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Why Business Development Jobs Make Good Alternative Careers for Lawyers

It’s pretty common to find that business development executives also happen to be lawyers. Today’s guest, Cathy Kim, is one of those lawyers. She’s a former Big Law senior litigation associate who, after leaving the law, changed careers to become a business development executive working at a start-up renewable energy company.

Cathy tells us that the variety of hats you get to wear in these roles make business development jobs exciting. Although a law degree isn’t necessary, she says the legal skills used on a regular basis in business development jobs help to make this path one of the alternative careers for lawyers worth exploring.

  Join JD Careers Out There for access to this video plus more day-in-the-life career path interview videos & transcripts.

Today’s Guest

Cathy Kim, business development executiveBusiness Development Executive Cathy Kim
Title: Senior Manager, Contracts & Strategy, Renewable Energy Start-Up
City: Los Angeles, CA
Law School: UC Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, CA
Grad School: USC Marshall School of Business (MBA)
College: Yale University in New Haven, CT
Previous Career: Big Law Senior Litigation Associate
Cathy’s Videos: Business Development Jobs & Cathy’s Career Advice

Business Development Jobs

Business development jobs tend to focus on strategically growing a business, which can include anything from studying the overall industry in which you’re operating to building relationships and negotiating strategic alliances and partnerships with third parties.

In the full career video, Cathy describes the broad mix of work in business development jobs, explaining what legal skills are used and how they’re used. She carefully breaks down the details on why working in business development makes for good law graduate jobs, and even explains how having a law degree provides an advantage in the business world.



This is a preview of the video transcript on working in business development.

Join JD Careers Out There for access to the full version of this transcript plus the career guidance video library & transcripts.

Luber: Hey everyone – Are you looking to make your law degree work for you without actually practicing law? We’re gonna look at some popular non-legal jobs for lawyers today. We’re exploring business development jobs today on JD Careers Out There – so stick around!


Alright – As you may already know, at JDCOT we explore career paths you can do with a law degree – both in and out of law – and we do this to help you find a career that fits you – so you can love what you do.

I’m your host Marc Luber, the founder of JDCOT. I’ve always used my law degree to work in alternative careers for lawyers – first in the music industry and then as a legal recruiter. I’ve been helping lawyers with their careers since 2003 and I’m excited for the opportunity to help you.

Today I’m gonna talk to Cathy Kim, a former senior litigation associate at an international law firm who is now a business development executive at a renewable energy start-up in Los Angeles. Her official title is “Senior Manager of Contracts & Strategy”.

Cathy’s gonna share TONS of great advice with us comparing and contrasting big law firm life to being a JD in the business world. She’s great at articulating how your JD skills translate beyond the world of law firms.

Cathy, welcome to JDCOT!

Cathy Kim: Thanks Marc. Thanks for having me here.

Luber: Cathy, tell us about business development jobs. What does it mean to be a business development exec at a renewable energy start-up?

Cathy Kim: It means that I do almost everything, which is what’s fantastic about the job.

I talk to our customers and deal with – I basically answer their questions, I talk to potential customers – people who we want to buy our equipment to put on solar fields, and I generate a lot of financial models and power models so that they’ll know how much power they’ll get out of the land they’re talking about, and talk to them about installation costs and how many people they’re going to need to clean the equipment after they put it in.

I talk to a lot of people.

And then there’s the other side of it – there’s a real estate part of it where I’m actually looking for land for our customers who want to put in projects but they don’t know exactly where to go. So I’m finding the right land, I’m negotiating it with the land owners and then I’m taking it through the land use entitlement process in whatever county or state it’s located in.

At the other end of it, once we put in a project, I’m dealing with getting it through all of the contractual obligations that we’re required to do before we deliver the project. I’m doing a lot of interior strategic initiatives where the company says, “hey – is it better to do this in-house or should we outsource it? Could we make a profit? What is more financially feasible, etc?” So it’s a lot of different things.

Luber: Wow! That sounds really exciting because there’s so much involved there – so many different hats to wear.

Cathy Kim: Which is what I really love.

Luber: Nice! What’s the most rewarding aspect of this business development work?

Cathy Kim: Aw, geez, that’s a lot of pressure! Ha, ha!

The little small shining star moment is it’s really great not being the lawyer, I have to say, because the business people give the lawyers everything to do and the lawyers work all night and work all weekend to do it.

The business people go home and enjoy themselves for the weekend and magically, on Monday, in their email, is everything that the lawyers have been doing over the weekend. So that is the small shining star that I really appreciate.

I think, for me, I almost feel like I’m in a risk-free position because I feel like I could do anything in the business world. The upside is absolutely unlimited and I have all of these reading, research, oral advocacy skills that are really strong compared to most people in the world.

So my worst case scenario is that I’ll practice law and make money. And when you know that’s your worst case scenario, it empowers you to do a lot, empowers you to take a lot of risks that you might not have normally taken. And lawyers tend to be risk averse, and so maybe couching it that way will help you to take the leap that you need to.

Luber: Ha! Excellent advice. Love it. Anyone who isn’t happy practicing law or feels like stepping into law practice wouldn’t allow them to be happy should take that leap.

Let’s dive deeper into all of this in the full interview. In addition to hearing more about business development jobs, you’ll hear Cathy address topics around leaving the law – like whether the path to law firm partnership is for you, how to manage your money so that you can avoid golden handcuffs – and how to transition into the business world.

You’ll want to join the JDCOT membership for access to the full video as well as the library of deep-dive career path interviews & transcripts to get your career on track. Check out what people say about JDCOT by clicking here.

Thanks again for watching everybody. I’m Marc Luber and I’ll see ya soon.

[theme song]

©2019 Careers Out There

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More From This Guest

JDCOT's self-reflection questionnaire 


Thinking of leaving the law? The best first step you can take is a good look in the mirror. START HERE:

it's free!
You’ll also get periodic updates, reminders & access to career guidance programs sent to your inbox. We respect your privacy. You can unsubscribe via a click at any time.