Blandine Davies - Leaders with Ambition

Blandine Davies: “What drives me is bringing order to chaos and solutions to people’s problems.”

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Do you have a career goal and plan for getting there?

Blandine Davies, Director of Practice Operations, shares the art and science of shaping a meaningful professional trajectory on this episode of Leaders With Ambition.

As a Black woman breaking new ground in the area of Legal Project Management, Blandine brings to bear not only her law degree but also an unshakeable ability to demonstrate strength and advocate for herself as well as others.

During this insightful conversation, Blandine highlights the benefits of maintaining purpose through self-awareness, networking, and bravery.

You’ll also learn how authenticity, self-confidence, and openness to mentoring have formed the cornerstones of an extraordinary career – one that has taken Blandine from helping to manage the legal and financial fall-out after Lehman Brothers’ dissolution to establishing the critical ROI that business services have to offer law firms.

And all along the way, wherever she has worked, Blandine has contributed to building healthier, more diverse cultures, most recently at DLA Piper and Norton Rose Fulbright.

“What drives me is bringing order to chaos and solutions to people’s problems,” explains Blandine, who exemplifies what it means to identify a core skill set, passion, and purpose - then wield them in transformational ways!

You'll also hear Blandine's take on the current challenges facing law firms as well as her advice on strategies for young people looking to build a dynamic, fulfilling career in professional services.

If you enjoyed this discussion, please click here to find previous episodes of Leaders with Ambition.

Key takeaways

Starting out

Blandine discusses changes throughout her childhood like moving from East Africa to the UK, where she identified at a very young age her desire to become (not marry!) a Lawyer.

From University to a first contract

Blandine obtained that first rung on the career ladder, which required more than 100 applications to secure.

Wrestling with the pace and volume of materials associated with the “step up” that was law school. She hints that the study groups she was part of were invaluable.

Adjusting expectations

What Blandine encountered (and how she managed the disappointment) when her first experience with corporate law wasn’t what she’d imagined. The work felt like such a mismatch that it suddenly seemed that Law was as well.

She then went with her gut and pursued her preferred area of practice which meant declining a prestigious offer that would have put her on the wrong path.

The area of insolvency and restructuring complemented Blandine’s interest in helping people solve problems and create order from chaos.

Career shift

Ethics, personality, and personal passion intersected in Blandine’s decision to take a step back and ultimately move in a new professional direction. Given her mix of strengths and interests, Blandine considered pursuing several different directions: coaching, DE&I and project management.

Blandine shares why legal project management’s more creative, fluid, change-oriented approach enabled her to find a great fit and sweet spot for her talents. Blandine implements change with an eye for improving the lives of people through collaboration, communication and win-win results.

Blandine accomplished a lot by mentoring younger colleagues at DLA Piper, and then watching them launch on their own trajectories.

Expanding role

Blandine expanded the definition of LPM, both internally and externally, growing teams to improve operations across departments and disciplines. She explains why having a law degree – while not essential – was helpful in building her credibility among Partners in change management.

She discusses what makes mentorship – especially informal, trust-based organic relationships – so important at every stage of a career and personal growth. No matter how busy you are, carve out time to nurture external professional relationships to proactively solidify your external network.

Staying strong

The importance of self-confidence, clarity and professionalism in the face of stereotyping limitations. No matter the environment, Blandine made the conscious decision to bring her authentic self to work – without apology.

Cultural connection

Blandine believes (and experience has shown her) that how we relate to one another is more important than skin colour when it comes to negotiating deals, working as teams and building community generally.

She explains how it felt being one of very few people of colour, unavoidably aware of style of presentation, manner of speech, performance and unconscious bias.

Blandine’s take on challenges facing Law firms

  • Overcoming resistance to actual (not theoretical) change implementation.

  • Accepting the benefits of long-term change.

  • Recognising the value proposition in collaborating with business professionals.

  • Embracing the big picture, including the role of legal services practitioners.

Bringing the ROI

It’s so important for business services professionals to demonstrate (and remind) Partners of the critical strategic, pitching and other client-facing skills they contribute to best outcomes.

Blandine’s passion for supporting workplace cultures (and community services) enables both vibrant careers and healthy homes. It improves the bottom line when business professionals with marketing, project management, and other expertise service the client experience.

Words of wisdom

'Always ask: Why am I doing this? Whether in your personal life or career, it’s important to be clear as to what you’re getting out of it.'

'Have a strategy! Think about your career at least 6-12 months out and whether you are progressing in the right direction at the right pace.'

Key quotes

  • “For a very long time, and from a young age, I don’t know why but I had a very strong conviction that I wanted to be a Lawyer and there was nothing else in the world I wanted to do.”

  • “What drives me is bringing order to chaos and solutions to people’s problems … and connecting all the dots.”

  • “It’s important to nurture young people and push them in a direction where they can be most passionate.”

  • “You see time and time again people doing something that’s not meaningful and if they’re not happy they’re not going to bring their best – or most authentic – selves to work.” (Nicky)

  • “I like disrupting the status quo to make it better – not just to disrupt it. I’ve got a knack for seeing and picking up on things that aren’t quite right.”

  • “Formal mentorships do work for some people, but I think the informal ones work a lot better because you can be much more relaxed and it’s all based on trust.”

  • “Don’t be a loner. Go out there. Meet people. Take an interest in people. Make friends, because that’s where it starts … You’ll be amazed how useful your network can become at different stages in your career.”

  •  “I’ve definitely experienced what you would call unconscious bias and felt that I’ve had to work a lot harder to prove myself. It’s almost like this extra, invisible barrier that you have to overcome before being accepted.”

  •  “Apart from diversity of ethnicity, the most important thing is diversity of thought. I don’t see colour. I see culture.”

  •  “Having Lawyers on the legal side and also having business professionals along the life cycle of the transaction … with everyone working together, that is the Holy Grail, isn’t it?”

  •  “You need to always be able to (demonstrate) how business services help the firm to get better, improve, make money and all the positives surrounding it.” (Nicky)

About Blandine Davies

Blandine is dedicated to improving how firms operate to provide clients with a “best in class” service delivery experience whilst maximising profitability. She has a keen eye for managing operations and leading business services teams across multiple jurisdictions and cultures to raise performance and collaboration as well as drive efficiencies.

Working closely with executive management on strategic matters, Blandine combines her legal credentials with innovation, project management and change/transformation expertise to optimise team experiences and continuously improve business operations.

About Nicky Acuna Ocana

Nicky has led high performing recruitment teams for over 25 years. As the Regional Managing Director of Ambition UK, Europe & US, she leads a team of highly-skilled recruitment consultants who are experts in their niche specialist areas. 

With an extensive network of senior and board-level contacts, she is also heavily involved in Executive Search, focusing on Director level appointments across Business Services for a range of Professional Services firms. 

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