What is your background?
I have been working in recruitment since 2002. Initially I recruited technical staff into building engineering consultancies and architectural practices and then in 2010 I switched to legal finance. Recruiting for professional service businesses has been the common theme running throughout my recruitment career.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I was always taken with the idea of being a foreign correspondent on the television, a male version of Kate Adie (showing my age a little there). I went through a phase of wanting to be a lawyer, probably from reading too many John Grisham novels, and went as far as doing a law degree for a year. However, I found the subject a little dry so switched to a history degree and left university with no real plans of what I was going to do.
How did you get into recruiting?
I didn’t quite fall into it because I was actively trying to find a job within it after a friend I worked with started in the industry and I liked what he described. I did, however, get my first job by meeting my future manager on a stag do…
Favourite clients / candidates?
My favourite clients were two architectural masterplanners who had been working in Nigeria for over 30 years and approached me and a colleague to hire six or so architects to relocate to Abuja to help them to design and build a new town. They were absolute gentlemen who had found a true calling in their professions –their passion for architecture and the Nigerian people shone through. They were great fun as well.
Unfortunately, the six people we placed all had to come back after only a couple of months because there were too many westerners getting kidnapped in the region for it to remain safe. That was a first for why a contract was cut short.
There are too many favourite candidates to mention, in 16 years in recruitment I have met some brilliant, inspiring and hilarious people, and a few odd-balls as well.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced?
I think the biggest challenge in recruitment has always been retaining relevance. Looking for a new job and hiring staff has changed irrevocably since I started in the sector and will continue to do so. Demonstrating that as a recruiter you are able to offer a service to a client and candidate that they can’t do themselves via social media or an internal recruitment team for me is the biggest challenge.
Being a specialist recruiter helps but that means staying on top of developments in the sector, keeping in touch with the people within it and being able to offer insights and opinion that is useful to whoever is asking for it. There lies the challenge in a sector that is currently going through constant change.
The right fit
What do you look for from candidates e.g. skills / experience / attributes?
Accountants and pricing specialists in law firms need to be versatile communicators so that’s probably one of the first attributes – being able to make an impact quickly is important. Quite often it is someone who appears quite reserved but is able to establish quickly that they know exactly what they are talking about and demonstrate that deliberately and concisely. I really enjoy meeting those types, you learn a lot from them very quickly and they are always in high demand. More specifically, we look for individuals with true commercial acumen, who are able to advise very bright people how to run their businesses more effectively and have their opinions considered. It’s something of an art form and something I really admire.
What excites you the most in recruiting these roles?
I still get a kick out of getting someone into the sector who hasn’t worked in a law firm before. Not having previous legal sector experience isn’t as much of a barrier as it once was, but it still presents an obstacle. And helping someone who’s had a bit of a tough time is always personally satisfying. Job hunting can be pretty hard work and it can leave people filled with self-doubt when they have a couple of interviews that don’t go to plan. Being able to find the right role for someone who has struggled remains very satisfying.
What do you think will be the next new role?
I’m not sure about new but I think continued growth and development in the pricing and legal project management (LPM) areas will result in them becoming more sophisticated functions as they become more established. Law firm pricing and LPM specialists are featuring more and more regularly at client pitches and reviews – this seems destined to become common practice.
Your top tip for candidates
Don’t be scared to call to follow up on a job application. Showing the willingness to engage over the phone rather than just applying for jobs via job portals will always push your application higher up the pile. And try to remain open minded – having a career strategy is important but being willing to consider options that may stretch that strategy is not a bad thing – and it could actually make your CV / job quite a bit more interesting!
What do you like to do to switch off? Or tell us something people might not know about you?
Coming from the south coast, when I was younger I used to do a fair bit of sea fishing with my Dad and it is something I still try to do whenever I visit my parents. Between us, my Dad and I were two of the worst fishermen you could meet (although since retiring he has got a lot better, while I remain relatively awful). Most excursions would usually result in a trip to the chippy; that was the closest we’d get to a fish the entire evening.
If you would like to find out more about Totum’s finance function or chat through recruitment opportunities with Martyn, he can be contacted at [email protected]. He also recently authored a report on Pricing Roles in the Legal Profession, which provides an indepth guide into roles in this fast-developing function – if you would be interested in finding out more including how to obtain a copy, click here for further details.