Business services professionals from across BD and marketing, HR, finance and IT have taken on increasingly senior roles in law, as firms have recognised their huge contribution and their functions have grown in both size and sophistication. Many now have board-level responsibility: of the top-50 UK firms, half now have a Chief Operating Officer (COO) or equivalent. Today’s business professionals understand the attractions of working in a profession in which they can make a real impact, deliver change and be part of the firm’s core decision-making group. As specialists in business services in law, Totum is dedicated to roles across BD & marketing, HR, IT and finance functions, as well as other cross-functional roles in areas like project and process management, innovation and change, and general management. Our breadth of work means that we have had the privilege of supporting many talented professionals to rise through the ranks. But we have also – and increasingly – helped others to transition into the sector at leadership level, often also helping them to then source their team from scratch.

Law seeks great business leaders

With business services roles now accounting for over 15% of law firm vacancies, there is ever-more demand on those heading up these growing functions. Not only do they have significant responsibility to support the development of their own teams, but they also have to work hard to integrate them effectively into other functions across the firm so that they can collectively deliver against overall strategic objectives. This has consequently pushed functional business leaders up the seniority chain, an effect further accelerated by their success in improving operations and strategic thinking, as well as areas like brand, reputation, client relationships and pricing mechanisms. Further research we conducted looking specifically at leadership placements since 2015 to 2018 found that:
  1. The number of Totum’s leadership placements has increased over the past three years, and many of them are now at board level: of the top-50 UK firms, half now have a Chief Operating Officer (COO) or equivalent.
  2. Leadership roles from 2015 to 2018 split (on average) as follows: Director (45%), Head of (28%), COO/CEO/CFO type roles (20%), and other (7%). It is striking that COO/CEO roles now form nearly a quarter of Totum’s leadership work. These roles did not even exist in many firms just 10 years ago.
  3. Nearly half of the candidates shortlisted by Totum are now women, and an equal balance of men and women are now getting placed in leadership roles too.
  4. More leadership candidates come from other sectors. Nearly half (49%) of shortlisted candidates now come from other professional sectors or beyond – and nearly a third of leadership placements are with candidates from outside of law.
These statistics and trends mean that firms are having to take a far more creative and diverse view of their business services talent pool to successfully fill these vital roles. Embracing female talent, as well as new capabilities that other sectors can offer, is an increasingly common feature of leadership recruitment in the legal sector. For those who think that the legal sector is a closed shop, open to only those from a legal background, think again. New skills and capabilities are coming into law all the time and at the highest levels. This is talent that is changing the future of law. If you would be interested in finding out more about how law firms are recruiting their business services leaders, you might be interested in our recently published report ‘Supporting business services leaders in law’. For more details, and to receive a copy, please contact [email protected]