Today’s professional services sector boasts many newly created roles (particularly in areas such as technology, change and transformation) that require a different mix of skills and a bespoke approach to sourcing the right talent. Totum Consultant Lacey Near describes taking on the challenge for Avail.
We were recently delighted to work with Dom Conte, Chief Product Officer at legaltech start-up Avail, on the placement of a newly created role: Head of Customer Success. The title itself stands out in the professional services market, and Dom had not as yet found a CV that seemed a good fit – there was little understanding of ‘customer success’ and it was difficult to source someone with the right mix of capabilities, confidence and charisma to grasp the details of the technology, as well as to meet and work with clients on a daily basis.
Through working with Dom to understand his business, its growth objectives and the specific requirements of this role, we were able to source a fantastic candidate who started with the business at the beginning of 2022.
Avail offers a real estate risk analysis platform for commercial real estate lawyers. It analyses title documents and identifies legal risks in a process that cuts down the laborious, time-intensive due-diligence process, producing risk reports in a matter of seconds/minutes. The business is already working with many of the top 50 real estate law firms, and has exciting growth plans.
‘I was a real estate lawyer and practised in the City,’ says Dom. ‘I was constantly frustrated with the technology – and realised there was an opportunity to create something different.’ He went on to launch the Avail platform, which was designed to be simple and specific to the job at hand. ‘Technology is often trying to achieve too much when lawyers are extremely risk-averse,’ Dom explains. ‘With Avail, we decided to take a very narrow question and answer it very well. We knew in real estate teams that title review was an area which had significant opportunities for AI. The idea wasn’t to reinvent the wheel, it was to carefully tailor a product that would solve the issues and be simple to understand and easy to use.’
The team got the product onto the market within a year and a half, focusing on delivering a defined platform rather than a more nebulous ‘tech solution’. Every AI product pre-trained by Avail circumvents a common challenge: the need for lawyers to train the AI themselves. Within a short time, the fledgling company had won a significant number of clients and awards, to the point that they are now working on a range of new products based on the same philosophy. Not surprisingly they are also looking to build their team in all areas, from sales and business development to data science and legal engineering.
The role: A challenging brief
To fill the Head of Customer Success role, Dom was looking for a candidate who could understand the nuances of customer success – ‘that success starts when you already have your customer and you aim to make them as sticky as possible’. Avail needed someone who understood the nuts and bolts of a law firm, preferably someone with a legal background. They were also looking for someone with excellent people skills, who would be able to talk to anyone on a strategic or technical level (including giving training if required). ‘We thought that a past lawyer might make a good candidate, but we also found that lawyers often don’t make the best presenters or lack confidence beyond the confines of law,’ says Dom.
Despite a tricky proposition, we were delighted to be able to put forward an incredibly bright candidate, Christopher Magennis, who had experience in client-facing, revenue-generation roles as well as working with start-ups internationally. He had worked as a PE Analyst before becoming a BD Manager at an international private equity and corporate law firm, and had most recently worked in a senior role for the Enterprise Investment Scheme Association (EISA), connecting up key stakeholders across the early stages of the investment process. A traditional legal role in business development or client relationship management didn’t interest him at that time – he was keen to secure more of a sales role that would allow him to further develop his commercial skills. Avail seemed like the perfect match.
‘When we met Chris, he impressed us straight away – he was articulate, knowledgeable, understood wider industry trends, and was very personable. He didn’t obfuscate: if he didn’t know, he would just say so. We really liked that honest, direct approach,’ says Dom. ‘He’d had a background in business and law – and also had his own venture on the side, which I really admired. I love a bit of entrepreneurial spirit, and we needed that kind of personality in this role.’
The recruitment process
While recruitment hasn’t been easy over the past two years of hybrid and virtual working, all went smoothly: the first interview was virtual (a standard feature of most recruitment processes now), while the second was in person. However, a key advantage of the hybrid/remote working approach was the ability to look for the right talent further afield: Chris was living and working in Edinburgh while Avail is based in London. ‘Our working from home policies are very flexible, so although we need people here initially to get face-to-face time and build a bit of rapport, generally we’re comfortable with any working arrangement as long as the person is the right fit for us as a brand,’ says Dom. This helped to widen the search and find exactly the right candidate to fit the role.
Since Chris joined Avail as Head of Customer Success, we have been really pleased to have had a further opportunity to work with Avail on another placement, this time for a Business Development Lead. Dom was again seeking someone with the right people and technical skills to understand and sell the company’s products. We have been delighted to source and place a candidate who could offer the distinct mix of skills Avail required, including experience from both a legal and sales background. We look forward to hearing how both our candidates progress in months to come.
It has been a pleasure to support the growth of the Avail team with these placements, tapping into our network of expertise to source hard-to-find candidates to meet unique requirements. Dom remains keen to recruit those with legal experience (including lawyers) who are interested in trying something new and who have the business and people skills to bond naturally with customers. We look forward to seeing where Avail next takes its exciting, fast-growth business.
If you would like to know more about how Totum can help with newly-created and bespoke roles, including in areas like legal operations, transformation and technology, contact [email protected]