The US and UK legal markets have become increasingly entwined, as transatlantic mergers have changed the landscape of the past 20 years. Back in 1996, UK legal publication The Lawyer included Baker & McKenzie’s London office in its top-30 listing of UK law firms. But by 2016, over half of this original listing had entered the US market via a full­-blown merger or by strategic acquisitions of local offices of firms.

Over in London US-headquartered firms like White & Case have blazed a trail, with London revenues of £232m in 2016, putting it, and others, in or around the top 20 by revenue in the UK alone.  And many more US firms have set up shop in London since 1996.

This has changed the legal recruitment landscape considerably. At Totum, we have long helped recruit business services professionals and teams into UK-based firms. Business services talent here is strong and sophisticated. Many of the business services leaders in UK firms today have been instrumental in helping their firms achieve considerable growth – often on a global scale.

And that has taken Totum – and our business services expertise – onto the international and US stage too.

UK talent, US opportunities

 

The size and strength of UK business services functions was shown by our joint research conducted last year in partnership with US consultancy Calibrate Legal,  which sought to establish the average size of marketing teams in the UK and US. The findings showed that UK firms typically have larger marketing teams than US firms, likely because they started investing in this function earlier.

But the US is fast catching up, particularly among firms using business development capabilities to grow their international footprint. This also means that they have a real interest in UK business services talent, whether it’s to help build their London offices or to work from the US building operational capabilities and growing their international base.

A good example of this is Sadie Baron, Global CMO at Reed Smith, who we recently profiled for our Insights blog. She was delighted to take on the Global CMO role in September 2016, having already proved her abilities in director positions within the firm. But interestingly, she is not alone. Two of its other ‘Chief’ roles are also taken by Brits – Lucy Dillon, Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO), who, with Baron, operates out of London, and Phil Page who moved from London to Pittsburgh to be Chief of Office Services.

These trends have moved our Totum team ever closer to the US market, not only through our work with US firms operating in London, but also through our increasing presence in the US itself – helped via our close partnership with Jennifer Scalzi, the founding CEO of Calibrate Legal. Together we have worked on recruitment and research across UK/US markets.

Another placement we recently worked on, for example, was a highly strategic BD role for a US headquartered firm. Working from either New York or London, the right candidate was needed to look after energy, the firm’s second priority sector globally, and encompassing four energy heads based in New York, Paris and Singapore. The firm wanted in-depth energy sector knowledge more than law firm experience, a tricky balance to get right. We kicked off the search in June 2017 and our shortlist comprised two candidates from the US and three from the UK.  The UK candidates went forwards to the second stage and one of them was placed.

The right knowledge

 

Our long experience in law means that we have a wide network of candidates and the knowledge to source often bespoke skills/capabilities from a wide pool of talent. We understand why great candidates here in the UK are often attracted to US firms – the breadth of the roles on offer, and the quality of the work, lawyers and clients. And for those working in the London offices of US firms, there can often be the benefits of feeling like you have the variety and responsibility of working in a smaller firm, while at the same time being part of a global operation.

We understand what is often needed of candidates too: the requirement for robust, self-starters who are versatile and able to work in a fast-paced environment where demands are typically high. And because we have considerable experience of both working with UK and US firms we’re particularly knowledgeable on transitioning the right candidates between the two. We can advise on differences in team structures, roles, working practices and culture, terminology (for example, where job titles differ), salaries and benefits. We have helped develop teams from scratch in London offices, where entrepreneurial and networking skills are the prerequisite for success. But we have also helped take business services teams to the next level of international and global growth.

We have been able to place great candidates into the US market from magic circle UK firms, but also from outside the legal sector too – from financial services, insurance and other professional services backgrounds. Our knowledge means that we can make the transition easy, with the right advice along the way for both clients and candidates. We think these skills will only become more essential as the need for business skills and capabilities in both the UK and US market outstrips the existing availability of talent from within the sector.

Working across the UK and US markets has been a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate and develop Totum’s unique expertise in business services. We look forward to further working with firms on both sides of the pond to ensure that the legal sector is the first choice for the very best international business talent.

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