In recent years, law firms have massively evolved their career offerings. Increasing competition, political uncertainty, client expectations, cost, as well as generational shifts are impacting law firms and the way they deliver legal services. This has led to a dramatic rise in just a few years of business services functions, which have grown in size, sophistication and profile to meet the demands of the modern legal business. With this has come burgeoning career and job opportunities.

Specific changes include the following:

  • Traditional functions in Business Development & Marketing, HR, IT and Finance have all grown in terms of both size (often going global) and sophistication.
  • Different skills sets are needed to run modern law firms. Specialist roles in all functions are now common.
  • There are many new roles too – in Learning & Development, Diversity & Inclusion, Training, Process and Project Management, Innovation, Knowledge Management, Change, Pricing, Data Analysis, Risk and Compliance.
  • Lines between functions are becoming more blurred too, with many jobs crossing several functions or plugging into all levels of the firms.
  • Senior roles are genuine leadership opportunities: Directors and ‘Head of’ functions sit on the board and manage ever broader, more strategic remits.
  • The Legal Services Act has allowed business support professionals to become partners. We are now seeing this in action.
  • Business professionals are far more involved with clients. In progressive firms, pitch teams may now consist of BD, finance and IT representation.
  • Junior functions too have multiplied. Law offers real career development to those starting out in their careers.

With these developments, however, has come a challenge: the demand for good candidates far outstrips the supply from within the sector. Law firms are looking more broadly and thinking creatively to both attract and retain talent. This includes sourcing more candidates from outside the sector. We have helped many candidates transition into law from other professional services sectors, but also from backgrounds as diverse as retail, advertising and the Army.

There are many benefits to working in law: attractive remuneration and rewards, stability, good career progression and development, the opportunity to work with a wealth of incredibly bright individuals, and genuinely make a difference in a profession that is dynamic and fast changing. Getting a good job offer if you haven’t worked in law before, however, may seem daunting.

Getting into law

 

We have huge experience in helping business professionals from other sectors get a job in law, in HR, BD & marketing, IT, finance and across other new and bespoke business roles. Here are our tips for candidates interested in joining a fast-growing business community in law.

  1. Research the legal marketplace. There’s lots of information online on how law firms operate, not just of the basics (size, turnover, offices, etc) but also on management initiatives, structure, culture and awards. Try and get a feel for different types of firm (national, global, small, mid-tier, magic circle), and what they each offer in terms of career opportunities. Also check out employer review sites like Glassdoor to get on the inside track on culture/working conditions.
  2. Don’t just think bigger is better. There are some truly global, brand-leading law firms out there, but they don’t suit everyone. Often smaller firms offer good candidates more responsibility and leadership roles more quickly. They can sometimes be the more innovative/progressive thinkers too, quicker to embrace different kinds of talent from broader pools.
  3. Talk to any friends or contacts who already work in law and can give a good sense of what it’s really like. You can always talk to a good recruiter too who will give you insights into the market and advice on your CV/application process. One that specialises in law will be able to give more tailored guidance – particularly in terms of roles where law firms are specifically looking for talent from outside the sector.
  4. Once your CV is out in the market, and you are getting interviews, find out as much as you can about the changing trends in the sector and be prepared to talk about them, as well as being able to express why you want to join law, and how you see your career developing within it. Again, a recruiter should be able to give you the lowdown on each firm you meet, allowing you to prepare properly.
  5. For any interviews, look up details of those who will be interviewing you as well as information on those you’ll be working with, and the broader leadership team. This will help as you put faces to names through the interview process, and make you look engaged and interested. The trade press (The Lawyer, Legal Business, Marketing Week etc) and LinkedIn are good for developing your people knowledge.
  6. Law firms will tend to favour candidates who have some understanding or experience of a partnership environment. But that doesn’t necessarily rule you out if you haven’t worked in professional services previously. Ensure you understand the differences between a partnership and corporate structure, and how that translates to a need to influence change and gain consensus, rather than taking control. Be ready to demonstrate your strong skills as an influencer.
  7. Don’t be afraid of showing that you are passionate and full of ideas. Just try to back up any suggestions with some solid evidence or research. Law firms are full of bright people who will expect an intelligent and well-thought-out approach.

In next week’s piece, we will be looking specifically into HR roles in the legal profession. Don’t forget to tune into Human Times to find out more.

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