We were recently delighted to be invited to speak at a Managing Partners’ Forum (MPF) firm-wide leadership event, hosted by Lawyers On Demand (LOD). This thought-provoking event covered a whole range of topics surrounding recruiting, retaining and rewarding senior business services professionals across a range of disciplines. It showed just how far the profession has come in the past 20 or so years since we at Totum started recruiting our first people into business services roles in law.

In our introduction to the session, we talked about how we made our first placements in a very different legal landscape – one in which the top ranked firm, Clifford Chance, generated revenues of just £282m – compared to £1.4bn in 2016.

Over that time, we have seen a complete transformation of the legal landscape and business services functions within it. Tiny functions in marketing and BD, finance, IT and HR have grown into today’s sophisticated and large departments incorporating a wide range of roles from junior assistant positions to the most senior roles at director and COO/CEO level.

We talked too about emerging functions in process and project management, innovation, knowledge management, change, pricing, risk and compliance. And it was clear from the discussion that there remain many drivers for continued change: sophisticated client expectations, new legal service provider entrants, advancements in technology, the need to build and protect reputation, at the same time as attracting investment and raising capital. Nothing in this sector stands still for long.

But perhaps the simplest evidence of the on-going change is just a quick look at the business services roles available today. At a most recent check at the end of February 2018, here is just a short spotlight of the many titles Totum is working on:

  • Chief Executive Officer
  • Chief Financial & Operations Officer
  • Chief Operating Officer
  • Chief Information Officer
  • Director of BD
  • Sales & Marketing Director
  • Director of Risk & Compliance
  • Director of Facilities
  • Head of Marketing & Comms
  • Head of BD & Clients
  • Pricing Executive
  • Financial Analyst
  • Bid Manager
  • Pitch Coordinator
  • EMEA HR Manager
  • Learning & Development Administrator
  • Recruitment Adviser

How far things have moved on since we worked with business services functions staffed by just one person.

Our place in change


Our remit at Totum has naturally broadened with the times too – both in terms of the types of roles we work on, and their location. Where once most business services roles were based in London, we are now helping firms to fill positions, at all levels of seniority, right across the UK and particularly in cities like Bristol, Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham where firms are taking advantage of cost-efficiencies and business opportunities outside of the capital.

Sophisticated UK business skills are in high demand internationally too. In recent months, we have particularly enjoyed our partnership with US consultancy Calibrate Legal, with whom we have worked on several US placements – for example, a UK candidate who we recently placed in a highly strategic BD role for a US headquartered firm, looking after its global energy practice. But we have placed candidates in offices all around the globe including in the Middle East and South East Asia – as firms have increased their global footprint and seek to streamline and develop operations across all offices.

Keeping up with change means frequently reviewing our own internal structure to ensure our business reflects the shifting business needs of the legal sector. Consequently, in 2017 we welcomed Julius Reeves as a Consultant to focus on the many emerging business services roles in law, including legal project management, innovation and change, process management, programme management, and project and business analysis. We are also focusing more resources on areas like business management, as firms show increasing interest in hiring business managers who understand and can oversee all areas of the business and coordinate processes and operations – from business planning, operational delivery, process improvement, compliance and more.

At the MPF roundtable, the conversation turned to challenges and opportunities for the future – and particularly to innovation, the buzzword of the moment. Law firms are clearly keen to be seen as creative and willing to try things new. But perhaps what was most interesting was a call from the Managing Partner attendees to experiment more – accepting that real break-throughs require a willingness to try out and invest in ideas, some of which will work and others that may not.

We think that the rise of business services in law has brought more of an entrepreneurial edge into legal practice. But likewise, today’s forward-looking leadership teams in law are now feeding this spirit back into business services, creating new functions and firm-wide capabilities to drive business growth in more competitive times. It’s a virtuous circle laying the foundations for what should be exciting developments ahead.

We look forward to seeing how the legal profession continues to keep us on our toes through 2018 and beyond.


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