How does corporate culture shape client experience? This is the question we explore in our interview with CEO David Fennell of international law firm Gowling WLG, as part of our Executive Insights collaboration with the Institute of Directors (IoD).

The company’s Chief Executive David Fennell shared some insights and personal thoughts into what supports an inclusive and positive corporate culture, and how this shapes client experience — which ultimately sets their business apart in the industry.

“What we’re trying to do is provide the very best possible experience to clients,” says David, at the firm’s offices in London. “There’s a difference between experience and service, which is what most people provide. Everyone in our industry can provide a legal service, but we want our clients to have the best possible experience, as well.”

David Fennell, CEO of Gowling WLG
David Fennell, CEO of Gowling WLG with reporter Jonathan Gibson.

David believes their corporate culture reflects the core values of the business, which are centred around innovation, collaboration, and creating a supportive environment that allows employees to be themselves. This, in turn, helps them to deliver that special client experience.

“What’s really important to me is that everybody who walks in through the door in the morning, can be themselves — and can be themselves when they’re with clients. The key thing is recruiting people who we know build good relationships, are bright lawyers, and want to connect and work with colleagues… they then collectively create the culture.”

The team at Gowling WLG
The team at Gowling WLG

Their law firm, he says, helps employees be the best that they can be, but also to make a contribution and a real difference within their role.

Creating an environment for innovation

At Gowling WLG, the team have created comfortable ‘breakout’ spaces that don’t feel like the typical law firm environment — which David says was a deliberate decision.

David Fennell quote

“We wanted to create a very different space where people could come and just feel different,” David explains. “What we’re asking them to do is continue thinking about different, better ways of serving clients. And to get them to think in that way, you need to take them out of that desk-based work, and into a space that helps them think deeply, about how they can change or alter the way they provide an experience for their clients.”

On driving innovation within the business, the CEO explains that an important step has been to “demystify” innovation and what that actually means. He believes that for some there is an element of fear or awe surrounding it.

“I think people are quite scared by innovation; they think they’ve got to invent the vacuum cleaner. But what I think innovation is, is just very small improvements in the way we do things. If you help people try and understand that, it becomes much less scary.”

Gowling WLG employees come together to innovate and share ideas.
Gowling WLG employees come together to innovate and share ideas.

At Gowling WLG, collaboration is another focus, which David believes goes hand in hand with innovation.

“The other thing we try and do is get people to collaborate together. Most innovations aren’t a single brilliant thought by an inventor; they’re a series of small, incremental improvements made by people working together.”

Watch the ‘Executive Insights’ interview with David Fennell, produced in collaboration with the Institute of Directors (IoD).