Some of you may have noted from my earlier blog that I was in New York last week. I’ve worked with American clients and colleagues throughout most of my career and I’m also half American myself – but, despite all that, I learnt a lot about the legal sector in the US in what was an amazing trip. I thought people might be interested in some of my key take outs from the week – deliberately kept in short bullet point form. I stress these are just my humble personal views and observations and I’d welcome any comments – even if you disagree!
- It really is a very different type of business environment to London – more so than I had appreciated before, particularly if you set aside the commonality of language. The approach is more transactional and direct than it is here, with less dialogue and more process. I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.
- Related to this, the demands on PR teams from the broad legal media and directories are (it seems) greater than in London. It feels like there is simply more of everything – publications, directories and award schemes.
- While London is an important market to the big US firms, it is just one of many key jurisdictions which have to be serviced. A bit like at the political level, the special relationship is perhaps not quite as special as we like to think. That said, there is real interest in the perception of US firms in London and which firms have nailed their profile raising efforts and which ones haven’t. (I shared my views with the CMOs and Communications Directors I met but am too discreet to reveal them here!)
- The war for talent at all levels is massive – maybe even more so than here in the UK. Hiring and retaining people is a major issue for everyone I spoke to. Business Development teams are lean, so when somebody leaves it’s a headache. Notice periods are so much less than in the UK, which exacerbates the issue.
- The mood initially seemed a bit subdued and it felt as if returning to office has been a bit slower than in London. Nowhere felt particularly crowded but Manhattan was definitely busier in the middle of the week than at the beginning and end. There is some reticence about using the subway even though it’s the quickest way to get around.
- I was struck by the amount of UK high street brands that had established themselves on 5th Avenue – I spotted All Saints, Ted Baker, Superdry and others. Prets are everywhere and I discovered my coffee subscription worked – hallelujah! Though the US version of Early Grey and English Breakfast tea tastes kind of weird.
- Finally, if you get a chance to get out to Brooklyn it’s fantastic! Particularly Williamsburg (which feels like Shoreditch with an extra shot of adrenalin) and Brooklyn Heights, the latter of which I would happily move to tomorrow.