Business Development

What is business development (“BD”)?

To be a successful lawyer in today’s competitive market, business development is a must.

You will stand out from other applicants if you are legally and business savvy, as opposed to someone who is just legally astute (unfortunately this is no longer recognised as being enough). There is no class in how to improve your business development and this must be self-taught. 

Client are expecting their lawyers to become extensions of their businesses. BD therefore is partly client maintenance and keeping abreast with recent goings on at your client’s business and also the businesses impacting their stock, trade and commercial strength.  

Often business development questions allow you to sell yourself and your skills to the interviewer. Do not just list how fantastic you are and how confident you are. But use testimonials from others “how would your boss/tutor describe you” or even better use examples or experiences where you have attended client networking events or meetings and what skills you learnt from these opportunities. Demonstrate your ability to communicate effectively and to interact with a diverse range of people (are you a team player- do you play in sports teams or drama groups etc).

Go further and suggest you would welcome the chance to attend client events and seek opportunities to build up your client base from an early stage of your career. Interviewers particularly like you to mention cross-department selling. This is when you utilise existing client relationships to promote an additional practice area for example you work in the Real Estate team and often buy/sell properties for a commercial client; however, they have mentioned they are going through the process of divorcing their partner and additionally wish to draft a new will. This is an opportunity for a lawyer at a full service firm to mention both the Family and Wills team to their client. Expanding this knowledge pool quickly means that one-to-one relationships can become business-to-business relationships involving teams of people.

A good BD skill to develop is to be able to interact with technology and know how to best utilise it in order to deliver and use data efficiently. Knowing your client’s business will simultaneously mean you will be in the best position to win new business, to succeed in new business relationships and adding to existing client’s value.

Having worked during my GDL and LPC for an international energy drink, I learnt from an early stage the important of brand protection and just how valuable a brand’s reputation can be.  Going into any interview, you should fully understand what distinguishes that firm from its leading market competitors and be prepared to justify why you want to work at XZY firm. Does that law firm have any unique selling points? What is that firm’s brand message?

Networking means it is not all about work and the office. In an interview you need to be able to be a person and have a personality (not just A*’s in every subject going although this is a definite bonus card and will quite possibly be the reason you get the interview in the first place).  Sports clubs, theatre groups, popular culture attractions and anything else that you might establish common ground with a potential client are all good conversation topics. It does not just have to be about law and industry knowledge. You might find yourself at a function or friend’s dinner party who might have mentioned that you are training to be a lawyer/ are a lawyer etc. If you make a good impression on people at an early stage you never know when the phone might ring and that person/friend/ friend of that friend might need your legal advice. The ability to network is a good strategy for success.

 Firms are looking for candidates that are most likely to offer a good return after they invest in training you. You therefore want to present the best odds possible in an interview scenario.