Taylor Root UK Trustee Network: An interview with Mark Chambers

Author Georgia Morgan-Wynne
May 30, 2024

As part of our interview series for our Trustee Network, Taylor Root Partner, Georgia Morgan-Wynne, recently spoke to Mark Chambers about being a Trustee for Maggie’s Centres

You’ve held numerous Trustee positions – can you talk us through your journey?

Nearly all my roles have come from getting involved in organisations I care about and letting them see the value that I can bring. I was invited to join the board of the University of Westminster after I had initiated and run a life-changing work experience scheme with their law faculty, to try to improve what was, at the time, only limited diversity in City law firms.

I approached WWF directly to see how I could help them, noticing that they didn’t have a lawyer on their board at the time and drawing on my passion for the natural world as a former zoologist.

My role at Maggie’s came from a pro bono governance review I did for them a few years ago where I offered to stay around to help implement my recommendations.

The only role that came through a headhunter was Chair of Amref Health Africa.

So do some research, be realistic but brave and reach out to an organisation that you’d like to be part of.

Can you share more about your current NFP that you are a Trustee of?

Maggie’s offers free expert support for anyone affected by cancer in our network of purpose-built centres, located in the grounds of specialist cancer hospitals. Our buildings, many of them designed by the world’s leading architects, are beautiful, welcoming places where anyone with any type or at any stage of cancer, their family and friends can drop in, with no need for a referral or appointment. We are there to give the practical advice and emotional support that people need when cancer turns lives upside down.

You can find more about us and our centres here

What do you feel is the key role of a Trustee?

Whilst you have the same responsibilities as on any board, the balance is different to my non-exec roles. The informal interactions between meetings are even more important and there’s more need for practical support, coaching and encouragement. You are there to help in the broadest possible way and that’s immensely rewarding.

Nobody wants on their board the sort of lawyer who tells them more about the problem, but the best lawyers are solution oriented and have leveraged the breadth of their roles to acquire skills that are very transferable to the charity boardroom. They are adept at triangulating information and prioritising challenges, and comfortable with complexity, ambiguity and uncertainty. They have a sophisticated understanding of risk, and reputational risk in particular. They have seen most things and observed a range of good (and bad) practice.

In my case, I have particular experience of change and transformation, and of culture as an enabler. My particular sweet spot has been helping organisations grow through those stages where they suddenly need roles, processes and structures that they have not needed before. It is essential to build ‘good lite’ – helping establish simple, scalable structures that are practical and proportionate, but will serve the charity well through the next stage of its development. 

Being on the other side of the table helps you better understand the needs of your stakeholders. It hones your listening and communication skills. Without access to the usual management levers, your influencing skills need to improve. You also need more patience – things don’t always move as fast as you might like!

You will find that the experience is transformational for your network and enormously helpful to your career. Career progression is all about people seeing the potential for you operating at a different level. What better way of doing that than proving you can be effective around a boardroom table?

Do you have to wait to be a GC before you can be a Trustee?

Definitely not. There is a huge feeling of imposter syndrome walking into the unfamiliar world of a charity, surrounded by experts in their field. You won’t think you will have anything to add but you will be wrong; you will bring experience and perspectives that can make a huge difference. It will be amazing how often you will think “I have seen this before”.

What advice would you give to lawyers looking for a Trustee role?

Start today. Do your research to find an organisation you respect and where you might be complimentary to the current board composition – what would you bring that they haven’t got? Write a different, short CV that emphasises that and gives people a perspective on what it would be like to work with you. See if there’s anyone in your network who could introduce you. Offer to join a committee while you get to know each other so that when a vacancy arises on the board, you are the obvious choice.

What have you enjoyed most about being a Trustee?

You get the chance to work with amazing people you might otherwise not have met and be involved in extraordinary things you would not otherwise have experienced. At WWF I led trustee oversight for the design and build of a new headquarters and visitor centre. Watching school parties visit for the first time and seeing the transformation of ways of working in the brilliant new building was quite an emotional experience for me. Being a Trustee is also endlessly humbling; experiences like meeting a young health volunteer in the Kibera slums of Nairobi and hearing her story of selfless commitment to helping her community or sitting in on one of the men’s cancer groups at Maggie’s and experiencing such a wonderful atmosphere of mutual support, help put any gripes about my life into sharp perspective.

If you are interested in a Trustee role or are looking to hire a Trustee position, please get in touch with Georgia Morgan-Wynne to find out more.

If you would like to join our Trustee network, find out more here

We want to reiterate that this is not a paid service and forms part of our referral programme, so please do not hesitate to get in touch. 

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