Exploring the growth in non-lawyer legal recruitment

21 Nov 2014

As the impact of the Legal Services Act continues to be felt throughout the legal industry, many firms are taking the opportunity to explore whether the substantial and fundamental changes it introduced could be of benefit to their operations. With the new breed of legal firms making ground on the rest of the industry, well-advised law firms are looking to exploit similar opportunities to grow their firms.

A significant area we have encouraged firms to examine is the opportunity to recruit non-lawyers at partner level, often as Chief Operations Officer or another senior strategic title. Formally a route closed to law firms – and therefore rarely considered – the trend now is towards the recruitment of non-lawyers in managerial positions. There are a number of reasons for this.

Firstly, forward-thinking law firms who are adapting in other ways to the changing industry, are recognising that they have limited experience of, and expertise in, change management. Delivering new long term business strategies is not their forte and therefore bringing in an ‘outsider’ who has experience of this has proven beneficial to many.

Secondly, similarly forward-thinking firms are welcoming the opportunity to broaden their skillsets and experience. Recently, we worked with a firm appointing a COO who explicitly wanted to consider candidates from within the charity sector – a sector the firm in question wished to target. Firms are using this recruitment opportunity to further allow the people within their organisation to allow them to grow.

Firms are also increasingly recognising that the industry is newly competitive and to be competitive within the industry, they need a strategic head. Whilst lawyers have always run law firms, and run them perfectly well, lawyers are not necessarily the right people to manage a law firm. Where specialist managerial help can be brought in to facilitate better, more expert management, the opportunity is being taken to do so.

A growing selection of firms are also turning to non-lawyers where they feel they are the incumbent at threat from law’s new kids on the block. Existing large law firms, who have traditionally operated across the whole of the market, are finding they need expertise to greater target specific areas, or even to re-evaluate their offering entirely.

The move towards non-lawyers in management roles at law firms is reflective of forward-thinking firms recognising a changing industry. The opportunity to recruit specialist managers should be embraced as readily as the opportunity to recruit specialist lawyers, and firms who embrace that opportunity could find themselves with plenty more, in prosperous areas, in the near future.