Balance case study: Commercial finance manager, global law firm


Tell Us A Little About What Your Current Position Involves On A Day To Day Basis:

Lots! It really can be varied which is what makes it interesting. This can range from business review meetings, analysing current performance vs. budget, pricing, profitability analysis, review of potential lateral hires, project work, and trend analysis. There is always something going on!

Every role has its ups and downs. What are the good, the bad and ugly parts of your current position? 

The Good: 

There is huge opportunity to drive change and have a real impact. Law is changing at an ever-increasing pace and the commercial role is seen as pivotal to this, helping to shape strategy and ensure the business is aligned to it. You can see the value of your contribution which is very rewarding.

The Bad:

Law firms are never the quickest to react to change and therefore there can be a level of frustration in driving changes through. It is one thing having agreement that change need to take place, but another to get them over the line.

The Ugly:

Being commercial means you are ultimately the face of finance – the ones on the front line. Therefore, it also requires you to handle the difficult conversations and questions or complaints which are not always specific to anything you have done, but are expected to understand and resolve.

What advice would you give to someone eager to develop their career within a commercial finance team? 

Work hard to develop a rounded skill set. It is important to have the technical skills but equally important that you have the people skills to go with it. A crucial part of the role is being able to translate financial data into terms that non-finance people can understand and then be able to persuade them to follow the strategy. You need to be able to hold firm and know how far you can push, which is a difficult balancing act.

What is your number one tip on how to be successful in the role of Commercial Finance Manager?

Remember that there are two sides to every coin – you have to be able to see it from a client or Partner perspective as well as simply looking at the numbers and deciding yes or no. There is a much bigger picture to think about.

If I am allowed a second (!), I would also say it is important to develop a thick skin!

If you were hiring for your team, what stands out to you when reviewing applications?

Aside from the usual skills required, I look for personality. I want someone who can engage Partners and adapt their style to suit the situation in order to achieve the right outcome. Commercial finance means being people-facing so ultimately you need to be ready to put your best foot forward whatever the situation and find a way to reach the best outcome for all parties.

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