Including marketing and business development skills into your early professional legal education program increases your odds of success in your legal career.
It is that time of year, when the fresh faces of summer and articling students hit the firms and have their dreams of legal careers either dashed or reinforced. I usually leave orientation of summer and articling students to the more junior members of my business development and marketing team. They cover the essentials of where we are located, our names and overwhelm them with a list of sophisticated services that we provide that they won't need for a few years.
But this year I had to do orientation myself since the team in one of our offices left to start their own event management company. I also forgot I had to do the orientation and had less than 10 minutes to prepare so I pulled out my ancient orientation presentation where I would leave new wannabe lawyers' eyes glazed over thinking, “Whaaaaaaaat?!” Necessity is the mother of invention though, and under this stress and not wanting to disappoint these legal dreamers, I thought back to my days teaching marketing classes and the best feedback I received about helping people in their careers.
I used to include one assignment a year devoted to writing a resumé and cover letter. One might ask, why in a marketing class would I do that? Most people leave that to the university's guidance and career counsellors. I learned that this is the most important and longest marketing campaign most everyone unknowingly conducts. And it hits all the bases (if done properly) around the concepts of branding, marketing and business development.
Every one of us has had to contemplate our features and benefits and be able to persuasively articulate them in order to secure and retain employment. Most of us have learned through the school of hard knocks and disappointments. Why not help people with their personal branding, marketing and business development campaign right from the get-go? What is interesting is that people paid attention and learned these concepts so much better when it was all about them!
Back to my last-minute orientation presentation. . . . I thought maybe the best thing for these new students would be to get them started on marketing and business development by using their own career as the example — they will figure out where our offices are located eventually — so that is what I did. By using the two things that they had to do anyway (getting their biography written to go up on the website along with creating or improving their LinkedIn profile), they were introduced to the concepts of branding, marketing and business development in a much more relevant, user-friendly and memorable way.
Do other law firms do this? Do law schools do this? Does the Canadian Centre for Professional Legal Education include this material? I looked online and searched for topics on legal student/associate survival and could find hardly a reference that even suggested that students and junior associates learn marketing and business development. These topics aren't even included in rotations through practice areas. Yet, you CANNOT survive today without knowing and implementing these concepts. Why is this material not addressed? I think that this lack of subject matter is a huge gap in law schools, in CPLED and in law firms.
My advice to you, and to my son who just scored very well in his LSATs (congrats, honey!), seek out learning in branding, marketing and business development if it isn't offered and you will progress faster than any of your peers.