The appointment of Sean Larkan as Managing Partner of Werksmans was groundbreaking. There is no doubt it was a turning point for the firm. Ahead of his time, he recognised that law firms were businesses and must be run as such, but, at the same time, continue to be totally professional and, importantly, collegial. Sean played a major role in making this happen for the firm. His years with the firm were of critical importance in building strong foundations for the success the firm enjoys today. The fact that we are also a happy and motivated group of professionals is no small measure a tribute to his innovative thinking and skillful leadership and management at the time.

Des Williams, Chairman and Head of Litigation, Werksmans Attorneys, South Africa

During his five years as the first CEO of Bell Gully Sean transformed our New Zealand firm . I do think one of his most important contributions to Bell Gully was the introduction to the partnership of the Responsible Partner™ and Development Discussion™ methodologies.

Bill Thurston, former Chairman, Bell Gully, New Zealand, Chair, Advancement Group, University of Auckland Business School & Board Member, NZRFU

With his wealth of experience in the legal industry and a continuous outlook for changing industry dynamics, Sean challenged the Firm’s status quo in a number of areas.  He led the initiative to create a new vision for the Firm and to memorialize values that would be required for a more collective and focused approach to the development of clients, people and the firm’s business.  Sean particularly recognized the importance of developing talent within the firm, investing resources and implementing programs to embed focus on people as key assets of the Firm. This worked.

Maggie Callicrate, COO Pierce Atwood LLP USA, former partner, Kerma Partners, USA & former CEO, Bell Gully, New Zealand

Sean is highly skilled in assisting major law firms to create a vision which is both challenging and achievable. He gets attuned to the culture of a firm and works effectively to bring about change within the firm wherever necessary and in a manner which is consistent with the agreed vision. Sean is also experienced in assisting the partners of a law firm to recognise and capture the values of the firm so as to ensure that the firm has a touchstone for its decision making whether during periods of rapid change or otherwise.

Michael Henderson, former Chairman & Head of Property, Minter Ellison Lawyers

As our CEO, Sean Larkan introduced numerous improvements across a wide range of fronts, in just about every part of Bell Gully. He improved all aspects of leadership and management and our practice. All of this added up to a very significant shift forward for the firm.

David Simcock, former Chairman and Head of Corporate and Tax Division, Bell Gully, New Zealand

Sean has not only talked the talk but walked the walk in transforming legal practices in every sense. He is down to earth, personable and strategic in his outlook. His knowledge and understanding of the issues facing legal practices today is second to none. I can highly recommend his services as a consultant to the industry.

Kim Wilson  General Manager, Tickit Systems, Australia

Bell Gully had always had a leading client base, but Sean’s approach to firm and division leadership and management, including client liaison, meant that we were able to make much more of that client base. This undoubtedly set us on the path to become New Zealand’s leading law firm.

David Simcock, Chairman and former Head of Corporate and Tax Division, Bell Gully, New Zealand

Sean Larkan is a principled, strong leader, with insight, clear vision and a goal oriented, strong work ethic, which has proved capable of changing a stagnating law firm in a positive way into a values driven, profitable organisation.

In my experience as one of Sean’s partners and board chairman, he was not prepared to compromise for short term gain, but instead concentrated on underlying causes and organic rectification, with an emphasis on excellence.  This he did innovatively, identifying workable strategic options for the board and partnership.  For example, he conceived and implemented new strategic human resources and business development programmes which emphasised the long term sustainability and wellbeing of the firm.

As a result a more productive yet rounded culture evolved, and the firm’s profitability grew and strengthened greatly over a five year period. Sean’s professional capabilities neatly complement his personal integrity, energy and strength.

Glen McLeod former Chairman and Division Head, Minter Ellison Australia

Of particular note was his ability to inspire others to take ownership of their responsibility to perform, both functionally and behaviourally. It was this dual pronged approach that really added value to the individuals and the firm. The manner in which Sean achieved this was truly consultative, manifested y the firm, focused and fair discussions. This approach was far more successful than typical draconian approaches demonstrated by leaders in other similar positions. When faced with tough people based decisions, he would often say “I will make my decision based on what is best for the firm and what aligns with our values.”

