The benefits of hiring Commercial Finance and Pricing Specialists from Outside the legal sector

​The Benefits of Hiring Commercial Finance and Pricing Professionals Outside the Legal Sector

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When it comes to attracting top Finance talent, law firms are facing a fiercely competitive market.

Traditionally, the legal industry has always been quite insular, with most law firm finance and accounting professionals staying within the legal sector throughout their careers.

It used to be pretty uncommon for individuals from other industries to transition into the legal sector mid-career.

However, the landscape is shifting.

Leading law firms recognise that people are their most valuable asset and firms are investing significant time and resources into hiring and retaining talent.

Yet the paradox is that by only looking at this niche talent pool, firms often find themselves vying for the same group of seasoned legal finance professionals.

This leads to a perpetual cycle of talent migration because firms only consider candidates with extensive legal experience, overlooking the potential of bringing in fresh perspectives from outside the industry.

Hiring from outside of the legal industry can bring many benefits, yet many firms are still reluctant to consider candidates from other industries.

  • Many have reservations about how candidates will adapt to law firm culture with its ingrained belief systems and ways of working.

  • Others have a ‘this is the way we’ve always done it’ mentality that they are hesitant to change.

However, some firms are being more open to hiring externally.

At Ambition, we’ve successfully placed several experienced Commercial Finance and Pricing leaders into top law firms in recent months.

By embracing talent from outside the sector, these firms have been able to tap into a more diverse talent pool and have benefitted from these people injecting new ideas and perspectives into the firm.

I asked a Head of Pricing at a magic circle law firm (David) and Head of FP&A at a Top 10 International law firm (Jack) to share their first-hand experiences of hiring from outside of the sector.

In your view, what has been the main advantage of hiring people from outside of the legal sector? ​

J: For me the two main advantages of hiring from outside of Legal is:

a) widening the talent pool

b) the potential to bring someone in with fresh ideas who potentially looks at solving problems in different ways.

D: The most obvious benefit is that it dramatically increases the pool of available candidates!

When you’re looking to strengthen your team by going to the market, it makes complete sense that you’d want to cast the net as wide as possible to find the right addition.

I also don’t think we should assume that those in legal have a monopoly on all the good ideas!

By considering candidates from outside legal, I feel the door remains open to inject new ideas into the profession; perhaps something that’s worked well elsewhere, or even something ‘obvious’ that only an outsider could pick up on.

In your experience, what have non law firm candidates had that maybe law firm finance people may not?

J: Usually a more commercial outlook, particularly if they have corporate or PE experience. Also an expectation that a deadline is a deadline as they are used to external pressures around quarter and year ends.

A lack of regular external reporting within legal means more of a ‘when it’s ready approach’ tends to take precedent over urgency.

D: Newcomers to the industry bring a whole range of different, non-legal experience that can add significant value to what we do. That could be around process, governance, negotiation, modelling…anything really.

Taking an alternative view on how things work today, and having the confidence to challenge existing norms is what’s going to take the industry forward.

The general perception is that people from outside the legal sector would struggle working for a law firm, but in your opinion, what is the reality?

D: My experience is anything but! I’ve hired several times from outside the legal sector and think our team is stronger for it.

The reality is that there’s likely a steep learning curve for whoever joins the team, even if you hire from within the industry. My priority is making sure we make the investment in the right person regardless of their background. ​

J: I would argue it is probably the other way around. In my own experience, the lack of pressure, more relaxed deadlines and smaller and more personable size compared to large corporates/PE backed entities makes it easier.

In fact, I suspect most law firm ‘lifers’ would have a shock adjusting to corporate or particularly demanding PE environments.​

What other industries have your team come from?

J: My team is a mix of primarily legal sector experience as well as consulting, finance sector and even real estate. My own personal experience to date is roughly 50:30:20 legal, consultancy and finance (Insurance sector).

D: Professional Services, Logistics, Automotive, Retail.​​

Would you hire someone again from outside of legal?

D: Absolutely! I’m far more interested in the individual and what they can bring to the team than I am in making sure they’ve clocked up XYZ experience within legal. That can all be learnt.

J: Yes. I do appreciate the value of hiring someone with legal experience as it helps them hit the ground running but not at the expense of longer term quality.

It is far easier to train a person with all the raw attributes as to how a law firm works than to turn a lower calibre candidate into a good one.

​As these legal finance leaders confirm, by recognising the advantages of hiring finance professionals from outside the legal sector, firms can tap into a broader talent pool, foster innovation, and achieve greater efficiency in their financial operations.

Ultimately, when looking to hire, firms should focus less on where candidates come from, but more on the unique perspectives, skills and experiences they bring to the table.

Find out more about hiring Commercial Finance and Pricing Professionals into the legal sector

Read about how a Finance Business Partner made the move into legal here >

Or how a Pricing Manager made the move into legal from industry >

​If you're an experienced Commercial Finance or Pricing specialist looking for a new opportunity in the legal sector, or if you're a hiring manager looking to recruit into your legal finance & accounting team, feel free to reach out to me for a confidential discussion.

You can also view our latest roles here >

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