Business Development at a junior level – an essential component or an unwelcome distraction?

4 May, 2018

Your training contract will inevitably be a time when your brain is awash with information – learning to draft documents, developing communications skills, getting to grips with the technical aspects of your current seat, even just remembering names! So, at such an early stage in your career, is business development really necessary or is it just an extra task on your to-do list which never gets ticked off?

The truth is that it’s never too early. Whilst fee earning is obviously an integral part of a lawyer’s work, the skills of retaining clients and generating new work are just as important.

The legal services industry is competitive, over-populated even. Clients are aware that they have numerous options and therefore will be all too quick to find another firm if they are dissatisfied in any way. To build relationships, you have to show that you don’t just know their business, but that you could be an extension to their business – that you can apply the law to their already established commercial framework, understanding potential risks and foreseeing and combatting issues before they materialise. So how could it be a bad thing to start learning these skills from the start?

Business development as a trainee

During my first seat at Cripps Pemberton Greenish, I was surprised at the active encouragement of business development in the junior ranks.  I had presumed that developing relationships with potential new clients and contacts would be the domain of the partners, and the partners only. This was not the case. From my first week, I was being asked to meet and greet at a client seminar. I found that there was a genuine expectation that we, the trainees, should get involved from day one. We were set a target to attend at least two external networking events per seat, invited to attend in-house networking workshops and supplied with business cards within our first week.

I openly admit that this was a daunting thought at first. How could I, a month or so into my first seat, be expected to walk into a room of strangers and talk about law in practice? However, I quickly found that it need not be scary. The great thing about networking at a junior level is that most events are populated with people who are at an equivalent stage of their career, whatever industry that may be giving you a chance to make professional connections which you can maintain as you move up the ranks.

At networking events  business will of course be a popular topic of conversation. At a junior level, however, the memorable people are often more likely to be those that you found something in common with – a sport, music or a hobby. It is the ability to make these connections, against the backdrop of an industry in common, that help build relationships. Before I started my training contract with Cripps Pemberton Greenish, it was always the interpersonal aspect that attracted me to a career in law – meeting new people, learning about their lives, hearing their stories. Business development need not be any more complicated than this – asking questions and listening to answers, getting to know what makes them tick and essentially, foreseeing when in the future your professional paths may cross.

Cripps Pemberton Greenish Future

Cripps Pemberton Greenish has a great initiative called ‘Cripps Pemberton Greenish Future’ which is described as ‘An informal social forum for dynamic professionals at a junior level to meet and get to know their contemporaries from other businesses’. Anyone from Cripps Pemberton Greenish who is 0 – 5 years qualified is encouraged to attend the Cripps Pemberton Greenish Future events and it is a great way to get to know junior counterparts from client and referrer firms. I have been involved with many BD events in my first six months at Cripps Pemberton Greenish, both internal and external and I have certainly found that not only is it a good way to raise the firm’s profile and make professional connections, it is actually fun! I would certainly encourage all juniors (in any industry) to take up any opportunities that may come their way.