Studying law in law school, and pursuing it after law school is one's choice. A few start their practice as litigators, and a few start as corporate lawyers but is anyone a less of a lawyer if they pursue a different non-law domain after law school? The answer is no, and this interview is here to clear the air.
Business Development in Law is a real thing but only the most underrate at this point. Here, in this interview, Akanksha Bisen, a lawyer tells us about her journey as a Business Development Professional and what drove her to pursue this non-law domain.
1. Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Delhi but brought up in a small but now famous town, Gorakhpur. I graduated from the Army School, one of the top best army schools in India way back in 2007 and came to Delhi to pursue my commerce degree from Gargi college. I pursued LL. B from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University, and completed my Masters in Business Laws (MBL) from NLS Bangalore. I am a health freak and a martial artist. I love dancing and graduated in Kathak. My first love is writing, and I am into Hindi and English Poetry. I am a sucker for diverse experiences and that probably explains my interests in traveling, books, food, languages and cultures.
2. What inspired you to take up law? How has that changed over the years?
Many factors, actually. Being the first generation lawyer in my family is one of them.
It is always great to have a black and a white coat in the family. My dad being the holder of the white coat – I opted for the black one.
On a serious note – I always had a knack of knowing and appreciating the legal nuances. That later just spilled over my vocational side. In my extended family, we have had lawyers and judges. My discussions with them during family get-togethers led me to legal studies. Much before I studied law, I read books on constitutional law and it fascinated me. At a practical level, I believe that commerce and law are a potent combination.
To answer your second question – I think the notion that if “you are a lawyer, you must just practice law” is changing. There are so many newer avenues that one can opt for.
I come from a time when my seniors and peers gave me looks for not taking the obvious route. Now I get a lot of questions filled with curiosity – Oh, that’s interesting, I want to know more about it.
I notice a sea-change in the perception and acceptance to lawyers opting offbeat careers and I love it. Today, there are several other unconventional career options available for the lawyers including but not limited to journalism, policy analyst, content creation, and management consultancy.
3. Was there any particular factor that motivated you to incline yourself towards Business Development after working as a legal advisor?
While studying for my masters and working as legal consultant, I realised and felt the nexus between business and laws.
The course taught me how businesses get impacted by laws in several ways throughout their journey. My inquisitiveness increased on how new businesses are changing the world and how organisations are changing their working styles and processes to move forward in the competitive world. This ignited a spark in my mind to learn more about businesses, which led me to pick-up a job with a business consulting firm post my studies and a brief term at a litigation firm.
During my consulting stint, I learned more about start-ups, franchising, fundraising, marketing, and the best retail company in India. My role was to provide business and legal advisory services to a wide variety group of clients from small start-ups, e-tailers and the world’s biggest retail companies.
After spending three years at a consulting firm, I realised that my business advisory skillset can be best put to use in the topmost prestigious law firms. That’s when I took up a role at Phoenix Legal. I was heading their BD department and was responsible for identifying growth opportunities in national and international markets, managing marketing and client relationships.
As a BD Associate, one needs to be well-versed with the basics of digital world including but not limited to top specialization in digital marketing i.e. Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Social Media Optimization (SMO), networking, etc.
4. Aren’t you bothered by the fact that this job profile is a bit different from your degree of study?
I am completely at peace with my choice of career. My early professional life taught me a lot about strategy and business development. The day I realised this is something I wanted to do – I never felt like I was ‘working’. I love what I do.
5. How has been your experience as a legal professional and a Business Development professional? How different have these two job profiles been?
These are both different fields and depending on your interest it could either bore you to death or you may feel you are just getting started.
For me, it felt pretty much the same – you research, keep your mind open, practice and learn something new every day.
The difference is that – you are not billed hourly, do not use legal paper, and mostly do not pull all-nighters.
As a lawyer, you are solving the complex business problem from a legal angle. As a BD professional, you are solving a business problem from strategy, growth and marketing angles. Therefore, you will be applying some real-life learnings and involve certain application-based activities to increase the business of any organization.
6. As a lawyer, what scope does Business Development have? Do lawyers have an edge over others in this domain?
Business development as a field within the legal industry is growing and gaining traction. As law firms mature and increase in size, the scope of marketing and business development will grow further. An individual can start at the entry-level and graduate to become the head of business development eventually.
As a lawyer, I understand a legal practitioner’s limitations and the laws. I speak to them in their language. As a BD professional, I understand the market opportunities, the rapid speed at which the world is changing. I am a constant learner by virtue of this profession.
Of course, this is a niche vocation and generally requires a lot of other skill sets. Being a lawyer, I do feel that we have the edge over others from non-legal fields. We have an eye for detail, and we do read between the lines; we are better negotiators and great at stitching impressive deals.
Having said that, I believe it is a very individualistic thing. Folks from non-legal fields also have their own experiences and skillsets. I totally believe that they also have an edge over us in certain fields. In the end, soft skills hold paramount importance in the field of Business Development. This is one such field which doesn’t demand a particular set of educational degrees. Associates come from diverse background such as finance, administration, marketing and communication.
7. What would you suggest to budding lawyers who are looking forward to opportunities that aren’t entirely law-related, especially in Business Development? How should one go about it?
I am not great at giving advice, but I can share what worked for me. I tried everything and then figured out what I wanted to do. Being a lawyer and coming from a middle-class family where you have road maps laid out for you, I explored my options and settled for what worked for me. It is always important for us to explore all the options, after removing the limitations posed by our educational background.
I very strongly feel that we are all artists once we figure out what our ‘art’ is.
Artists are great because they do what they love and what they are meant to be doing.
So, my only suggestion would be - In a generation of professionals, be an artist.
Know more about Business Development in Law here.