Priori Marketplace VP of Legal & Business Affairs David Drew on career transitions, the benefits of a legal marketplace and more
Priori Marketplace VP of Legal & Business Affairs David Drew has a unique perspective on the legal industry coming from a background in Big Law to running a network of thousands of attorneys who work for companies of all sizes on just about any type of legal project you can think of. We sat down with him to talk about his career journey, advice he has for lawyers (and others) making career transitions, the value of a tech-enabled legal marketplace and much more.
After graduating from law school, you worked as a junior associate at a Big Law firm. What was your experience like?
Working in Big Law was a great experience for me. It was harder than anticipated because of the pandemic—I graduated from law school in 2019—so it was a more internal and somewhat more socially isolating experience than I expected.
But I joined a small office of a large firm which I think is a great environment for people to start their careers in. I was willing to take a shot at whatever, so that led to me being staffed on a huge variety of matters and getting to do a lot of things that I think a first year at most firms and in most environments would not get to do.
How did you eventually find your way to Priori?
Making the decision to leave was a process. I had a profile on a job search site set up and I got an email from someone at Priori. The business model excited me.
In law school, I was a bit of a legal professional regulation dork. So, the idea of a legal marketplace model that can help support independent attorneys and attorneys at smaller firms compete for opportunities and connect with clients that might otherwise naturally gravitate toward very big firms was really interesting to me.
I had also always imagined myself working for a startup or a smaller company. The more I settled into Big Law the more I realized that it just temperamentally was not for me and I didn’t see myself doing it for the rest of my life. So I took the leap to Priori. It was a big adjustment but I am really glad to have come here.
What advice would you have for others who are interested in making a career transition?
I feel really lucky that I had a mentor at the firm who gave me a great piece of advice during one of our interviews and said that the firm was the kind of place where the expectation is there’s nothing above you and there’s nothing beneath you. Meaning, if you can step up and work on something challenging that might not typically go to someone at your experience level, but you can prove that you can reach it and be of use on it, you can do it. And similarly, no matter your experience level you might have to get hands-on and do the grunt work—roll up your sleeves and do what it takes.
I think that attitude is rare in the law firm environment but it’s also absolutely the ethos and attitude you have to have when you join a small company because truly there is nothing above me here and nothing beneath me. I’ve worked with leadership on product strategy and I’ve also helped attorneys reset their passwords. I think if I had entered Priori feeling like certain work was beneath me, it would have closed me off from experience and challenges that, in some cases, I’ve learned the most from.
What’s an example of something you learned from those types of challenges?
So much of what I do for attorneys in our network is being a good listener, being a counselor in the sense of helping them work through a problem and come to a resolution that works for them and being patient and meeting attorneys where they’re at. I’ve learned that having a hospitality mindset and taking that approach to client interaction—to give the attorneys I work with the best experience possible—is helpful in any business role where you’re dealing with external and internal stakeholders.
I think that’s equally true in the law as it is in any company. Even as a junior associate, you’re focused on being a support to more senior lawyers on the team and making things go smoothly for them so things can go smoothly for the client. I think it’s a great attitude to bring to a technology company, startup or any job that you enter: your job is to be helpful to your team.
More specifically, I’ve learned way more about vendor management and onboarding and how companies deal with spend management and accounts payable and all of that back office stuff that large law firms do a great job of absorbing on behalf of their attorneys. In a lot of ways, that’s the role we play for attorneys on our network—streamlining and facilitating relationships with clients so the attorneys can focus on their work and we can provide support when it comes to things like figuring out precisely the format in which the client needs their invoices. It’s a really interesting world that I previously knew nothing about and it shapes the profession in a way that I never would have expected.
You’re speaking to hundreds of lawyers every year, at least one every day, what brings them to the Priori Marketplace Network?
We have thousands of attorneys on the platform and really no two are exactly the same. Many of our attorneys have had experience at Big Law firms or in-house at large companies. As a rule, none of the attorneys we work with are any less ambitious than attorneys who work at those large firms and companies. It’s just that their motivations and desired end goals may be different.
We have attorneys who are intensely entrepreneurial and focused on building a firm and a brand that they have struck out on their own. They’re looking for ways to pick up as much work from as many exciting clients as they can so they can staff their team and grow their business. And Priori Marketplace is a great way for them to do that.
I also spoke with a great attorney recently who had been in-house at a large tech company throughout the pandemic and at the same time had been growing their family. It was a lot to handle all at once, and they decided to take a step back to decompress. However, they still had this phenomenal background so they used Marketplace to dip their toes back into the legal world and pick up part-time work to leverage their background while still maintaining the work-life balance that they needed.
What is the biggest trend you’re seeing on Marketplace right now?
I think the biggest trend I’m observing is general to the whole industry. We’re still dealing with the ripple effects of the pandemic and that post-pandemic boom and bust. There are companies that are under hiring freezes or working to restructure or control their teams in a way that has driven more folks onto the market for some practice areas. By that same token, there are also companies that are growing faster than ever and are really hurting to stand up talent quickly. It’s fascinating to me that almost four years in there is still such a ripple effect from that moment.
For attorneys who are curious to see what Priori Marketplace has to offer but haven’t explored it yet, what would you tell them?
If I could implant one idea into the mind of every prospective attorney user, it would be that Marketplace has a bit of everything. If you’re thinking, this isn’t for me because I don’t have the capacity to do 20 hours per week of commercial contracts or be seconded for six months on the internal investigations team with a large company, there are still great opportunities for you on Marketplace. We have clients who have all sorts of needs, big and small.
And I think the other thing I would like to tell attorneys is something I’ve been thinking about after reading [restaurateur] Danny Meyer’s book, Setting the Table, which is: It’s my job to convince attorneys that I am their agent, not their gatekeeper. My team’s entire job is to support the attorneys on our network and we want to help attorneys get great engagements and have great results. And when attorneys realize that we’re here to work with them and support them and not to control them or be a gatekeeper, our relationships are much more productive on both sides.