An Interview with a Legal PA - Jamie Ricks, Senior Legal PA at Baker McKenzie

This year’s PA of the Year Awards is fast approaching. Achieving a PA of the Year Award is the ultimate recognition of your hard work, dedication, and accomplishments as a business support professional. With a special category for Legal PAs, the awards champion both PAs, EAs, and Office Managers, alongside those working in the legal niche.

In this article, SecsintheCity interviewed Jamie Ricks - 2022 finalist at the esteemed PA of the Year awards. Within this interview, Jamie discusses his development as a Legal PA, his role at Baker McKenzie, and his advice for those entering the PA of the Year awards.

How did you become a Legal PA?

I first experienced working in a law firm whilst travelling Australia in 2013. The position was a temporary role as a Legal Administrator, but it piqued my interest in the career of being a Legal / Personal Assistant.

Upon arriving back in the UK, I applied for the Legal Administrator role at Baker McKenzie. After working as a Legal Administrator for 6 months, I had the opportunity to apply for a vacant Legal PA position. I have been with Baker McKenzie for nearly 7 years, and I have recently been promoted to Senior Legal PA.

What can you tell us about your role at Baker McKenzie?

My role at Baker McKenzie is very challenging but also very enjoyable. I provide high level personal assistance to two Partners who are Department Heads and one Partner who is part of the Baker McKenzie Executive Committee and an Associate. The tasks I assist with range from booking travel, arranging meetings, working with the billing and collections teams to maintain billing portfolios, arranging out of office social events with clients, as well as ensuring the fee earners time is managed efficiently and that they have regular breaks to balance their workloads and mental health.

In 2019, I created a training programme to teach new LA/PAs at the London Office how to complete the Client / Matter Opening Process. This project then evolved to incorporate the London AML process, to which I created training manuals and provided training sessions to all new joiners. After the success of the project, I worked closely with our London AML Team and our Document Production Team to create training videos for the new processes. I continue to work closely with the AML team to ensure that training is provided to all new joiners and current LA/PAs of the London office, so they have the opportunity to learn and develop their skills.

What do you love about being a Legal Personal Assistant?

An area of being a PA I love is the problem-solving aspect of the job. Each day a new and different problem can arise whereby you have to think on your feet and come up with a solution to a problem fast. For example, a Partner had been due to fly to Italy (late evening flight) and 4 hours before the flight was due to depart, Italy announced a countrywide Taxi and Uber strike. This meant if the Partner proceeded with the flight they would be stranded at the airport and unable to make it to the pre-booked hotel. I reached out to the hotel for their private transport without joy; I reached out to the local office for help, no joy. I then made the executive decision to amend the Partner’s flight for them to take an early morning flight and worked with the hotel to arrange for a private car to collect them and take them to the client meeting with minutes to spare. The Partner was very happy that they did not end up stranded for a night in the airport and that they managed to make the client meeting in time. More impressively, at the time of handling this issue, I was suffering with Covid at home.

Another aspect of the role I love, is being able to help people. As someone who started at Baker McKenzie as a Legal Assistant, I know from experience how daunting it can be to join a big company and try to learn the different aspects of the role alongside the different systems that we need to use. Therefore, I make sure I am on hand to help the new joiners learn the different aspects of the role. I also enjoy helping current LA/PAs to develop their skillsets in order to give them the opportunity to make the next step up in their career journey.

Your nomination says, ‘Jamie is able to build relationships within the firm to make the business more efficient, helping with internal processes including onboarding.’ How has this aspect of your role developed over time?

I think this stems from the growth of my confidence over the years. Initially when I first became a PA, I needed to work closely with the Client Revenue Specialist and Collections Specialist in order to ensure that the entire client billing for the Partners was completed correctly. This meant working with the CRS to ensure that client invoices had the correct narratives, discounts and were raised for the agreed fees with the client. Then once these were sent to the client, I worked with the CS to ensure that they follow up with the client for payment of the invoice if they exceeded the agreed payment term.

Naturally after seeing the positives for the business and my personal development from working collaboratively with other teams on this aspect, I looked to other areas of the company whereby relationships could be built. This confidence led me to work closely with our New Business Intake and Anti-Money Laundering Team to create training booklets and programmes. This resulted in all London LA and PAs being able to learn the process correctly and therefore improve their knowledge and skillsets. Prior to this programme being implemented there had been no formal training and it was a case of learning on the job and from those in your team.

The relationships I have built with the CRS and CS allows the firm to be more efficient because we are seeing less rejections on invoices and more invoices paid on time which is just better for business (London Office).

The relationships I have built with the NBI and AML Team allows all LA/PAs to learn the matter opening process, which in turn means clients and new matters are opened quicker which then allows the business (London Office) to issue invoices to clients quicker and received payment quicker.

How did you find the PA of the Year Awards interview process?

I thought the interview process was great, the panel were very friendly and I felt at ease straight away. I thought the questions asked were very clever, as they were what I class as loaded questions, which allowed me to develop on my answers further.

It would be amazing if you could tell us in your own words why Personal Assistants are so essential to the organisations and individuals they work for.

PAs are very essential to all organisations and I feel they are still undervalued. The PA is the go to person in an organisation if you want to get tasks completed or if you need any knowledge. They are the shoulder to cry on or listening ear when members of the team are struggling with workloads. For the business to see results, PAs and Executives alike need to work collaboratively to achieve the end goal of success.

What advice would you give to other Personal Assistants hoping to enter the PA of the Year Awards?

I would encourage them to do so; it is a fantastic opportunity to be recognised in your field. I know how hard PAs work and having these awards is such a lovely way for the PAs to feel special. I would also say, do not be afraid to brag / celebrate all that you have achieved over the year, you deserve to be recognised.