What is your background?
I started working in resourcing with The John Lewis Partnership helping to bring in temporary and seasonal staff before moving to become a Recruitment Consultant for an agency in London. It was there that I started recruiting roles in transformation and change within the retail sector specifically. After a couple of years there I have moved to Totum to join Julius Reeves in building the Legal Operations, Transformation and Technology capabilities here.
How did you get into recruiting for this new area?
Honestly, I fell into it a bit. I was hired in my first recruitment role because of knowledge around the retail space, the agency were specialists in transformation and change and that is what I worked in. Luckily it is a fascinating area and, by its very nature, sits on the cutting edge of business improvement and technological change, so it has really pulled me in.
Why has this area seemingly exploded and it is being talked about everywhere?
In short, because it’s an area of a business that can have massive impact on the output of a firm. Without a well thought out and structured approach to transformation and technology, a business could suddenly find itself left behind by its competition.
More than ever the world around us is changing, and at a faster pace than it ever has. The legal sector is made up of firms that have run in a very traditional way for a long time; the input of new tech and a new generation of employees has meant a push for change that some have caught on to very quickly and others are still trying to work out. Either way, if they are at the cutting edge looking at artificial intelligence (AI) technology or just looking at building their first true projects teams, it is an exciting opportunity to make a tangible impact on what your firm can offer.
The other side is that clients’ needs are changing and the way they want to interact with their firms has evolved. Couple that with new firms offering something a bit different and it all adds up to the need to have people dedicated to these new areas of transformation and innovation.
What does it mean for those in junior roles?
It can be difficult for people to get into the sector in junior positions. Due to the unique structure of many law firms compared to other sectors, we are often looking for people with experience in the legal sector. However, a lot of firms are beginning to realise how many transferable skills there are out there in roles within, say, project management or process improvement. And we are starting to see more firms opening up to candidates from other sectors. Also, now that we are starting to see some more mature teams out in the industry we will see more need for junior candidates to help build a succession plan.
Depending on the type of roles that candidates are looking to move into I would always advise that they start by looking into different qualifications that would be relevant to that role. This will show a potential employer that they understand the basic levels of the role but also have the drive to get onto that career path, both of which can give them a bit of an edge.
What do you look for from candidates e.g. skills / experience / attributes?
A lot of the time we are looking for experience in the legal sector, education within law or experience of a professional services firm. An understanding of a partnership-led environment is always useful and will help to give an understanding of the culture a candidate would be working within. If candidates don’t have this, they need to be able to answer, ‘Why legal?’.
We are also always on the look-out for candidates from management consulting firms. Due to the nature of consulting firms, these candidates are often able to deal with ambiguity, understand partners and are used to working in very client-focused businesses. Culture-wise we are always looking for people that come across as professional and consultative with strong communication skills that can adapt depending on whom they are dealing with.
How does a candidate make the transfer into e.g. innovation roles?
A lot of the roles are new to firms and to make the transition can be tough. Depending on what you are looking to move into I personally think that candidates need to show that they are passionate and interested in their chosen area and that they are going to bring something (new) to the role.
What excites you most in recruiting these roles?
These are great opportunities that will create a real impact on these firms. A lot of the time we are working on building a team that has not existed in the firm before. It means we get to interact with some really interesting people at the cutting edge of their field of work, but also we get to be a part of something that is going to make some pretty drastic changes to the industry in years to come.
What do you think will be the next new role?
That is a tough one to answer, I think we are going to see a recruitment increase for junior levels within Legal Project Management (LPM) teams. As some of these teams become more mature, firms will be looking to bring in people that will develop into these roles. These are relatively new positions and unique to the industry: so far, we have seen a lot of experienced ex-lawyers turned project managers move into these roles but eventually we will need to bring in new LPM’s.
We are also seeing a leaning towards salaried Fixed Term Contracts (FTC) instead of day rates. These roles are often long term (12 months or more) in relatively new teams or on key programmes and the firms want people to be more invested in these roles than they could be with a shorter three-month contract. The salary may not be as high as typical day rates, but it is important to remember that with a long-term FTC comes all the benefits of being an employee of the firm including holiday, sick pay, pension etc. These perks that you don’t get with a day rate contract can make these roles really attractive.
Your top tip for candidates
When applying for jobs make sure that you read the job description, new technology has made one-click applications for roles easier than ever, usually with the candidate just seeing the job title. But if you read the description you might find that one bit of information that you can bring out in an application, CV or cover letter that might put you head and shoulders above the rest. Or, it might help you to work out that the role is not right for you and allow you to focus on other roles that are of interest or fit your skills better. Other than that, always do your research into the legal market and individual law firms (all are different and some will suit you better than others). We will give you as much information as we can, but it might be that little bit of extra knowledge that gets you the job.
If you would like further information please contact Elliot directly Elliot.Nash@totumpartners.com or 020 7614 9202.