BD opportunities, US firms

US firms with London offices continue to make waves – rising up the revenue league tables and rapidly increasing their lawyer headcounts. Legal Business recently reported that in the ten years since the banking crisis started, lawyer headcount at US firms in the City has grown almost 50%, making US firms ‘an established force in the British legal market’. Double-digit percentage increases in numbers of lawyers in the past year also suggest that Brexit fears are not impeding increased investment in London: for US firms it remains an important financial centre.

This is good news, not just for lawyers, but also for BD and marketing professionals in the UK. At Totum, we increasingly work with US law firms – both the larger, more established firms as well as smaller boutique operations – on recruiting and building their BD and marketing teams. With investment rising, US firms in London require the BD and marketing expertise to help realise a return. This generally means a broad remit from setting up and developing the function from scratch, to building relationships with international clients, delivering focused marketing, content and brand campaigns and supporting sophisticated pitching processes. For candidates too, US firms can be an attractive and exciting proposition for those who want to make a real mark on fast-developing firms that far from being just US offshoots, have their own identity and approach.

On the one side, there is the increasing number of boutique US firms focused on areas like fraud and litigation. We typically help them find their first senior-level BD and marketing professionals, who have experience of the legal sector, as well as knowledge of the specific market focus. They can hit the ground running in terms of delivering immediate BD and marketing clout, as well as then developing a team.

Developing teams

 

We also work with US firms that have longer established BD and marketing teams. Here there is more thought coming in as to how those teams should be further developed and structured. Jon Brewer, Director of European Marketing & Business Development at the London office of Orrick, describes changes to its global BD team personnel and structure around three distinct functions: marketing, sales and communications. These are being aligned around key sectors rather than practices to ensure, he says, that the firm doesn’t market itself in the same way it is structured, and to ensure they offer integrated solutions to meet client needs. ‘We are also looking to centralise some marketing  support so we have a wider and more agile pool of resources to call on, the allocation of work is fairer, and the teams have to broaden their technical knowledge and firm understanding,’ he says. Utilising technology will be key to achieving the above, he adds, creating tools to offer solutions and efficient processes.

With shifts such as these, so has also come a broader range of BD & marketing roles offering increasingly interesting opportunities for talented candidates. A typical recent example of a placement we have been working on is that of a high-profile US law firm looking for an experienced business development professional to lead the London office. The firm is looking for someone who can put in place an effective team that can challenge the partnership, be advisory and drive the business forward in a proactive manner. While the role requires close work with the US team, it is very much about building the firm’s profile in London, which means it is ideally suited to someone who understands this market, can set the agenda and be entrepreneurial. For us, this is typical of opportunities with US firms in London: there is a real opportunity to drive change and make an impact.

Working for a US firm

 

Transatlantic mergers blur some of the distinctions between US and UK firms – there are a number of firms, for instance, that would define themselves along strictly global, not national lines. Having said that, the UK has unique characteristics that demand particular BD & marketing skills. For example, Orrick’s Jon Brewer describes how a UK client base is typically not actually headquartered in the UK – so ‘relationship building and influencing is far harder’. In our experience, this means a high demand from US firms for BD and marketing professionals who understand the specific requirements for successfully operating in this market. Likewise, there are aspects of US firms operating here that stand them apart from their UK counterparts, such as:

  1. While US firms may be big, their London offices tend to be smaller than many UK law firms headquartered in London. This can offer BD and marketing professionals broader responsibilities and potentially greater variety reflecting the more general needs of the smaller team.
  2. The overall business, however, will still be global providing both prestige and a big-picture perspective.
  3. In the larger more established US firms in London, teams are now sophisticated and offer newly created and specialist roles (for example, setting up account management programmes), with exposure to large transatlantic clients and opportunities for international secondment.
  4. BD and marketing professionals working for US firms in London can expect to work with the highest quality of lawyers – but with potentially more exposure to people across the office, again emanating from that smaller-firm feel.
  5. Those who have gained experience in the sophisticated BD and marketing functions of UK firms are in high demand in US operations. This can mean good opportunities to build teams and grow functional expertise.
  6. US firms in London have a reputation for offering attractive salaries. This can also go alongside a reputation for long hours and minimal work-life balance. In reality, however, we rarely see this aspect translate to business services teams. What is expected is versatility, commitment and a can-do attitude.

With US firms further developing their offerings in the London market, there is plenty to keep BD and marketing professionals happy. This not only further expands the number, variety and scope of exciting roles on offer in this fast-paced function, but it offers talented professionals only further opportunity to prove their worth and make a tangible difference to the development of the legal sector in the UK and beyond.

 

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