Honing your business development skills

The training contract is a great time to develop the business as well as your legal skills.

08 May 2017

By trainee solicitor Ian Bond 

The training contract is a steep learning curve. In each seat you need to develop your technical skills, departmental knowledge and relationships to transition from newbie to an effective junior team member, all within the space of a few months. This requires considerable focus and effort; blink and the two year contract will be over. Given this, it's easy to miss out on developing a softer skill, which is important to both the trainee and the firm at large: business development. While it's traditionally seen as the responsibility of partners and senior lawyers, there are compelling reasons to take business development seriously from the start of your training contract.

Why is business development important?

We operate in a fiercely competitive environment and markets – and market players – are dynamic so we need a healthy pipeline of prospects to bring in future business. This takes time and sometimes we may need to rethink where work is coming from and what clients need from their legal advisers. Trainees are well placed to help – we can bring fresh perspective and insight in terms of potential future clients and how to connect with them.

As trainees, we have our own pre-existing network. By the time we arrive at the firm, many of us will have established a decent contact list: law school is a great forum to meet legal minds before they head off in a variety of different directions. Also valuable contacts can be found in the form of family-friends, classmates from school and those random people you met while travelling (who may eventually turn out to be the next CEO of a potential client!). 

Trainees have an appetite for the future success of the firm (healthily fuelled by self-interest at least!). There is much more opportunity for promotion in a growing business so trainees want it to be their firm to gain market share.

What can you do? 

Thankfully business development does not mean turning up to parties with a stack of freshly printed business cards. As a trainee you are a natural ambassador for the firm, frequently asked how you are finding your initial forays into the law and the people with whom you are working. People often want to know what your firm is like on the inside. To confidently explain this, it's a good idea to get your head around why clients are instructing your firm and have chosen it ahead of the competition. It's better to find something that resonates with you than spend too long seeking out ‘correct’ answers to this.

Blog and legal article writing are skills not covered at law school but will help you to build your personal profile and the firm's. For most of us the ability to write a good article, which engages potential clients, needs to be developed so will require some work. The great news is that we have some excellent legal authors and an experienced marketing team to guide you through the basics.

Trainees have great access to business development opportunities, with more time than many of our qualified colleagues to attend seminars, training and networking events. Canapé-less activities such as charity days, sports teams and neighbourhood gatherings can be excellent opportunities to meet prospects without the stifling atmosphere of official events. Walking into a room full of strangers already engaged in conversation is never easy but does gets easier with experience: the wonderful thing about being a trainee is that people do not expect you to be perfect!

Key contact

Honing your business development skills

Trainees are well placed to help – we can bring fresh perspective and insight in terms of potential future clients and how to connect with them.
Ian Bond, Trainee Solicitor

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