Ex-City trainee switches to business development
Hannah Boddy trained at Travers Smith, where she was offered the department of her choice on qualification. However, instead of deciding to practise, she moved internally to become a business development manager. We asked her about making the move away from fee-earning and how she finds her new role.
mtl: Hi Hannah, why did you decide not to practise law on qualification?
Hannah: As I was reaching qualification at Travers Smith, the opportunity to move to a business development role came up and I saw it as a chance to use my legal experience in a different way. I hadn’t previously been looking at alternative jobs and would have qualified into property if it hadn’t become an option. I figured that nobody could take away the fact that I was qualified, and that it would be a shame to miss out on a rare role within a firm that I very much wanted to keep working for. Having said that, it was still a difficult decision, but after mulling it over I decided to go for it.
mtl: What was it about business development that appealed? And what does the job involve?
Hannah: I liked the idea of working with the firm as a whole. I could see the importance of the business development function in taking the firm forwards. I still contribute to the business, but in a different way and I get involved in everything from PR, brand identity and advertising to client relationship management.
I work in a small team of three, so it is all hands on deck. We work reactively and deal with press releases, pitches, adverts, directories, awards submissions, business plans and projects. The work is seasonal and rather than e.g. just being involved in one big deal, I frequently handle a whole range of enquiries and issues. It depends on the firm that you work for whether you could be a generalist or whether you would have to specialise in a specific area such as PR. I feel very lucky to be getting such varied experience at Travers Smith.
Law, University of Bristol
LPC, College of Law, Guildford
Trainee, Travers Smith
Business Development Manager, Travers Smith
I often work with creative design agencies, which is very interesting as I have had to engage in a whole new language away from black-letter law. It is certainly appealing to my creative side which I felt I didn't get to use practising the law. I am really enjoying it and have no regrets about moving in this direction.
mtl: What sort of person would be good at a business development role?
Hannah: You would need to be very organized as well as personable and approachable. Fee-earners have to feel that they can ask you for assistance and you have to be able to deal with the press. It definitely helps to be an ex-lawyer as you have an understanding of the deals that the fee-earners are working on. As with being a lawyer, you have to be professional and commercial.
You are also the “front of house” for the outside world and an ambassador for the firm, so you have to be presentable. You will spend a lot of time speaking to people and going to a variety of functions. You will never be stuck in an office all day like you can be as a lawyer!
I really enjoy this job because I am a people person and I deal with the entire firm and the outside world all day. I have constant interaction and I enjoy supporting all the different departments, as it is very rewarding. I work set hours as it is obviously not a deal reactive lifestyle, though I often attend evening functions such as awards dinners.
mtl: Have you found the switch hard?
Hannah: No, I think it was fairly easy for me because I was staying at the same firm and the partners were positive about the move. I also knew most people in the firm already. Although I enjoyed my training contract, and seriously considered qualifying into property, I am very happy with this job and doubt that I would go back to practising law now.
I imagine that some people could find it hard no longer being a fee-earner in a firm, because of the change in status. It is different for me because I had previously been a fee-earner at Travers Smith. Also, the support departments are valued so there is no “us and them” culture. There is a real sense of involvement for the support teams at Travers Smith - all of the departments are considered to be integral to the business. If you were thinking of joining a firm to do business development then I think you could get a sense of its culture and how support services are viewed from speaking to them and seeing their literature – in the same way that you would if applying for a fee-earning role.
The career progression depends on how the firm is structured and the size of the team. The hierarchy and job titles vary from firm to firm. Our team is small and there is a whole host of opportunities to progress my career and take on more responsibility. There are lots of different aspects to the role and I could choose an area that I wanted to focus on in the future.
mtl: Any tips for lawyers thinking of business development?
Have the confidence to jump into something different if you don’t want to practise law. Look at your strengths and listen to yourself. Don’t get caught in the ego trap of being too concerned about the status of being a lawyer.
If you are interested in business development and marketing in general, then learning about it in the legal sector is a great way to gain experience. You could then use it as a stepping stone, rather than making such a big jump by trying to go to a new sector as well as a new role. If you find that you like it and are good at it you can progress within the sector or go on change sector with the experience you have gained.
mtl: Thank you Hannah.
If you know any other ex-lawyers who have gone and done something interesting or unusual with their lives then please get in touch.
Send this feature to a friend