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It's a Small World in Legal Marketing: A Look at US vs. UK / European Markets

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​Having spent more than a decade recruiting legal marketing and business development professionals, I’m struck both by the similarities and differences in how the roles have been shaped and recruited for across global markets.

This is particularly interesting given the merger activity in the industry, bringing firms ever more closely aligned and creating organizations with massive footprints, enhancing firms’ capabilities for cross boarder collaboration.

In the current and vastly competitive recruiting environment, and given my experience operating in both markets, I felt it could be informative to take a look at some of the similarities and differences between the European and US Legal Marketing markets.

What’s in a name?

Not surprisingly, while marketing roles are generally similar from a technical perspective across the European and US markets, there are differences in firm management structures that manifest themselves in the way roles are titled.

So-called “Director” roles are similar across markets, but the US use of “Associate Director” can be compared with the “Head of” role in the European market, although in my experience, US Associate Directors tend to be a bit more senior than their Head of counterparts in the UK and Europe.

Below the management level is where more meaningful differences come into play.

While the “Coordinator” title can be used in both markets, the UK/European Executive/Senior Executive level is more commonly attributed to a “Specialist” title in the US.

Having said that, I’ve also interacted with a number of US marketing professionals with an “Executive” title, and these tend to be very senior people.

Is it much ado about nothing? Yes and no.

On the one hand, the work is the work regardless of how it’s titled. On the other hand, perception within your firm and wider peer group is important to most professionals. People always like to feel valued and rewarded either by pay or increased responsibility and having that next level of “title” plays into that mantra.

Given the closer integration of the global teams, some further alignment globally might be useful.

Pay transparency

Legislative changes in New York and California brought seismic shifts to the workplace with the passage of laws related to pay transparency - and other states are following suit.

By way of example, New York State’s Pay Transparency Law, signed into law in November 2022, requires that employers looking to hire in New York publish the full salary banding for every legal marketing role they advertise, including internal promotions. This was particularly momentous because law firms typically held compensation bandings out of the public gaze.

Fundamentally, the law should be seen as positive, a proactive and unapologetic attempt to ensure a level playing field for all applicants regardless of background.

At the same time, though, the new law has had a profound effect on hiring, allowing candidates to “see behind the curtain” of the ranges that always existed but were rarely public.

This now enables candidates to have a clear window into what other firms pay for various roles, but it also makes visible, for the first time, salaries associated with job postings at their current employer.

It is important to note, however, that the listed salary bandings are quite broad, and this has the potential effect of encouraging job seekers to almost automatically expect to be paid at the top of the salary banding.

This contrasts with the UK and Europe, where, in the absence of such mandatory transparency, job seekers often don’t know the compensation range of a given position. Whether there is the appetite for European law firms to adopt the policy without legal mandate will be interesting to see.

Another distinct difference in the employment market is the US prohibition against asking candidates what they currently earn.This practice is very different in the UK, where candidates have historically provided salary history on request, and is often a requirement as part of the application process.

In my view, this is a net positive in the US as it prevents candidates from being under offered just because their current level of pay has been suppressed by their current firm comparative to the wider market.

Again, I believe the US market has the right approach, however, it is critical for firms to focus on candidates’ competency and the value they can bring to a specific role, rather than their perceived salary history.


Both markets have seen an increase in salaries across all levels, particularly since we started to move forward from the worst of the global pandemic.

Through mid-2021 and for the whole of 2022, both markets saw record job numbers, and this by and large saw salary growth in all roles.

In particular, at the management level, salaries have gone up and experience required to do the job has gone down– a direct result of law firms’ expansion of their marketing, BD and communications teams and placing additional pressures on a talent pool that has always been job rich, candidate short.

Since the end of 2022 the market has cooled, but the impact has led to firms having to readjust bandings for marketing roles across the board. As a typical example, where we would have seen a first time manager go in at the bottom of a management salary banding, we saw them often hit the middle.

Consequently, this has led to firms having to move bandings upward to give bandwidth for future growth in that role.

The Pace of Change: Giving Notice

Another major difference that influences both markets is the average length of notice periods. Typical notice periods in the UK and majority of the European market are three months, while in the US, most employees provide two weeks.

As a result, individuals taking on new roles in the US can transition quickly, leaving behind a former role and taking on a new challenge and opportunity much more quickly than in the UK and Europe. This often means that, in the US, candidates need to be adaptable to this fast pace and be able to make a decision on a role/offer more quickly than their European counterparts.

For the firms themselves, this three-month vs. two-week notice period leaves employers in the US with far less time to replace headcount. US firms must be prepared to move quickly to fill a headcount vacancy, especially at the more senior levels, or risk challenges in both hiring and work delivery.

Roles in demand

Law firms’ marketing departments are made up by a greater percentage of BD professionals than the other components (e.g., marketing, communications, social media, directories and awards, etc.).

As the competition for legal work has grown more fierce, sophisticated business development professionals make up a greater percentage of department headcount. It is not surprising that this area is still very candidate short and job heavy.

At the time of writing this, both markets we have seen an above average number of roles covering the Litigation and Disputes space over the past 18 months, in both global firms and more regional firms.

The biggest recruiting challenge continues to be the Bids/Proposals space, something I’ve seen for the past 10 years but, interestingly, has not really changed in any meaningful way.

Returning to the office

During the pandemic everyone had to react to a way of working that was never envisaged, we went from full time, 5 days in the office, to fully remote in a matter of days. Since the pandemic is thankfully now in the rear-view mirror, firms and candidates have been trying to work out what the “new normal” looks like.

Between the US and European markets, the majority of firms seem to have landed on 3 days in the office versus 2 days flexible, which appears to have appeased both parties and a policy I anticipate will continue.

The post-pandemic boom is over

While we saw signs during 2023, we are now effectively back into a pre-pandemic market where the vast majority of roles are replacement headcount opportunities.

It took a number of the big firms until mid-2023 to have a fully stocked team post-pandemic, so the challenge and focus is now more on retaining those individuals hired and setting expectations around development and promotion.

Final thoughts

This comparison of the US and UK and European markets is more than a geographic exercise. It demonstrates that, despite geographic differences, there continues to be a one-industry approach to recruitment in marketing, BD and communications.

It also suggests that the leverage pendulum may be shifting in the direction of candidates at least slightly, owing to salary transparency laws and a reasonably active recruiting environment.

If you'd like to discuss the market in more detail, feel free to reach out to me.

Browse legal BD & Marketing jobs in the US here >

Or find law firm Marketing & BD jobs in UK / Europe here >