‘Whatever else happens, accessibility and diversity are hot topics in Zuidas’

Date : 10/09/2019

Marien Glerum, Benelux Managing Officer Dentons

In 2017 the law firm BOEKEL merged with Dentons to continue under the name Dentons Boekel. Dentons was already the largest law firm in the world and BOEKEL experienced an immediate click with the transnational heavyweight. Judging from the numbers, the internationalization of BOEKEL’s more traditional office proved a good move, pushing turnover up by more than half in 2018. We sat down with Marien Glerum, who has been working at the firm’s centrally located premises on Gustav Mahlerplein almost nine years and was recently appointed Dentons Boekel’s Benelux Managing Officer. He told us what it’s like to be responsible for day-to-day management of a hundred lawyers when you don’t have a law degree.

You have been working at Dentons Boekel for nine years all together. Can you talk about your career within the firm?

‘Somewhat circuitously I came in contact with the legal world, never actually having studied law. By chance, I got offered a financial post at another law firm through a recruiter in 2002. I had various other roles there over the years, and then in 2010 I transferred to BOEKEL – Boekel de Nerée at the time – where I became financial director. So much has changed since that time. Firms have had to adapt to the current market; there was no other way, and that certainly applied to BOEKEL as well. We were active in the upper mid-market and had a strong Dutch identity. But there came a point when we had to choose whether to keep operating at the national level or explore international options. That choice was finally made in 2015.’

What were the ramifications to appoint you in your new role?

‘Next to my work as financial director I became a board member.
We agreed that there were a number of things which needed to be changed. Mainly, we wanted partners to have the freedom to do
what they are good at, which is engaging with their clients and their practice, and not getting bogged down with the management side
of things. I wound up assuming that responsibility, which is a fairly unique situation in this world, because normally you wouldn’t assign a non-partner who hasn’t even got a law degree to be a law firm manager. But this set-up ended up working very well. Shortly after that, we merged with Dentons and went global. In my current role I’m in charge of the Benelux offices.

You have been working at Dentons Boekel for nine years all together. Can you talk about your career within the firm?

‘Somewhat circuitously I came in contact with the legal world, never actually having studied law. By chance, I got offered a financial post at another law firm through a recruiter in 2002. I had various other roles there over the years, and then in 2010 I transferred to BOEKEL – Boekel de Nerée at the time – where I became financial director. So much has changed since that time. Firms have had to adapt to the current market; there was no other way, and that certainly applied to BOEKEL as well. We were active in the upper mid-market and had a strong Dutch identity. But there came a point when we had to choose whether to keep operating at the national level or explore international options. That choice was finally made in 2015.’

What were the ramifications to appoint you in your new role?

‘Next to my work as financial director I became a board member.
We agreed that there were a number of things which needed to be changed. Mainly, we wanted partners to have the freedom to do
what they are good at, which is engaging with their clients and their practice, and not getting bogged down with the management side
of things. I wound up assuming that responsibility, which is a fairly unique situation in this world, because normally you wouldn’t assign a non-partner who hasn’t even got a law degree to be a law firm manager. But this set-up ended up working very well. Shortly after that, we merged with Dentons and went global. In my current role I’m in charge of the Benelux offices.

What does your job entail?

‘With the firm’s massive growth in recent years, creating a more professional management structure while ensuring the desired freedom is required in order to ensure day-to-day management isn’t the primary concern of individual offices. I support the managing partners in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. They are the face of their offices, but I assist them, while also reporting to the European management.’

What are the challenges of your job?

‘One challenge is keeping all the partners alligned. We have 28 partners at this office, which is quite a lot, and this requires active management, they’re still getting their bearings. Our shared goal is to ‘Always be the lawfirm of the future’. To do that it is crucial that we work actively as a team. Managing that is a big challenge for me personal. Next to that, our challenge lies in our rapid growth. That’s complicated, because everyone here is ambitious. We take the heat for our clients, but there is also always a lot happening in the background. I think Dentons is entering a period of big change, if only because we are such an ambitious firm. In just the last month, for example, we merged with firms in both Honduras, New Zealand and South Korea.’

You didn’t study law at university, but now you’re in charge of some one hundred lawyers. What is that like?

‘We have a large number of young people who’ve got brains and are not afraid to speak out, so that can be interesting. This world isn’t for everybody; you have to enjoy working with this breed of people – people who really know their stuff, which leads some to assume they are brilliant at everything. I like that. Nurturing people who are good at things I’m not gives me energy. And, apparently, there is something in me that appeals to them, both the staff and partners. They are confident that I can provide them with ‘additional qualities’ So it all hinges on good mutual relations, on which everyone is dependent and from which all of us benefit.’

What is the firm’s perspective on all the
developments in the Zuidas district?

‘We’re very positive about it. It’s clear this area is being actively developed. More and more companies are locating to Zuidas and there is amazing growth in the number of amenities on offer here. I hope that we’ll succeed at turning this into a serious residential area one day, a place that’s also alive at weekends. I’ve been at the office during weekends every now and then, and practically everything is closed and there’s not a soul about. I am a bit sceptical about Zuidasdok project and curious how that will shape up. We really encourage employees to choose alternatives to commuting by car, because accessibility isn’t improving for motorists. We want to figure out a green and efficient way to address this issue. Beyond that, my wish for Zuidas and our office is more diversity, tricky as that may be. Whatever else happens, accessibility and diversity are hot topics here.’

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers of Hello Zuidas?
‘We are internationally oriented, but nonetheless have a strong local presence. We are less hierarchical and there’s more freedom to think differently and incorporate innovative ideas. This attracts a specific group of people, so we all feel in our element here. The energy we’ve got is electrifying. That’s something Hello Zuidas readers who are less familiar with the legal world might like to know, should they ever like to meet us.’