It is a bit ironic that exactly twenty years after starting my career as an attorney in a large Southern California law firm, I find myself writing an article about becoming a “rainmaker.” I vividly remember that within the first few days at the firm, I was introduced to the concept of developing business. Perhaps I was greener than most new lawyers, but before that day, I had believed that all I had to do to be successful at my firm was to be a great lawyer. Not true.
In reality, if I wanted to stay at the firm and eventually make partner, I was going to have to bring new clients into the firm. Not only that, but those clients would need to pay the firm enough money to justify my salary and to cover overhead expenses like support staff, office space, supplies, and equipment. That was no small undertaking.
I quickly learned that developing business wasn’t a requirement that my firm invented. All law firms need to bring in new clients and new matters in order to make money. I had just naively presumed that I would be able to avoid the task by making myself an indispensable worker bee for the actual rainmakers. Again, not true. Indeed, even non-lawyer professionals like paralegals and admin staff have a much easier life within the firm when they bring in new clients.
I was terrified. I had accepted a job 1,000 miles from my home where I didn’t know anybody. I came from a blue-collar background and didn’t have many business contacts anywhere, let alone in Southern California. How in the world was I ever going to convince a large company to pay my firm hundreds of thousands of dollars for legal services? The anxiety around this question followed me for years.
Little did I know, there are tried and true methods for “making it rain” that all legal professionals can pursue. In this article, we present a few of the top strategies.
Buck up and be social
This may be a tough pill to swallow for those of you who are introverts. But the truth is, business contacts exist everywhere. Whether it is at the gym, a child’s birthday party, a business networking event, or an art opening, there will be professionals around who need lawyers or who know people that need lawyers.
Even if you would rather not, you need to get out there and socialize with people. You won’t sign up a new client every time you go out, but you will make business contacts that may come in handy down the line.
This is also a great tip for non-attorney legal professionals. The more you can talk about your firm when you’re out at social events, the more likely someone is to call you when they find themselves in legal peril. And although ethical rules prohibit non-attorneys from becoming partners in law firms, they don’t prevent the firm from increasing compensation or awarding bonuses to non-attorneys who can make it rain.
Consider doing speaking engagements
Obviously, this strategy isn’t for everyone. Contrary to popular belief, not all lawyers like to talk in front of a crowd. If you are a skilled speaker, however, speaking engagements are a great avenue for developing business. Moreover, the opportunities are endless. You can speak at professional association meetings (meetings of the local contractor’s board, for example), fund-raising events, or any situation that calls for a keynote speaker.
A word of caution here, however. Don’t try to become a speaker unless you truly know the subject matter inside and out. It’s one thing to do some research, draft a speech on a topic, and then read the speech to a large crowd. It’s quite another to field questions from your audience. If you aren’t prepared to handle those questions, you might do more harm than good.
Ask for the business
One thing that many lawyers forget to do is to simply ask their contacts for their business. If you don’t, they may assume you’re too busy to take on new work. Alternatively, they may think you’re not interested. The best form of communication is clear communication. Without being too pushy, simply let your contact know that should they ever find themselves in need of an attorney, you would be happy to speak with them about representation.
Volunteering is a wonderful business development tool for a variety of reasons. First, if you pick an opportunity that you feel passionate about, you’ll be spending some of your valuable “rainmaking hours” doing something you love. You’ll also establish yourself as a genuine person who cares about your community.
And most importantly (from a business development standpoint), you will meet other volunteers who may someday be in the position in their private or professional lives to need an attorney. You better believe those people will call you first.
This is another one of those tips that work well for non-attorney professionals. In addition to helping you gain clients, you will also be able to spend time away from the office doing something you feel good about. That’s good for your mind, body, and soul.
Do you have any business tips you’d be willing to share? If so, we’d love to hear about them in the comments section, below