“I tried to play it down in my head before I found out I’d won,” says Curtis Greenidge, winner of the Rising Star category at the recent People in Law Awards in Central London. “I was trying to play it cool and tell myself I was just happy to be shortlisted, which, at the time I promise I was! But when my name was announced it felt overwhelming and, to be honest, I got a little bit emotional. It was a bit like those actors you see at the Oscars, all sitting there pretending they don’t care if they win and then completely breakdown when their name is called out!”
Greenidge has been at Travers Smith for three and a half years, starting as an HR Assistant – Systems & M.I. (Management Information). In July 2021 he was promoted to the role of HR Systems & M.I. Advisor, the role he currently holds. “Contrary to what some may think, there is a technical side to HR”, he says.
A Law with Business graduate from Bristol UWE, Greenidge was only first exposed to the technical side of HR once he’d joined Travers Smith. Greenidge had previous experience in generalist HR through various internships and a post-university role, but it was a growing interest into the world of Microsoft Excel that helped propel his career in a new direction.
His award came as the result of his hard work and major contribution to streamlining and automating HR processes at little to no extra cost to the firm, by identifying new ways to leverage the HR technology the firm already used. This was particularly apparent in the case of the firmwide performance review and training contract record processes respectively.
The latter in fact enabled Travers Smith to revolutionise their trainee seat review processes entirely. Previously the process was conducted on a generic, offline Word document – a piece of paper that trainees took with them from seat-to-seat and used to illustrate to the SRA the skills and experiences they are gaining throughout their training contract. Fast forward to the present day and the whole process has been modernised and now operates in an automated, more user-friendly manner.
“We configured our performance review system to dynamically recognise different aspects of the trainees’ role and subsequently displays several different resources based on this for both the trainee and their supervisors. Not only has this significantly improved engagement levels but also it reduced the administrative burden to fee-earners by approximately 40%.”
In developing bespoke solutions appropriate for Travers Smith, as a large law firm with an approximate headcount of 900, Greenidge was able to win over internal, and external senior stakeholders who were initially wary about the prospects of developing bespoke solutions in-house, as opposed to buying a pre-configured package, due to the frontloaded time pressures that would need be invested to deliver on time.
Another project he was central to was creating software to streamline the Display Screen Equipment (DSE) process to expedite the necessary process to enable individuals to feel comfortable and safe at their desks. Again, previously a highly manual time-consuming process was replaced by an in-house solution. Using the firm’s current HR system, Greenidge was involved in developing a form that would dynamically assess the employee/partner’s responses upon submission and automatically determine (via a backend workflow) whether any follow-up consultations with the DSE Assessor team were required and if so, the DSE team would be notified automatically by email. The workflow also updates an online tracker for the DSE team to use and refer to thereby significantly improving data accuracy too. This project received outstanding feedback from external Health & Safety consultants and the in-house development was also extremely cost effective.
Greenidge credits the firm for creating an environment whereby he can make such an impact within the firm, but also of course this is partly attributable to his own affable and inquisitive personality. He believes the two aspects operate in tandem with one another and allow him to utilise his business analysis skills to produce detailed data sets through report writing for a range of stakeholders. “From day one any doubts I had about what the culture would be like were shown to be misplaced,” he says. “I’ve really enjoyed it. It is very much through discussions with different people around the firm, combined with the value and encouragement the firm places on development, which gives me the confidence to really go above and beyond to explore potential new ideas. This enables me to try things out that help improve our systems and ultimately try to deliver the best possible service.”
“Speaking candidly, occasionally a colleague or stakeholder will request something from me, and initially, I might not know the answer or best approach to take. However, the safe and nurturing environment at the firm means I know not to panic, and that I can instead take the time to explore different options in order to present back the best possible solutions.” Having the majority of people in one location – the London office (close to St Paul’s) – really helps, he says in developing a culture of collaboration.
Greenidge was also keen to credit Erin Green (HR Systems & M.I. Specialist) his HR systems & M.I. boss at Travers Smith, for his development to date. “She’s been the catalyst for me; a great role model in the field and ultimately a pleasure to work with. I feel very fortunate that she took a punt on me after my interview back in September 2019” he says.
AI represents the next frontier. “I am fascinated by it and all it entails!” he says, “Our Legal technology team is very hot on it as part of their strategy, as you can imagine, and we in HR have had some preliminary discussions about how we could use it to underpin and automate our processes further.”
Ultimately, he wants to improve his HR tech skills by gaining an improved knowledge of coding, particularly Structured Query Language (SQL). He says: “So far I’ve been able to develop but I’m looking to push to the next level and leverage my skills to automate HR processes further and as much as possible.” Assistance in achieving this objective has come in-house once again with members of the technology team taking time out to mentor Greenidge as he develops his skills, which is again testament to Travers Smith’s collegiate culture.
For Greenidge, winning the Rising Star award was the icing on the cake as he thoroughly enjoyed the ceremony and being able to share the evening with his team made it extra special and a moment he will treasure for a long time to come. “It was great for networking and building up my LinkedIn network and as I was sitting right in front of the stage, I even got to have a bit of a laugh with Russell Kane. The whole thing flowed and was logistically organised really well. The award also resides on my desk at home, so on days when I am working from home sometimes it is nice to glance over at it as it encapsulates all the work we have accomplished to date.”