The role of the Resource Manager and how it can vary wildly

When I wrote my first job description for a Resource Manager I found it more difficult to compose than I had first anticipated. It wasn’t a copy and paste from a template job and I found myself thinking in depth about what the role really entails and what experience would fit. It made me realise that the role can vary drastically and Resource Managers typically have a such variety of different responsibilities.

During Mason & Cook pilots we support clients with the recruitment process of sourcing a Resource Manager to continue developing the function beyond the project led by a Mason & Cook Consultant. As part of this, the responsible Consultant will ensure a smooth transition of all established relationships and processes becoming the new business as usual with the recruited Resource Manager as part of their onboarding process.

As Consultants we build a solid understanding of the firm including the type and volume of work completed, how teams are and will be functioning as well as the culture and personalities within the firm. It is crucial that the right person is recruited with the correct experience otherwise engagement can dwindle and the investment in developing the function is at risk.

There are numerousways that a Resource Manager can support a firm and in my opinion these fit nicely into three main categories.

Transactional request filling

If a business has a high workload with new instructions coming in thick and fast then allocating work to fee earners is likely to be the main bulk of the Resource Managers day. The individual should thrive in a high-pressure environment, have solid reporting skills so they have full team overview of activity as well as the ability to prioritise effectively while occasionally pushing back on stakeholders.

Request filling is the “bread and butter” Resource Manager responsibility and a role focussed on allocating matters is likely to be quite junior due to it being less strategic. It may suit a candidate that came from a recruitment background that gains job satisfaction from filling “roles” and can confidently match capability and availability under pressure.

Fee earner welfare

Normally Resource Management falls under the “Operations” umbrella internally rather than Human Resources but there are circumstances where Resource Managers have an HR angle to their role. Perhaps only a small and / or geographically dispersed HR function exists and / or there is a focus on improving the employee experience. Increasing numbers of firms are now viewing Resource Management as a driver of improved diversity and inclusion by removing bias during work allocation. Another reason for the Resource Manager(s) to be brought into more typically HR led meetings.

Resource Managers often find themselves as a central point in a business where Management Boards, Partners, Fee Earners and internal teams come to them for information and advice. Resource Managers can therefore be a good source of truth and insight when it comes to team feel and wellbeing. A good Resource Manager can advise on career development and identify performance issues, distinguish where employees may be struggling and escalate all the above to HR for them to lead and manage.

Financial hygiene

The vast majority of law firms will have a central Finance team which handles planning, organising, auditing, accounting for and controlling the finances. Typically, they also generate and distribute fee earner utilisation reports which will be key for Resource Managers to know how busy their teams have been.

Resource Managers also have a role to play within keeping a firm healthy financially. They can increase profitability by keeping a beady eye on matter budgets and ensuring the correct make up of fee earners are allocated to the matter. To take it one step further, Resource Managers can often find themselves in the early conversations with Partners to assist with the pricing within the client pitch.

Resource Management teams are a massive driver in reducing fee earner missing time and ensuring timesheets are accurately and routinely submitted. They will know if a fee earners timesheet is inaccurate and they are in a position to directly talk to the fee earner with a knowledge of their workload and get it rectified.  

Within a pilot I recently led I noticed an Associate was averaging at approx. 70% utilisation when I knew they were much busier. This knowledge was from being very aware of their matter portfolio but also conversations I had had with them about struggling to maintain work life balance. After one conversation and some advice on how to keep track of their time better, they were 110% utilised from then on. The Associate was relieved that their statistics now reflected their actual busyness and that someone had taken the time to provide them with advice. Needless to say, the Partners and Finance team were also pleased.  

So in a nutshell

At Mason & Cook we often get asked, sometimes even before pilots begin, whether the recruited initial lead Resource Manager can in fact be someone that has no prior experience and / or potentially be someone already within the firm looking for a career change. Our classic answer is that it is crucial that the first hire is an individual with solid Resource Management experience that can continue to drive the change management and further imbed the function. It is then likely that the individual can train and develop an expanding team whether that be internally or externally.

Mason & Cook also provide ongoing client support to clients on a part-time basis to support recruited Resource Managers. This is a proposition we developed as client’s often requested that we assist with continuing to help the recruited team with scaling Resource Management and its benefits across the entire firm. I am currently still supporting a client for 1.5 days a month which consists of consultations with the Resource Management team and main stakeholders where the feedback leads me to create and host targeted workshops based on areas which require further development.

It’s important to note that the Resource Manager is a trusted advisor central to the business and their focus can be prioritised to what is important and required by the firm. If there are strategic priorities, then this needs to be carefully considered during the recruitment process so the right person is brought onboard and the appropriately structured team is formed.

By Alexandra Trodd

Mason & Cook