Transition from Law to Business Development: A new niche?

For any company, marketing and business development play a huge role in it’s growth and success. Nowadays, Business Development is gaining an increasing traction within the law firms as well and for this reason, it has opened an entirely different career opportunity for law students.

If you find yourself interested in organizing events and handling the business part of a company then this one might be the choice for you!

Pursuing business development after law. Transition from core legal to marketing and strategic planning.

Guiding your way

Akanksha Bisen

BD and Digital Marketing specialist at Trilegal.

She holds a degree in commerce from Gargi College and a LL.B degree from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University. She completed her Masters in Business Laws (MBL) from NLS Bangalore.

The most amazing thing about exploring niche areas is that one gets to widen their horizon to those fields of expertise which might not traditionally fit in the definition of any said profession.

Having said that, as a law student, digital marketing might not be something that was in your mind when you decided to pursue an LL.B after high school. But yet, if this is something that has interested you simultaneously while studying law or if you do not wish to pursue a career in core legal, then its time to consider this niche career path. Let’s see how.

A career in BD after law graduation: What it’s like?

Career in business development

Business development as a field within the legal industry is growing and gaining traction. As law firms mature and increase in size, the scope of marketing and business development will grow further.
In law firms, BD and marketing are closely and intricately integrated. The work essentially is to create awareness about the firm and its capabilities in the minds of decision-makers within the relevant target market - usually by deploying marketing tools such as websites, social media, newsletters, PR/media coverage, articles and webinars/seminars. You also get to work on large proposals and pitches including providing responses to RFPs.

a) Comparison between a law firm and any corporate firm: A BD point of view

It might look similar superficially. Without undermining other roles, in my opinion, the work at a law firm may be a bit serious because of several factors, particularly the limitation set by the Bar Council and the type of mandates given by the clients to the firms. You may not work on the ad commercials but you may get to organize educational videos on legal matters.
Similarly, you will not organize or attend entertainment events but you will get opportunities to attend conferences and seminars. It is quite different in many aspects.

b) Switching from core legal: The experience

While studying for my masters and working as a legal consultant, I realised and felt the nexus between business and laws. The course taught me how businesses get impacted by laws in several ways throughout their journey. My curiosity increased as to how new businesses are changing the world and how organizations are changing their working styles and processes to move forward in the competitive world. This ignited a spark in my mind to learn more about businesses, which led me to pick-up a job with a business consulting firm after my studies and a brief term at a litigation firm.
During my consulting stint, I learned more about start-ups, retail companies, franchising, marketing, and fundraising. My role was to provide business and legal advisory services to a wide variety of clients from small start-ups, e-tailers and large retail companies.
After spending three years at a consulting firm, I realised that my business advisory skillset can be best put to use in a law firm. That’s when I took up a role at Phoenix Legal. I headed their BD department and was responsible for identifying growth opportunities in national and international markets, as well as managing marketing and client relationships.

What to do as a Law Student?

Deciding career as a law student

a) Determining whether this is the right choice for you

I tried everything and then figured out what I wanted to do. Being a lawyer and coming from a middle-class family where you have road maps laid out for you, I explored my options and settled for what worked for me.
If there is a way to figure out what you want to do, it is only by process of elimination. Generally speaking, if you like organizing events, working on strategic planning and marketing instead of reviewing documents or arguing in courts, you can opt for business development side of law firms. As things mature in India, the BD function will start providing assistance in pricing and even innovation and use of analytics at law firms.

b) Gaining an internship experience before pursuing it as a career

There are no precedents, but that doesn't stop one from trying it out. Experimenting and exploring is the only way out. Write to HR or the BD team and seek internships. In BD, there are also research requirements, something that might give a sense of the work profile to law students. Even if it doesn't work out for you, you will get a different experience which will come in handy if you plan to join a firm or start your practice.
This approach is valid for this side of the law and even if you want to practice the mainstream law. I strongly recommend trying out everything – corporate, chambers, NGOs and clerkship. It is only by hit and miss you will figure out what clicks for you.

c) Should you pursue it or not?

Getting to know it firsthand is the best and the only way to figure if this is the job you would want to do. It stands true for anything you consider doing.
During your student life, keep exploring, keep testing waters, and keep introspecting how you feel while you intern. Try not to tie your experience to the place instead focus on the work profile – do you find it exciting, or are you doing it just for the sake of doing it?
Read. Understand the work. You can get some idea by reading the press releases on the initiatives launched, deals announced and media events conducted. Get in touch with seniors in this field, find mentors and seek internships. There is no better way to understand it without getting your hands dirty.

In Conclusion,

The BD function in law firms is a support function at the end of the day. It is gaining traction and will definitely find its voice in the boardroom more prominently. However, lawyers are the most priced assets of the law firms.
As a BD professional you are not in the front end with the client and you are not going to deal with legal nuances. There are visible differences in the two profiles – BD and lawyers. The difference is that – you are not billed hourly, do not use legal paper, and mostly do not pull all-nighters. As a lawyer, you are solving the complex business problem from a legal angle. As a BD professional, you are solving a business problem from strategy, growth and marketing angles.

So you can decide, accordingly!

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