Kristina Oliver is the Marketing Director at Keystone Law.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I started my marketing career at a very young age, I knew what I wanted to do and didn’t hang around getting experience in it. My first marketing role was with Odeon Cinemas and it was fantastic to be marketing such a wide range of films along with the venues – I also gained invaluable experience in every area of marketing. After several years there I wanted to get into the legal marketing world, a competitive area and one which wasn’t a simple side step from my role with Odeon so I decided to take a back step to be able to move forward and took on a junior role at a law firm close to home. It was quite a shock to go from having responsibility for organising premiers for hundreds of people to ensuring that the napkins had been laundered for a lunch for six people.
It was a big risk but one that paid off, the legal industry couldn’t have been more different at the time but this move allowed me to get a really good understanding of the profession and all the challenges that accompany it. With a good marketing skill set from my previous role I didn’t stay at that level for long and aged 34 I was invited to become a partner which is pretty rare for someone who is not a lawyer.
My current law firm, Keystone – is one which is disrupting the legal profession by offering greater equality and flexibility to lawyers. It has become one of fastest growing law firms in the country and In November 2017, Keystone became the first of its kind to list on the London Stock Exchange.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
I originally wanted to be a pilot in the RAF but my eyesight wasn’t good enough so I had to rethink where my career would go and did that just before my A-levels. I always enjoyed organising events so marketing was a natural choice and that’s when the planning started in terms of what would I need qualification wise to get ahead in this field.
Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?
The biggest hurdle I faced in my career was not having a degree when I wanted to work for a London law firm. I had 5 A-levels, 14 GCSE’s with fantastic grades (A* – B) but university didn’t appeal to me. I knew what I wanted to do and enjoyed working plus I didn’t want put my family under the financial pressure so I enrolled in night school and gained a Post Graduate Diploma in Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Despite all this and several years’ experience almost every London law firm I applied to join refused to see me for not having a degree. Eventually after a lot of perseverance the one I really wanted to work for finally agreed to meet with me and I went on to become their head of marketing.
You run your own business on the side – how do you balance all this?
It’s a bit of a challenge but I’m fortunate to have a great business partner, she has the flexibility in her job to be available during the day and I work on things in the evenings and at weekends. Having my own company has definitely enabled me to gain a more commercial perspective on ensuring what I do with my full-time role delivers results, in legal marketing it is very easy to do things because that’s what has been traditionally done not what actually delivers a return on investment.
If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?
It’s great to see equality being championed so publicly now and the gender pay gap reporting is a huge step forward in the divide between men and women however in many professions the senior roles are often still dominated by men. The legal world is going through a big change with new entrants appearing and high profile old school firms going out of business, if ever there was a time to break the tradition of the old boy network and change the face of professional services this is it.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
When I joined Keystone, not many had heard of the firm and it was relatively small. In five years I’ve helped to grow the business from a business turning over £8m to a public listed company with a market cap of £80+m. To be invited to join the partnership was a real highlight for me as it is not very often a marketing professional is offered this. I’m also very proud to see so many of the people who have been part of my team go on to hold senior roles at other firms.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
My focus at the moment is to keep growing and raising the profile of Keystone, we’ve come a long way in the past few years but there is still a long way to go. I’d like to see the firm become a top 50 firm within the next five years