Working at a law firm doesn’t necessarily mean being a lawyer. As well as our legal teams, we also have Business Development, Finance, HR and IT teams, to name just a few, all working together to keep our business running smoothly.
While we’re well-known for offering legal training contracts and apprenticeships, we also offer Business Development placement year opportunities for university students looking to gain invaluable experience in the world of business marketing, communications and client relationship management.
Here, student Deepali Ram, who started her Business Development placement in September 2020, talks about her experience so far and what she’s learnt – especially amidst a global pandemic! Deepali is a Business Development Assistant, specifically working within the Corporate Communications team.
Q: Which university are you from and what are you studying?
A: I’m a placement student at Aston University studying English Literature and Sociology. Picking my degree was a difficult choice for me, particularly as a Sixth Form student preparing to pick a career path – I was passionate about so many things. I decided on English Literature easily as I’d always had a fondness for journalism and creative writing. Sociology however, was a spontaneous choice as I’d never studied it previously, but being deeply interested in anthropological and social issues I picked it and thankfully it ended up being a decision that has complimented English Literature and my current position as a placement student now. It’s a subject that I think should definitely be compulsory for everyone!
Q: Why did you choose to do a placement year and what were you looking for in a placement?
A: By picking subjects as broad as English and Sociology with so many transferrable skills, this left me with a myriad of potential career paths – all of which would not be possible to experience and make a decision upon within the short space between graduating and finding a post grad job. I decided that by doing a placement year it would give me: a) a year of experience in a professional work environment to prepare me for life outside of my student bubble and b) the ability to experience working in different departments and see which areas I enjoyed most.
Thinking back to my application process, what I was really looking for from my placement was a role that would give me the opportunity to get involved in different skills and projects. While applying for roles, it became very clear to me which roles would offer an educational and well-rounded experience. While many roles would involve a lot of mundane paperwork tasks, luckily my role here at Gowling WLG stood out to me as the former rather than the latter. I also looked for a company that placed importance on the wellbeing of their employees and the impact that they had on the wider community because if I was going to be part of a company, I wanted to make sure I worked for one that stood for the same things I did.
Q: Why did you choose business development?
A: As you have probably noticed, I don’t study business at university and so initially, I didn’t really consider business development as a career choice – I assumed that it would be a lot of numbers and spreadsheets. However, upon researching different roles, I realised that the brilliant thing about business development is that nothing is set in stone!
A lot of the skills in different roles within this department are transferrable and there’s so much more to it than just numbers – there’s creative, anthropological, writing and research opportunities too. There’s so much room for progress and personal development. I also realised that by choosing an area like business development with so many different roles, every day is different.
Q: What is your role within the business development department here and what are your main responsibilities?
A: I’m a business development assistant and specifically work with the Corporate Communications team, supporting various members of the team on the firm’s marketing, content and PR projects. This gives me a really good insight into all of their roles. Some of my main responsibilities are supporting on the firm’s media reporting and on insights, which are the articles you see on Gowling WLG’s website. This means liaising with the communications executives and lawyers on the creation of articles, formatting and uploading them to the website and creating the marketing email to share with relevant mailing lists. I also write pieces of content such as award entries and have recently had the chance to work on a wellbeing project, looking at ways to promote better mental health practices for our colleagues, especially during such challenging times.
Q: What would you say about your experience so far, especially during the current pandemic?
A: It’s definitely not what I expected, but all things considered I think my experience has been the best I could possibly ask for. I’ve had an enormous amount of support from my team and using Zoom and similar programmes, they’ve tried to replicate the ‘real-life’ placement as closely as possible. I’m regularly in contact with my team and they get me involved in so many different learning opportunities and continue to check in with me and be patient with me as I learn along the way. What stands out to me about my experience here is that the team’s focus isn’t just to make sure I get my tasks done, but that I get the most out of my time here.
My manager in particular has regular meetings with me to see how I’m getting on and sets targets for me to make sure I’m continuously learning, improving and stepping outside of my comfort zone, whilst still making sure that I’m enjoying my time here and am coping well amidst everything that’s going on in the world!
Q: What are the main things you’ve learnt so far on your placement?
A: The list is endless but I’d have to say one of the main things I’ve learnt is the ability to manage my time more effectively and prioritise. My role as a business development assistant means that I have the opportunity to work on lots of projects with different members of the team, often at the same time- something that seemed near impossible before my time working here. But over the past six months, I’ve learnt that clear communication and organisation is the key to doing well in your placement role.
I’ve also learnt about the importance of making connections and building good relationships with my colleagues and contacts and how much it can help in the future.
Q: What advice would you give to someone looking to do a similar placement?
My advice would definitely be to go in with an open mind and not to only limit yourself to roles and tasks within your comfort zone – get involved with anything and everything you can. I came into my placement knowing my strengths and weakness and I avoided things I thought I wouldn’t excel in, but by throwing myself into those tasks I’ve become more comfortable with the areas I need to improve and have developed a well-rounded skill set. I’d also advise not to worry too much about making mistakes – your placement year is all about learning and mistakes are part of the learning curve.
About the author(s)
Gowling WLG is an international law firm operating across an array of different sectors and services. Our LoupedIn blog aims to give readers industry insight, technical knowledge and thoughtful observations on the legal landscape and beyond.