Nigel Speakman, Impetus Business Development New Zealand

The unique and innovative Responsible Partner® and Development Discussion™ methodologies, introduced to Werksmans by Sean Larkan have flourished in the firm, and become fully entrenched. They facilitate the effective leadership, management and development of our most valuable asset, our people. Systems such as these, introduced by Sean, have been of vital importance to the firm. An important characteristic of these methodologies is their flexibility—they started off as ways to successfully lead and manage legal and support teams but we have evolved them. As a result they are now very much a part of our strong Werksmans culture.

Des Williams, Chairman and Head of Litigation, Werksmans Attorneys, South Africa

We recently conducted a 360 review of Partners & one of the aspects reviewed was the extent to which Partners were fulfilling the important Responsible Partner® role.  An outstanding outcome was achieved with the vast majority of Partners greatly exceeding expectations in this regard.  The introduction of this role has been one of the factors that differentiated our culture at Minter Ellison.

John Poulsen, former Managing Partner and Head of Banking and Finance Division, Minter Ellison Australia

During his five years at Bell Gully I do think one of his most important contribution was the introduction to the partnership of the Responsible Partner® and Development Discussion™ methodologies.

Bill Thurston, former Chairman, Bell Gully, New Zealand, Chair, Advancement Group, University of Auckland Business School & Board Member, NZRFU

I have first-hand experience of the successful implementation of the Responsible Partner and Development Discussion methodologies in both New Zealand (Bell Gully) and Australia (Minter Ellison).  In my role as HR Manager these provide a tried and tested framework to ensure that no-one’s development is left to chance. At the same time it provides the flexibility for a partner, senior professional or manager to provide tailored mentoring and exposure to work to match the development needs of the individual they are responsible for.  Done well, the Responsible Partner role encourages frank dialogue that not only helps an individual develop their career to best potential, but also assists the firm with succession planning and achievement of the firm’s own goals. It has the added benefit of transferring leadership and management skills to professional and support staff.

Louise Shelton, Human Resources Manager, Minter Ellison Lawyers, Perth WA & formerly HR Co-ordinator, Bell Gully

I recall the Responsible Partner and Development Discussion methodology at Bell Gully with fondness. As Litigation Head it worked very well for my partners—it gave them a structure (and an excuse) to talk in an uninhibited, personal way about their aspirations, fears and successes to their colleagues, and me, which they had never had before. This applied equally to legal and support staff of the firm who appreciated this structure. It went way beyond mentoring.

I believe it gave and still gives Bell Gully ‘soul’, which these days can be hard to find in a large firm. As a Bell Gully ‘old boy’ I feel strongly that this differentiates the firm from other large firms.

In practical terms the Responsible Partner and Development Discussion systems also meant our lawyers who went overseas had fond memories of the firm. The methodology can take credit for many of them returning to the firm after gaining a few years overseas experience in the London or New York legal professions.

Geoff Sharp, Commercial Mediator/Barrister & former Head of Litigation, Bell Gully, New Zealand

One of the other aspects of this approach (the introduction of the Responsible Partner role) was that regular Development Discussions™ with all staff members were introduced. This resulted in more frequent and focused feedback on staff performance. It has also helped greatly with their development and ensures that there is an opportunity to address their overall needs. The importance of this attention on staff welfare has been vital in assisting us with retention and, in particular, the ability to recruit former alumni on their return to New Zealand.

David Simcock former Chairman Bell Gully New Zealand

Having taken over from Sean Larkan as CEO of Werksmans when he accepted a new role in New Zealand, amongst many of the new leadership and management methodologies and systems he had introduced, I was particularly impressed with those focusing on partner and senior management leadership and development of lawyer and support staff teams.

Charles Butler, CEO, Eversheds RSA, former CEO, Werksmans Attorneys & General Manager Webber Wentzel Bowens, South Africa