Terry Cape remembers being asked the question in a training contract interview whether you could get away without business development in your legal career. He responded that you could, but you could not expect to keep up with your more network-focused contemporaries if business development was not high on your agenda. The answer gained eager nods of approval from the interviewing partners – it must have been good enough as he got an offer!
Long gone are the days when simply being an excellent technical solicitor would propel you into the partnership of a law firm… today, it may not even help you become a senior associate! Being a good lawyer is a given these days – what sets you apart from your peers and enhances your chances of promotion within your current firm or securing your dream legal role elsewhere is your business development capability.
That principle still stands today and has now perhaps been brought into even sharper focus following a recession which saw hundreds of legal professionals across the North lose their jobs. Quite simply, law firms looked at those solicitors who were more experienced associates to see not only how proficient a lawyer they were, but also how good they were at networking, client care, opening doors to new opportunities. Those who had gone beyond simply feeding off work from established clients and were seen to be keen to meet new prospective clients, or at least be seen to be building a network of contacts for the future, were recognised. Those who weren’t, were at risk of redundancy in some cases.
In short, business development is an essential part of being a lawyer in the 21st Century. Law firms expect even their trainee solicitors to be developing contacts in the local market and, certainly, once you have qualified, you will be greatly encouraged to expand your contact base – one prominent Northern law firm even sets a target of two business development ‘sessions’ per week, whether it be a coffee with a contact or attendance at a breakfast seminar. There are so many opportunities to get involved, with numerous young professional and industry-specific groups and events regularly occurring in the major cities, it is easy for young lawyers to get their teeth into the local market.
Ambitious young lawyers need to embrace business development as a part of the job. If they do embrace it, with the market continuing to settle, opportunities in the market will open up. Prospective employers love seeing a CV with good experience of networking, so only one question remains…
What are you waiting for?
If you have been thinking about a move or would just like some general advice about options in the market, please feel free to contact Terry Cape or Chris Clarke on 0113 2385965.
CapeClarke is a leading niche legal recruitment consultancy operating across Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and London. Please feel free to check out our priority legal vacancies by clicking here. Please note these legal vacancies are only a small selection of those we have been instructed on, so please get in touch if you do not see a role which looks suitable.