Ruth Davison, HR Manager at US Law Firm

Today, we are shining the spotlight on Ruth Davison, who is currently a HR Manager for a top US Law Firm in the City! Read all about her unconventional journey into HR Management, her unique industry background over the years, and the love and passion she has for Human Resources!


Can you briefly explain the journey of your career to date?

“I didn’t take a conventional route into HR, but that’s just me all over!  I started out my career as a Secretary and worked in banking, property, media and even the public sector before settling into legal nearly 25 years ago (wow, that’s scary to write).  I really enjoyed being a secretary, it was really satisfying to feel indispensable to your bosses and that you were making a difference to the efficiency of their working day. 

After a while though I felt I wanted something a bit different and decided my career aspiration was to work more closely with managing and developing people, so I started studying in my spare time and after 7 long years I graduated with an MBA.  During those 7 years I applied for my first management role, taking on a 15-person document production team and then a few years later I ended up restructuring and managing over 100 secretaries as well.  I loved it!  It was full on and demanding all the time, but the satisfaction when you reshape a group of people into a cohesive and high performing team, and work with each individual to reach their full potential in their chosen careers, was truly worth it. 

I then moved on to two different law firms, managing and coaching 30 national secretarial coordinators in the first firm and then restructuring and managing 200 secretaries and document production operators in the second.  Looking back on those 15 years, working with and within HR functions and dealing continually with the wide range of people processes such as development plans, disciplinaries, grievances, promotions, organisational restructures, redundancy programmes etc., it was inevitable that my final career path was going to be a HR generalist one! 

While at my third law firm I was given the opportunity to move into a HR manager role for business services, focusing solely on technical HR and ER.  I thought I’d miss the buzz of managing large teams but the fast-paced nature and excitement of HR business partnering was as exhilarating and satisfying as all of my previous roles.   All of this experience led me to my fourth firm, the London office of a wonderfully exciting, fast paced, fast growing, entrepreneurial international law firm.”

What does your average day look like?

“There is no such thing as an average day in HR, which is why I love it!  You have to accept that most of what you plan to do each day will move, HR is about responding quickly to the varying needs of your people and the business itself, both of which are excitingly unpredictable.  It’s about problem solving creatively, and adaptability within a range of processes designed to ensure fairness but requiring sound judgement based on individual situations.   My day will usually involve planned and ad-hoc meetings with my team on day to day issues, guiding and supporting line managers, interviewing candidates, and building business cases and plans for projects and initiatives.”

Where do you want your career to take you from here?

“My original plan was to use my MBA to take me into a COO role, but for the time being I am happily in love with HR!”

Who has been the most influential person in your career and why? 

“I have been lucky to have an ‘informal’ mentor boss or colleague in all of my roles; it is part of what brought me to each firm.    I want to work with people that inspire and push me, and from whom I can always learn something both professionally and personally.   Law firms are amazing but sometimes demanding environments, and you can’t get complacent and think you know it all.  I also love mentoring others; I have several formal and informal mentees and again that is as rewarding to me as I hope it is to them.”

In your mind, what has been the key factors behind your success?  

“First and foremost, accept every opportunity that you can see or are offered that feels ‘right’ for you.  Also seek and embrace feedback, you usually know when you’ve done a good job but it’s less clear sometimes if something hasn’t gone quite right, and although it can be hard to hear criticism take it on board as constructive and developmental and not anything personal.”

What advice would you wish someone had given you when you started out?

“My mum always used to say ‘trust your gut’, I think she meant with boys but I’ve learnt is also works just as well with careers choices!  Your career is a journey, you might take a few wrong turns along the way but everything builds up into that thing that fires you up to be the best you can be.”

If you didn’t do this, what would you be doing?

“I have no idea; I can’t think of another job that I would want to do more than this.  Possibly run a cat sanctuary …”

“When I grew up, I wanted to be…

..A teacher – however, since becoming a parent and taking on a Governor role in a secondary school it is obvious, I would not have had the patience to last long at that vocation!”


Published by Strictly Recruitment.

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