Published on 8th August 2019
I was recently clearing out the archives and stumbled across a job description for a BD Manager role for a Global Law Firm from 10 years ago.
Out of curiosity, I then grabbed a spec from the same firm for a BD Manager role we are currently working on and started to compare the two.
It quickly descended into a good old fashion game of spot the difference, but this turned out to be much harder than I’d expected;
Client development ✔️
Broad ad hoc marketing ✔️
Ideally, degree educated ✔️
Experience working at a law firm or other professional services firm ✔️
Other than the logo having been slightly tweaked (and I mean slightly), the current job spec was nearly identical to the one from 10 years ago!
It got me thinking about why these roles haven’t evolved too much over the last decade. The last 10 years have brought the iPad, Netflix, Uber, the selfie stick… (need I say more). We are on our 4th Prime Minister, A.I. simply made up 40% of the vowels as opposed to being a revolution. Yet it seems that legal business development roles have hardly changed at all. Why not?
I guess there is always the mantra that “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” and look, I get that parts of the roles have developed through technology within pitching, digital and CRM, but despite, this, the legal BD Manager job itself generally hasn’t changed that much at all.
When briefing potential candidates on roles, the conversation often comes to an end with the candidate asking to be sent through the job description and my answer is always the same: ‘Happy to send it through, but it will probably look the same as every other legal BD Manager job spec you have seen, just with a different logo’.
I personally think these specs are a really good opportunity to sell not just the role and the firm, but also the team and in particular the line Manager, their background, their experience and their personality.
The element of my role as a recruiter that has changed over this time is how we present these positions to candidates. Whereas previously I used to have to spend a lot of time focusing on the day to day responsibilities of the role, candidates now will be just as interested in the culture, the work-life balance, the team and in particular who the role will be reporting to (and of course how much pitching is involved in the role).
So what will change about legal BD in the future?
Some firms are starting to invest in bid technology that will remove the human element of the role until the first draft is sat in the Partners inbox waiting for approval.
With the number of vacant bids and BD roles outweighing the number of active candidates in the market (and this has been the case for a number of years), something will have to change. This could be a differing approach to BD, technology to streamline the BD function or firms being more open to candidates with experience from outside of professional services.
How do you future proof yourself as a legal BD professional?
I wouldn’t worry just yet, as judging by the job-flow we have had over the first half of the year, the market is busier now than it has been for a long time. While we expect that technology will continue to play a greater part within marketing and BD, the fact remains that for the foreseeable people still buy from people.
Bespoke business development plans and face to face relationship still win over technology....for the moment.
by Mark Harris