Thornton Legal Meets...Chris Hayes. Head of Business Development at AfterAthena

Many thanks to Chris Hayes, Head of Business Development at AfterAthena, for this month's Q&A.

How’s business?

Business is good, thanks. 

We have recently launched AfterAthena which is part of the Napthens Group. AfterAthena is the evolution of our Employment Law, Health and Safety and HR services to bring them together under a new brand with the addition of some of the latest technologies available in that market space. 

Early interest has been great, and it feels like a very exciting time to be involved.  Napthens in Liverpool continues to go from strength to strength with lots of new work and some exciting new arrivals coming soon. So watch this space.

Can you tell us about your background?

I am from a very small and picturesque village at the tip of Northern Ireland called Castlerock.  When I was growing up there was comfortably less than a thousand people and it was that kind of place where everyone knew everyone. 

I was the first person in my family to complete university, the first to study law and the first to ever leave the country for work.  Whilst my family were worried about this big move, I have been extremely lucky in the people that I have met and the opportunities I have had. Merseyside really is full of Irish and Northern Irish (and plenty more who claim to be). I could not have chosen a better or more friendly place live and work.

Whilst I arrived with no connections whatsoever, I have been lucky to work with some great lawyers and professionals along the way, for two great Liverpool firms. I successfully built an employment team from scratch at my previous firm, which provided me with a lot more skills and knowledge that have served me well in my current role.

You're Head of Business Development and AfterAthena, what does the business do?

The business focuses on our core areas of Employment Law, Health and Safety, HR and Business Immigration. 

We are lucky to have over 450 clients with the majority on retainer arrangements. The business can offer all of these services under one easy to manage monthly payment, but structured so it’s right for every single client.

We realised many clients had the need for multiple services and AfterAthena now provides that opportunity whilst also offering some of the latest technologies in that space. We have developed what we consider to be a best-in-class hub, available via a mobile app and desktop. 

It is a smart and intuitive hub, with access to everything a business would need in our core areas, including artificial intelligence tools, bespoke Employee Relations software to track and run all ER matters internally, access to the latest news and updates, access to all our precedents and practical guides and, perhaps most importantly, being a part of an innovative community of likeminded professionals.

We like to say we have reimagined and modernised People Services, for the better.

What is the relationship between AfterAthena and Napthens?

AfterAthena is wholly owned by Napthens and is part of the Napthens Group.

I am dual employed by both Napthens and AfterAthena and continue to do work with both. I am extremely proud of the part I play in the growth of the Liverpool office in Napthens and AfterAthena is a big part of that. 

We share the same offices, and we work together very closely. They complement one another very well, with AfterAthena being the first of other new service brands coming soon under the Napthens Group.

Who is a typical client?

Our typical client is a North West based business with 100 or more staff and multiple sites. Whilst we still have a strong commitment to the smaller end of the SME market, we have found larger companies have a more natural requirement for multiple services, simply due to their size and requirements.

Recruitment is a challenge for all law firms, why should someone choose Napthens?

We are particularly well placed to take advantage of a gap in the market in Liverpool which has a dearth of high-quality mid-sized firms.

There are not many who can provide the full gambit of corporate law advice and business services at the highest levels, for a competitive price. 

In addition, Napthens and AfterAthena are home to some of our region’s most outstanding lawyers who are at the very top of their game, regularly dealing with some of the region’s biggest clients and high-value deals.  Focusing on Liverpool in particular, we are growing rapidly (both in size and reputation) and continuing to win more and more outstanding clients and market-share.

What are the plans for AfterAthena for the next 12 months?

We intend to grow our client base significantly with a focus on the Liverpool City Region. 

Improving our brand awareness is one of the key factors to that alongside continuing to provide outstanding service to our existing clients. You will see the arrival of some new talented people and the continual evolution and development of our innovative AfterAthena hub.

After the North West, then who knows. We like to dream big, which suits me nicely.

What’s the best part of your job?

I am fortunate to be entrusted with the business development strategy for AfterAthena and to oversee the Liverpool Employment team. I am also lucky to continue to work with some outstanding clients and provide advice and guidance to them as a Senior Associate Solicitor, which I will always enjoy. 

My role within AfterAthena includes the need to understand and harness new technologies and how they will play a part in our service delivery.

If you would have asked me last year, would I be regularly working on developing new software for clients, understanding and building artificial intelligence tools whilst also continuing to provide advice on a day-to-day basis for clients, I wouldn’t have believed you. 

The opportunity to try new things and work with some extremely talented people, really is the best part of the job.

What’s your morning routine?

Admittedly, I would like to improve my morning routine and that’s on the goals list for this year. 

Currently, it involves waking up at about 7.00am, doing some light exercise in the house, getting ready for work and beginning to catch up on the day’s news. I will also spend some time with my little whippet, Enzo. He is one and a half years old and still full of energy, so my mornings can often include playing with him and maybe taking him for a quick walk.

I will usually look to start working by no later than 8:30am.

If you hadn’t been a lawyer, what would you have done?

Believe it or not, I would like to be a host/maître d’, within a nice pub or restaurant.

I have always enjoyed looking after or serving people and spent many years doing this as a barman when I was growing up. I enjoy hosting people,  making sure everyone has a good time and that the craic is good.

How do you spend your time away from the office?

I spend most of my time away from work with my wonderful wife and pup, walking and exploring the Wirral, where we live.  

I also volunteer as the chairman of my local rugby club, Oldershaw. It is very rewarding to be able to give back to my local community and create a space where families can grow and enjoy sport together. I have been fortunate enough to have developed a skillset that means I am well placed to help grow and lead the club whilst benefitting the local community at the same time. Sport and rugby have given me so much over the years, it is a pleasure to be able to give something back.

What do you know now that you wish you had known at the start of your career?

Be brave and don’t let the phrase, ‘the grass isn’t always greener’, frighten or intimidate you. 

Once you have honed your craft, be confident in your abilities and be clear on what you want to achieve. If that means you need to go somewhere else to spread your wings, don’t hesitate.  Life is short and careers are even shorter. There are no false starts and no mulligans in this game. 

“We do not have a fear of the unknown. What we fear is giving up the known.”



Thornton Legal is a leading recruitment agency, working  in private practice across Merseyside, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, West Yorkshire and the West Midlands. Main locations include Liverpool, Chester, Preston, Manchester, Leeds, Shropshire and the surrounding areas. At Thornton Legal we work with partners, solicitors, paralegals and legal assistants across a range of practice areas including (but not exclusively) corporate, commercial property, employment, litigation, private client, family and residential conveyancing.

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