In late 2021, Totum Consultant Lacey Near was delighted to support María Gabriela Bencid (Gaby), a highly personable and articulate Project Manager for help in moving back into the legal sector. At that point, she was working for eDiscovery tech company KLDiscovery, in a project management role that she enjoyed, but Gaby was missing working directly with lawyers. She had also recently completed her Prince2 qualification and was looking to consolidate her experience in a Legal Project Manager/Delivery Manager role.

We were delighted, therefore, to be able to help her secure a role as a Managed Teams Delivery Manager at global legal resourcing business LOD (Lawyers on Demand). The Director of its Managed Teams division – which supplies experienced in-house lawyers to mostly corporates – was looking to build out its managed services delivery team, essentially comprising legal project managers. They initially advertised the role as a six-month FTC with a view to becoming permanent. During the recruitment process and having interviewed Gaby, however, they decided to invest in her more senior skills, also offering her a permanent role. 

London calling

Gaby struck us from the start as a confident and capable candidate. She qualified as a lawyer in Venezuela in 2012 and practiced law there, developing project management capabilities right from the start as she took responsibility for scoping and planning strategies, conducting budget estimation and fee monitoring, and undertaking all tasks necessary for ensuring the timely completion of a range of client projects. With key skills under her belt, she moved to the UK in 2014.

It wasn’t long before she was managing relationships once again, providing administrative support for the Senior Client Advisors in the provision of mediation and other dispute resolution services for the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) in London. Here she was the first point of contact for new clients and was responsible for liaising with CEDR’s extensive panel of neutrals on logistical matters related to service delivery.

An opportunity to get more involved in document review, however, took her into law firms via Reed Smith and then Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, where she worked as a Dispute Resolution Paralegal in the arbitration team, reviewing and analysing complex legal documents including emails, contracts, spreadsheets and other related financial documents in both Spanish and English to trace fraudulent behaviour.

‘At Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, all the cases were Venezuelan, working on corporate, tax and regulatory laws. It taught me so much,’ says Gaby. ‘I built up and managed relationships with clients, third parties, legal experts and external providers such as translators, couriers and IT sites.’ Again, ensuring the timely and effective delivery of assigned tasks was key to success. The firm also gave her the opportunity in June 2016 to spend three months in Paris – it was an exciting time although Gaby admits the hours were very long.

Pursuing project management

Gaby furthered her studies at this time, taking a postgraduate diploma in International Dispute Resolution (Arbitration). ‘By this point, however, I knew that I wanted to break down what I wanted to do and find the thing I really enjoyed,’ she says. ‘I realised it was project management and I was in the right place to do it. London is great if you want to make a change in your career/life.’

This led Gaby to first Deloitte, where she worked in document review, defining document discovery strategies, managing people, and coordinating and supervising workflows across workstreams. ‘I then went to an e-discovery company, KLDiscovery, which really helped to deepen my knowledge,’ she says.

As an Associate Project Manager at KLDiscovery, she found herself realising her ambitions to specialise in project management. Here she would be consulting and advising clients through the scope of their cases, including planning workflows, setting up databases, managing budget and ensuring project timelines were met. ‘Good, proactive communication was a really essential part of this role, both internally and externally’ says Gaby.

It was not always an easy journey – Gaby admits there were times when she had to make a lot of applications and endure rejections, especially in the early stages of getting a foot in the door of project management. ‘At that time many firms were looking for senior project managers and there wasn’t so much at the more junior levels,’ she says. ‘It has since opened up a lot more for a wider range of candidates.’

Working with Totum

By 2021, however, Gaby was in a strong position having gained wide ranging project management skills and having proved she was adept at managing people, workflows and projects. This was when she came to the team at Totum, to see if we could support her move back into law. The Managed Teams Delivery Manager role at LOD was perfectly timed and we could see how well it would align with Gaby’s skills and career goals. ‘LOD was very interesting to me,’ she says. ‘it really reflected the fast-changing market and had such a progressive attitude.’

‘Covid means companies are cutting budget and a hybrid approach is becoming common – LOD’s model is suited to this new market in a way that others can’t match,’ she adds. ‘LOD could combine the things I love about law with the flexibility and progressive ideas of a different kind of business. For me, it was the best of both worlds.’

For our part, we were delighted to support the smooth running of the recruitment process, helping to manage expectations, and working with LOD to ensure the role worked for both them and Gaby.  This included changing from FTC to permanent and refining the seniority.

Gaby relishes the opportunity to take on new responsibilities. Within a few short months of taking on her new role, she was managing 15 people for a large company, but she was already fully expecting her role to grow as LOD increases the number of new contracts in today’s buoyant market for managed legal services. She enthusiastically describes ‘more and more responsibilities’ coming her way. ‘I really enjoy understanding what the client wants – asking the right questions and acting in a consulting capacity,’ she says.

Gaby particularly remarks on the different culture of LOD, the amazing, supportive team and the fact that it’s ‘not traditional at all’. This is a role in which she can develop personally and develop her ambitions as part of a growing team.

‘It was fantastic to get this role and Lacey [Near] at Totum, was so helpful and responsive. I really felt like she had my back throughout the process,’ she says.

Totum was delighted to help Gaby steer her career in the right direction and will enjoy hearing news of her further development in months to come. We’ve also been delighted to work with LOD on more Delivery Manager roles since supporting Gaby into her role. We are delighted to see the team going from strength to strength and look forward to supporting their development into the future.

If you would like to know more about project management opportunities in the professional services sector, or find out more about roles/trends across operations, transformation, innovation and technology, contact [email protected]