What does a Business Development Executive do in the UK?

Author Charlotte Ley
April 11, 2024

A Business Development Executive wears many hats when working in law firms.

This multifaceted role acts as the bridge between the firm’s legal expertise and a commercial market.

Business Development Executives are constantly working to attract new clients, strengthen existing relationships, help deliver the firm’s business plans and marketing strategies, and ultimately achieve its financial goals.

Generally, Business Development Executives help deliver strategies created by Managers. They implement campaigns, plan events, help identify key opportunities with existing and current clients, and tackle delivery and execution.

Business Development Executives are usually one career step above an entry-level role, such as Business Development Assistant. The internal team setup depends on the firm. Business Development Executives might sit on a business development team, marketing team or alongside specialist team members in events and proposals – giving them exposure to all of these areas. They often report to a Head/Director of Business Development or Marketing.

What does a Business Development Executive do day to day?

There are many roles and key responsibilities for Business Development Executives in law firms that are based in the UK. These depend on the firm, but their job description might include these business development activities and initiatives:

  • Market research: Helping to identify market and client trends, plus growth opportunities from existing and new potential clients. By learning and understanding their clients’ needs, they can effectively plan legal services to fulfil their demands. Business Development Executives will also support monitoring and progressing client plans, team propositions and market data reports. They will so update departments on relevant activities when targeting prospective clients
  • Marketing and content creation: Business Development Executives might help to create marketing collateral, newsletters, events invitations, brochures and more. They may also manage the firm’s website and social media platforms. Internal communications might be involved in their day-to-day role, such as intranet communications and internal newsletters
  • Event management: Business Development Executives may be expected to promote the firm by managing the events process from planning to execution. These events often take place virtually – such as webinars and roundtables – or in-person through networking and large-scale conferences and hospitality events
  • Profile raising: Business Development Executives support legal directories and awards submissions such as Chambers and Legal 500
  • Pitching: Business Development Executives are likely to be involved in preparing documentation for tenders, presentations and other business development opportunities – providing valuable support to secure new clients
  • Reporting – The role may also include keeping track of social media interaction, maintaining pitch deadlines, and monitoring campaign metrics to evaluate performance
  • Client relationship management  (CRM): Firms are becoming increasingly data-driven so they can make more informed decisions on systems and strategy planning. Business Development Executives are likely to support this, such as running client-listening programmes to gain deeper insights. Combining qualitive and quantitative information gives the function a more rounded and accurate view

What does a Business Development Executive make in a law firm?

The average salary for Business Development Executives in law firms varies based on the company size and location, as well as the professional’s experience and skillset. Generally, these roles in law firms are given a higher salary than in other professional services sectors such as accountancy and real estate.

Entry-level Business Development roles can earn between 30,000 GBP and 35,000 GBP as a base salary, stepping up to Business Development Executives at 35,000 GBP to 45,000 GBP, while more experienced professionals with a track record can earn closer to 60,000 GBP as you reach the Senior Executive level.

What skills and experience should a Business Development Executive have to work in a law firm?

Business Development Executives should have a diverse skillset that cover soft and hard/technical skills including:

  • Sector or practice group experience: Many law firms based in the UK have specific hiring requirements, including experience in particular practice or sector groups, but are struggling to find the talent they need. This is driving them to look more closely at transferrable skills such as interpersonal and communication skills, commercial acumen and analytical abilities
  • Stakeholder management skills: Business Development Executives need to be able to build and maintain relationships with stakeholders of all levels. They also need to understand the firm’s Partnership matrix model which will operate differently from large corporates. Each Partner will have their own goals, ideas, styles and targets so this role needs to navigate these conflicting agendas
  • Qualifications or certifications: Academic requirements often vary, but most law firms based in the UK prefer at least some educational experience as well as professional. For example, a Business Development Executive might have a bachelor’s degree in marketing, business or similar, but this isn’t a necessity and there are many courses available that can help a Business Development Executive progress in their career

Can Business Development Executives specialise?

Business Development Executives can be specialists or generalists. Law firms based in the UK vary in many ways with different nuances and structures. Some Business Development roles align to a particular jurisdiction, sector or practice group such as corporate, finance or technology which enables these professionals to become experts in those areas.

Particularly in smaller firms, Business Development Executives work across many practices and Partner groups – providing exposure to this variety of areas. Business Development professionals tend to become more specialised as they progress through their careers.  

What is the career path for a Business Development Executive in a law firm?

Business development offers a vast remit where an Executive can use their experiences and strengths to build their own career path.

Career progression can be achieved quickly for proactive Business Development Executives in these law firms as candidates are consistently desirable for vacancies. The tenure of this level tends to be between 12 and 18 months – whether they’re progressing internally or changing employers.

Many Business Development Executives follow the natural path from Executive or Coordinator to Business Development Manager, Senior Business Development Manager and beyond. This is especially likely when an Executive finds their niche within a specific sector or practice group, or a specialism such as client relationships, pitching or commercial operations.

Some Business Development Executives choose to transition between professional services sectors like accountancy, management consultancy, real estate or property. The role can often become more marketing focused in these sectors compared to law firms based in the UK.

There are also opportunities for Business Development Executives to stay within the same sectors but move abroad. Global companies are increasingly looking to hire professionals based on their transferrable skills and will go the extra mile for the right candidate. Business Development Executives should consider looking at multi-location organisations and familiarising themselves with knowledge of the relevant international markets.

Can Business Development Executives work on an interim basis for law firms?

While it’s more common for Business Development Executives in these law firms to work on a permanent basis, there’s an increasing appetite for companies hiring interim roles. This is for a range of purposes such as project-based work, temporary support, leave cover and specialised expertise.

An interim professional is usually employed on a fixed-term contract that can last for weeks, months or even years.

There are many benefits for Business Development Executives to work on an interim basis:

  • Flexible working: interim Business Development Executives can often choose their projects, schedules and which law firms they work with. This gives them the flexibility to improve their work-life balance and wellbeing
  • Project variety: working on an interim basis gives Business Development Executives exposure to a variety of projects and challenges – gaining experience from multiple firms and expanding their skills to meet the industry’s needs
  • Specialising: interim Business Development Executives can choose and improve their BD specialism which could include CRM, digital, social media, events/webinars and more. Specialisation can often enable professionals to demand higher salaries
  • Salary: interim Business Development Executives can earn higher salaries than permanent or full-time employees depending on how they charge for hourly rates or temporary work
  • Networking: it’s important for interim Business Development Executives to network with the legal industry – including Partners, Attorneys, marketing professionals and more. This is how they generate new business opportunities and referrals

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