A career in legal finance can be a rewarding and varied career path. Many financial professionals are motivated to join the legal industry, which means competition for junior positions, in particular, can be fierce. So why are so many attracted to the legal sector, and what do you need to know to progress your career as a finance professional in law?

Law firms are increasingly recognising the important role business support teams play within the business – not least the vital contribution of the finance team. At the core of the firm, the finance department structure has changed in recent years due to a demand for accounting teams to provide an in-house consulting function – analysing financials to improve pricing and profitability.

This has led to law firms expanding such departments, providing finance professionals with good opportunities for career progression.

Routes of progression in legal finance

As a junior candidate, expect to start in one of the following roles:

  1. Accounts Payable
  2. Legal Cashier
  3. Billing Assistant
  4. Credit controller

Once you’ve gained a few years’ experience, you may have promotional opportunities to become:

  1. Head Cashier
  2. Senior Biller
  3. Revenue Controller
  4. Accounts Manager
  5. Credit Manager

These roles usually include supervisory duties of other members of staff.

Or if you decide to study for your CIMA, ACCA OR CFA, you could work your way towards becoming:

  1. Fully Qualified Accountant
  2. Management Accountant
  3. Financial Analyst
  4. Commercial Accountant
  5. Financial Controller
  6. Finance Director

Benefits

Law firms are attractive as the remuneration is generally above the average wage, with excellent benefits such as: private medical care, gym memberships, good pensions and other incentive schemes.

With law firms opening up overseas offices, there are more options for finance professionals to take on wider international opportunities too. Many finance positions include the responsibility to handle the finances of overseas offices from the main financial hub in London, providing opportunities to travel to various offices locations. Alternatively, several law firms have set up overseas secondments for employees wishing to gain international experience.

Changing attitudes in the industry

The legal sector can be a tough career move to make. Law firms have typically required candidates to have experience in the legal sector. It is the age old problem where law firms expect legal experience but nobody will offer you the chance to get it in the first place! Law firms have to be in compliance with the SRA, and the work and structure is very different to other industries. One top tip would be to carry out legal work experience or an internship.

There are signs, however, that things are changing as law firms, in recent years, have moved away from their traditional recruitment approach. They increasingly recognise that candidates with a partnership or professional services background have gained suitable skills in a similar environment to law. Over time as law firms are changing their views, more candidates are making the successful transition from professional services into the legal industry.

If you are interested in getting into the legal industry…

I recruit junior to mid-management level finance professionals into law firms and work with London’s top City and US law firms. Please get in touch if you are interested or would like to know more.

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