We’ve been fortunate enough to catch up with Tonia during her last week at Geldards to have a chance to look back together. Tonia is our Information Services Manager and she’s been an integral part of the firm for 17 years so we wanted to find out more about what brought her to Geldards and what made her stay in such a unique and challenging role!
Can you describe your role in two sentences?
Not really in two sentences! I would say I’m running a service, each day is different because you deal with everything from the budget preparations and keeping the expenditure within budget, to dealing with account managers and trying to build up relationships and negotiate contracts. In the mean time you’re also doing researching and answering general queries from staff, so you never know what’s going to have come in overnight, or during the day, you might have something planned but it all changes! And there are the more administrative tasks like keeping on top of book orders and subscriptions to journals so it’s very varied, you might think it’s a quiet day but then have a query that takes all day.
Oh and of course looking at the new products, writing business cases and running trials, doing training and getting external trainers in!
Did you always want to do this type of role?
At University someone asked me what would be the worst job ever and I said librarian! Because I expected it to be quiet but it’s not. I studied for the qualifications to become a librarian whilst working at Hammersmith library and then later worked in pensions for years. I was headhunted for this role as they saw my library qualifications. I didn’t even know this type of role existed, I thought as a librarian you either worked in academia, public library or the NHS so I decided to give this a go. I started as a library assistant and then after a while I became the Information Manager.
How do you find the role day to day?
It’s a service you’re running, keeping all the lawyers up to date and dealing with some teams but mostly dealing with individuals. They come to me with problems and we look to see how we can help with them on an individual basis. Being part of the support staff we’re here to help lawyers do their job efficiently, effectively and painlessly. I provide legal updates and help them to keep on top of their sectors and clients news.
What do you enjoy the most?
I love the financials, when it’s time to prepare the budgets for Information Services. I also have a love hate relationship with the negotiations, I find it can be really frustrating but when you get a good outcome it’s worth it. Sometimes I’m asked to undertake research that looks really complicated but when you look into it it’s really interesting – although sometimes there isn’t an answer to the query and it’s hard to know when to stop!
It’s nice when people provide a bit of context when asking a query as they then will receive a much better answer. I’m looking at new areas of law whenever new teams join us so context can be really useful in that type of challenge.
How do you keep yourself up to date without having done a Law Degree?
I’ve always been into current affairs. A sociology degree creates an inquiring mind which, although not legal, it gives a good background. I have the BBC news open so that if important developments happen, I can let the relevant teams know. It’s all about trying to bring the information together and find the relevant part.
It’s a lot about the people as well, I undertake the inductions when solicitors start so I try to get to know people, so I know what sort of information they want. I like to know what they’ve done previously which helps me to keep them up to date. Some people don’t open up which is difficult but it’s really time well spent as it helps me to point out the different experts we already have. If someone has a query, I might already know from the inductions who the best person is to speak to rather than inventing the wheel. We have a lot of knowledge in this firm so it’s important to know how to find it!
Why do you come to work?
It’s the people, I’m compelled to support our staff, I want to be proud of myself and for people to see that everything is working smoothly. People then know that you’re there if they need you and that they can rely on you.
I use my local network for support, the contacts and relationships you make are very important. Networking is really important, because of the type of job you can be isolated. Being a part of British and Irish Association of Law Librarians and other committees helps to have those contacts from other law firms as well.
If you have a difficult question you can put it to the network and ask for help on how to answer things, it’s great to be able to help each other out whilst really doing the best for your Company.
What are you going to miss and what are your achievements?
I’ve made some good friends who I’m going to miss, I’ve introduced databases and services which we never had before and are now being used as standard. I set up a buying groups which gave us a lot of savings.
The recruitment and the people I’ve worked with are stand out. I’m so proud of the assistants that I’ve worked with and where they’re at now. I saw so much potential in people and they’ve done amazingly well. Being able to look back and see that the people I recruited and trained have done so well, it’s so important!
It was fantastic to meet with Tonia and hear about everything she’s done in the business, if you’d like to find out more about working for us and the positions we have (including Information Services Manager) please find the link here!