manchester is a city brimming with excellent female businesswomen; the legal sector particularly enjoying more than its fair share. But even so it’s always nice when those achievements are recognised.

So as someone proud to call Manchester home and who has a long working relationship with the city, I’d like to say, you’re simply the best!

And to those women whose business acumen has been recognised in the #TOMs this year it’s a helluva big bravo from me. There’s more of you around than 30 years ago and I’ll definitely be raising a glass to that on awards night in December!


Amanda J Merrick