Business Leaders Lessons with Maria Conway, MKB Law
17 January 2024
In this series, AIB NI meets with leading voices from organisations across Northern Ireland for their advice and insights into business success. They recently caught up with Maria Conway, Partner at MKB Law, Belfast, as she reflects on her leadership journey to date.
I joined MKB Law as a trainee almost 20 years ago and in that time, I’ve had the privilege of watching the firm grow and develop, just as I have. Now as a partner in the business, I am responsible for our Property team and together with the other directors, I also manage the wider company which has grown to nearly 40 employees. This includes providing financial oversight, ensuring good governance, HR support as well as practice strategy and business development.
1) Collaborate to Encourage
Being in a position of leadership means not only continuing to hone your own craft and skills but helping others to develop theirs. In my experience, taking a collaborative approach to leadership encourages others to bring their best selves to work. I like to engage with team members, understand their interests and encourage them to share ideas and open themselves up to opportunities. Being inclusive is key to ensuring everyone understands the firm’s direction of travel and that team members are invested in that journey.
2) Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
I also believe in gaining hands-on experience and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. When managing my own team, I encourage people who may shy away from practice development to use it as a growth and learning opportunity. As leaders, we need to tread a fine line of being a safety net and mentor and challenging team members to work independently.
3) Focus on Solutions
When I became a partner in 2007, we quickly found ourselves in the midst of a global recession. This resulted in significant challenges for our sector. We embraced that challenge and were able to pivot and expand our property offering, supporting insolvency-related property transactions, as well as advising both lenders and borrowers on how to manage distressed assets. Being able to critically assess challenges, collaborate with partners to find solutions and search for opportunities is part and parcel of being a leader.
4) Savour Your Wins
This is an approach I take to my professional life daily. Running a busy Licensing practice alongside the property elements of my work means I do a lot of work for the hospitality sector. I am proud to have helped deliver some significant projects in Northern Ireland, such as the expansion of the Merchant Hotel and its portfolio including the Bullitt Hotel and the National. It’s always rewarding to see those transactions through from start to finish and my advice to anyone starting out is to enjoy and savour your professional wins – taking pride in your work helps boost your confidence as well.
5) Become The Role Model You Would Want
As a woman in business, I am thankful that we are beginning to see more and more women involved at senior management level within professional services, and I hope that continues to translate to the boardroom table more widely. My advice to young women considering a career in professional services is not to be discouraged if you don’t immediately see a woman in a senior position; go ahead and seize every opportunity and become the role model you want to be and embrace the work life balance that works for you. To my fellow female leaders, let’s continue to encourage future generations and help lay a path where they too can succeed.
At MKB Law we regard ourselves as all-round trusted advisors and I believe one of our key selling points to clients is our holistic service offering. We have exact standards and provide strategic advice alongside commercial insight across all sectors.
This article is for general guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for professional legal advice.