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Why law firms need to increase their BD and Marketing Manager salaries

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As I near the sobering thought of having worked in Legal BD & Marketing recruitment for 5 years, I have been reflecting on what has changed in our industry during this time.

One issue that was prevalent when I started working in the industry was the high demand for talent and a shortage of candidates with the right skillset. Five years on, this remains a big challenge for both recruiters and employers, especially for Business Development and Management roles across the legal space, in particular at management level.

What are the reasons driving the skill shortage at management level?

In my opinion, one of the biggest issues facing the industry today is the fact that Legal BD and Marketing staff at the Assistant to Senior Executive level are rising through the ranks far more quickly than their peers who made the same transition 5-10 years earlier.

Combined with quicker progression, these individuals are getting larger salary hikes than ever before, particularly for Business Development roles.

However, at Management level, salaries have not risen at the same pace.

According to Ambition’s internal data:

  • BD Executive average pay has increased 25% since 2002

  • BD Management pay has increased just 8% since 2002

*The above data is based on the salaries which we placed people with those titles (given the job specs don’t differ too much it’s fair to assume responsibilities have stayed much the same).

Now, I’m not knocking any of the BD & Marketing Executives out there, I’m sure you are all well worth the enhanced pay and if you are able to command a salary that’s higher than average then good for you!

However, this does beg the question as to why management pay has lagged so far behind the pace of the non-managerial positions?

How is the lack of progression on Management salaries affecting the wider market?

There are two key reasons why this is a problem:

  1. We are now meeting many BD & Marketing Executives and Senior Executives with less than 3 years’ experience, who are now in a bit of a limbo situation. They are not yet experienced enough to move into a management position and cannot make a sideways move either as their current salary is well above the traditional market rate.

  2. Due to the current shortage of experienced BD and Marketing Managers who are willing to make a lateral move to another firm, we are now cherry-picking the top Senior Executives and putting them into BD Manager vacancies at the lower end of the management pay structure.

With regards to point 2, this may not be a problem in the short-term, but what will happen once we run out of those Senior Executives? Where is the next candidate for your BD Manager role going to come from?

One could argue that we could look at hiring individuals from outside the legal sector, but realistically how many Partners are going to sign this off?

Firms need to review their salaries for Legal BD and Marketing Managers

Let’s think about this from the perspective of a Legal BD Manager.

What is the motivation for someone at BD Manager level who has 2+ years’ experience to move to another law firm for, what is, in many cases, a minimal salary rise?

These individuals are generally earning somewhere between £55K - £65K so, from their point of view, what options look attractive in the market?

Often these BD Managers know they are a few years off being able to step up to senior management level, so rather than keep raising the salaries of Executives, I believe that firms instead need to focus on redistributing some of the monetary growth towards enhancing the pay of their BD and Marketing Managers.

In my opinion, if we moved the needle slightly on management pay across the legal industry, we would see more talent engaged in new opportunities. 

It would also help to recalibrate the market so that moving from one BD Manager role to another is incentivised and attractive to candidates rather than carrying the stigma of making a “sideways move”.

As a result, firms will have less difficulty filling their Legal BD Manager vacancieswith individuals who have a strong track record of delivering at management level.

Furthermore, by increasing Management pay, this will also allow non-management staff a greater length of time to gain the experience necessary to perform in a management capacity, as there will be a clear divide in salary and experience between current managers and aspiring managers.

If you’re a legal BD or Marketing Manager, I’d be keen to hear your opinion on this. Would higher salaries entice you to make the move to a similar Management role in another firm?

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