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 HR, BD & marketing, 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 talented professionals to rise through the ranks – as well as helping many others to join the profession from other sectors.

The challenge of leadership

Our recently published report ‘Supporting business services leaders in law’ showed that business roles in law now account for over 15% of law firm vacancies. This means 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, people management, recruitment, diversity, brand, reputation, client relationships and pricing mechanisms. Success at this level is not easy, however. Effective leadership in law demands a deep understanding of the way law firms work, combined with an ability to get lawyers on side to implement real change. But for those who prove able, there is huge opportunity to make a lasting difference on a profession that is fast evolving.

Top five tips for success

If you are already working in law, it may be that you are interested in stepping up to a business leadership role. Or you may be interested in joining law from another sector in a leadership capacity. Either way, here are our tips for making a success of leadership:
  1. Lateral thinking. To be a credible candidate, you need to be able to demonstrate leadership potential, which means the ability to work outside of your comfort zone and across broader areas of business.
  2. Understand the business of law. More firms are looking to business talent from outside the sector, but you still need to be able to demonstrate a good understanding of both partnership structures and the way lawyers work.
  3. Network in and outside the law. All such insights and connections will enhance your ability to perform.
  4. Be prepared to push back and challenge. This isn’t always easy in an environment where partners/lawyers often think they know best, but you are the expert, which means that you will also be expected to disagree with the Managing Partner or the Practice Group Leader and advise them of a better way forward.
  5. Excellence in communication and people management. Law is a people business. You need to know how to coach, mentor and develop talent to become high performing, collaborative and collegiate (a leader is only ever as good as their team!).
Business leadership roles in law offer talented candidates the opportunity to make a significant difference in a profession that is fast-changing. And with so many different types of law firm in terms of size, culture and location, there’s an increasingly wide variety of interesting roles on offer. Leadership in law is a unique challenge but one that offers huge rewards for those willing and able to take up the mantle. Click here if you would like to read our other articles recently published by Human Times. 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]