This episode of Leaders with Ambition illustrates the power of being open to and taking advantage of opportunities.
Verity Jackson-Grant, Head of Marketing and Business Development - Pricing at Simmons & Simmons, has enjoyed the chance to create and successfully pitch a job spec and business case tailored to her specific strengths and interests.
How did she secure that opportunity? Through a mix of a positive attitude that has opened doors throughout her career and by constantly adding value and looking at what needs to be done in a firm, being busy – but never too busy to take on whatever task that requires attention.
Verity started her career very much at random, falling into the burgeoning field of After-the-Event (ATE) insurance. She then went on to work in business development in law firms, where her teams have worked in a variety of client-facing capacities.
Her willingness to take on any task and turn challenges into opportunities has played a big part in her success. Her approach frames business development and marketing functions not just as administrative add-ons but as value-add profit centres.
When it comes to making inroads or, as Verity did, building a business case for the niche you would ideally like to fill, there is no underestimating the power of internal champions. Over the course of her career Verity has worked to bring on board sponsors who understood her mission and ROI. She shares with Nicky details of her philosophy on “the juggle” (i.e. co-equal commitments to career and family) as well as the pleasure she takes in mentoring younger colleagues while coaching more senior Partners on the constantly evolving landscape for legal business development and marketing.
Verity loves her work and has great advice to share, which will apply no matter what sector you work in!
Listen to the podcast here
Verity’s early development was shaped by parents who saw sport, extracurricular activities and, above all, finding a passion, as co-equal with academics.
In her first job in legal expenses insurance, which Verity found randomly, there happened to be a lot of room for advancement.
Evolving beyond underwriting, Verity transitioned into the legal world, progressing quickly through several early business development roles owing to her willingness to seize opportunities and make the best of challenging situations.
As the go-to person for business development, Verity was innovative and unafraid to launch new initiatives, build teams and support visionary leadership.
When she moved from Herbert Smith Freehills back to The Judge Global, it was a strategic move not based on the size of the firm but on her interest in their area of specialisation, which was a topic she was passionate about.
While she enjoyed leading the business development function at The Judge Global, she discovered that her passion lay in larger environments with variable offerings and more of a human relations element.
Transitioning to Simmons & Simmons, initially as a temporary maternity cover, Verity found herself taking on business development during a global pandemic.
Verity designed and built the business case for the client-focused niche she fills currently at Simmons & Simmons.
Verity’s role at Simmons & Simmons has evolved as she has seen gaps and opportunities to bring value to pricing conversations across the firm, whether panel rates or individual matters, pricing strategy, alternative fee arrangements, sourcing and structuring litigation funding and ATE insurance or advising clients on options, practices and standards.
Verity’s Career Highlights
Her good fortune falling into ATE insurance early and establishing a solid foundational understanding of the industry.
Reaping the long-term benefit of skill sets she has cultivated and is now able to showcase in her bespoke role.
Verity particularly relishes mentoring younger colleagues and coaching senior Partners in all things pricing and business development.
Verity recognises that she can be “a bit of an acquired taste” and that it can take time to get buy-in. She initially struggled with adapting to the law firm culture when she made that early transition but found ways to build bridges.
It helps to have both a supportive husband and a preference for working in a fluid manner, asserting boundaries when family is the priority and making up for time missed during other “off” hours. Setting expectations is important. It’s a skill!
Marketing and Business Development
Verity foresees more roles tailored to particular law firm needs/offerings with ever-more-sophisticated client-facing revenue/product opportunities and consultative focus.
Words of Wisdom:
Remember that there are really great careers within law firms that don’t require a law degree.
Show no fear!
Be respectful but if you have a point of view that you’ve given due consideration, don’t hesitate to offer your idea even to more senior team members.
Look for champions. Find people who believe in you and will support your career.
Don’t think that as you progress through your career you can leave all the duller tasks to others because more often than not, you’re bringing them with you while expanding your more top-level work.
“I don’t like things to be undone, even if they’re not within my area. If something needs doing and there’s no one else to do it, then often I’ll step in and pick that up.”
“I found it really challenging to transfer from a massive international law firm … to be someone working on my own the majority of the time. I found it really quite isolating.”
“I’m not all that good at focusing on just one thing … I tend to enjoy it much more if I have 15 different plates spinning across different projects.”
“(Simmons & Simmons) really put faith in me to make my own choices as to where I can really add value.”
“I work much better if I have too much to do rather than not enough … (and) if you’re in business development and you haven’t got enough work, then you’re not doing it right.”
“The main theme throughout my life is that I can be an acquired taste. Sometimes it takes people a little bit of time to understand where I’m coming from or trust that I’ll do what I say I’m going to do.”
“I don’t like to be beaten and I’ve managed to turn every role that I’ve done into something slightly different to what it was before or that suits my way of working.”
“Don’t think you haven’t progressed if you have to keep some level of admin. Every BD team is under-resourced. There’s no way to have enough resources because of the nature of the animal.”
About Verity Jackson-Grant:
Verity works with clients to devise pricing arrangements that meet their legal spend objectives. She also helps clients to understand which alternative fee arrangements are the most appropriate for their matter and guides clients through the process of sourcing litigation funding.
Bringing experience from both sides of the fence, prior to joining Simmons & Simmons, Verity was a Director at a leading litigation funding broker, where she worked with lawyers and their clients to develop financial solutions for the fees incurred in bringing commercial claims. She began her career as an underwriter of ATE insurance at the origins of the industry and has also spent time at two other well-known law firms.
About the host, Nicky Acuna Ocana:
Nicky has led high performing recruitment teams for over 20 years. As the Managing Director of Ambition UK, she leads a team of highly-skilled recruitment consultants who are experts in their niche specialist areas. With an extensive network of senior and board-level contacts, she is also heavily involved in Executive Search, focusing on Director level appointments across Business Services for a range of Professional Services firms.
Listen to more episodes of the Leaders with Ambition podcast here >
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