We sat down with Sidley’s Chief Human Resources Officer, Maeve Lucas, who shared her approach to honoring and enhancing the firm’s unique culture while guiding both our lawyers and business professionals to achieve career fulfilment.
How did your career trajectory lead you to Sidley?
I joined Sidley after almost 26 years at the professional services company Accenture. My human resources experience over time has featured leading the corporate HR functions of performance management, culture design, and implementation, as well as leading the talent strategy function for the organization. It has also included HR business partner roles — leading key accounts and partnering with profit and loss owners for various Accenture businesses. These experiences have all informed my current leadership role in the HR function at Sidley. At the core of each of my past roles was the opportunity to demonstrate care for the people while fueling the organization with the talent and talent practices it needed to achieve its business objectives.
Is there a professional achievement you are most proud of in your career?
My proudest professional achievement was in my last role at Accenture. I was the HR leader on our largest account. We had 14,000 people supporting one client and were leading what Accenture calls “a total enterprise reinvention,” which is basically rebuilding the technical infrastructure of a company while also transforming the services that it offers. Part of that transformation was transitioning 6,500 people from the client organization into Accenture across five countries, which we achieved during the pandemic in a remote atmosphere.
The challenge, of course, was transitioning the people without disrupting the business. The employee experience of the transition had to be simultaneously smooth and rewarding throughout the process. We achieved our outcome, delighted the client, and offered career growth opportunities to our new joiners. While this role seemed daunting at the time, nothing beats looking back and saying, “We did it.”
The achievement has meant so much to me because I was working with an outstanding team that truly embraced the challenge. I also think that the relationships you build when tackling the harder tasks together are part of the reward. The people I worked with for this client will be my friends forever.
Have you had important mentors that offered valuable guidance?
My mentors have been a cast of different profiles — HR professionals, technologists, and lawyers. I’m married to a lawyer. My father, my sister, and my brother are all lawyers. People who demonstrate integrity, humility, and intellect are the people I gravitate toward the most.
I’ve never found one mentor and stuck with them over time. Instead, I tend to learn from people and take away aspects of their character that have positively influenced me, such as their diligence or tenacity. I also pay close attention to the leadership behavior I have observed in others that I do not respect. I have a mental filing cabinet of all the behaviors I would never replicate.
Are there any leadership strategies you wish to introduce to the firm?
Setting annual priorities that are inclusive of measurable outcomes is in my DNA. I cannot start a new year without also outlining exactly what our vision is going forward, and then rallying the team around that vision. For a team to be successful, it has to set ambitious priorities and be transparent about them. Otherwise, how do we get everyone invested in and excited for what’s ahead?
One of my highest priorities is to prepare Sidley for our next horizon of growth. One factor I believe will assist us is introducing more cross-functional teams at a firm level, rather than by department or practice. Bolstering our firmwide perspective will create ever greater consistency across our offices worldwide.
Are there specific areas you’d like focus on in terms of contributing to the firm’s culture?
Sidley has such a strong culture. You can see it in the long tenure of so many of our lawyers and business professionals. Maintaining that culture and considerable retention of talent through the next generation requires us to be together in person on a regular basis. We launched our “Better Together” program to further enhance the office experience so our people can engage with and learn from one another.
My other focus is preparing Sidley for the next 158 years of growth. This means adopting new advances in technology that will deliver talent analytics for improved talent planning, advancing the HR service delivery with enhanced automation and self-service, and modernizing the HR function to be a more strategic partner to firm leadership.
What words of advice would you offer those who are just starting their careers?
I have two daughters who are 20 and 22 years old — at the stage where one might attempt to give advice. I have found that rather than giving advice, I’m better off supporting their curiosity. My suggestion to people at the start of their careers is to look for opportunities to learn new things, and whatever you do, do it 100 percent. You never regret working hard to achieve an outcome. The best feeling is looking back knowing you did something that challenged you. This makes the greatest impression in your life and may guide your career to unexpected places.
What is your go-to self-care activity?
I spent years focused on science-based approaches to wellbeing at my past employer, and that has reinforced my daily routine. From experience, I know that I’m at my best when I get at least seven hours of sleep, exercise regularly, and carve out time to connect with my family. To accomplish this, it means waking up before 4 a.m. to get to the gym and then to the office before 7 a.m. This schedule gives me the mental and physical energy I need to be at my best.