Honing Your Rainmaking Skills: How Attorneys Can Develop And Cultivate New Client Relationships
Whether you are a solo practitioner,
an associate or a partner, the
ability to bring in business is
fundamental to the success of your professional
life. The more business you
bring to your firm, the more economic
value you provide and the more control
you have over your professional life.
Rainmaking allows you to bring in
the clients with whom you wish to
work, do the work you enjoy, build your
profile, enhance your reputation and
increase your value to the firm.
Rainmaking, however, remains an
elusive pursuit for many lawyers, even
though most of them are already implementing
some of the necessary skill
sets, such as networking, speaking and
writing. But such qualities by themselves
are not enough. Successful rainmakers
must possess four critical attributes
that, when applied in a cohesive
and consistent manner, will generate
business. Those attributes are: having
the right mind-set; taking leadership
roles; caring for, protecting and guiding
clients; and exhibiting time management
Having the right mind-set when
starting business development activities
is key. Business development is like a
retirement portfolio; you must contribute
regularly to ensure a rewarding
outcome. Investing haphazardly or in
lump sums will not reap the same dividends
as regular contributions.
Similarly, rainmaking does not happen
overnight, but only after the seeds have
been planted, cultivated and nurtured.
Confidence in your abilities and the
right attitude is essential, as rainmaking
is a process that requires learning,
tweaking and refining. During business
development activities there will be
numerous rejections, unreturned phone
calls and situations where positive outcomes
were anticipated. Ford Harding,
author of Rainmaking: The
Professional's Guide to Attracting New
Clients (1994), says all too often attorneys
tend to take rejection personally
when they may not have the whole picture
of what is occurring in the other
person's life. Having a confident state
of mind, knowing that the rejection is
not personal and being able to continue
in a steadfast manner, will go a long
way toward maintaining a positive
Attorneys also need to be cognizant
of the unstructured nature of rainmaking.
Unlike the legal work attorneys
perform daily, where there is a clear
structure of beginning, middle and end,
the rhythm of rainmaking is very different.
In many instances there will be no
structure or system provided by the
firm, but one that must be created by the
practitioner himself. It is imperative to
be consistent in business development
activities, whether you focus for an hour
at the beginning or end of the day.
Getting involved in business development
only when business is slow will
result in disappointment and frustration.
Ultimately, good rainmakers
always see the glass half full rather than
Taking on leadership roles in professional,
trade and civic organizations
helps build your reputation and visibility
and, more importantly, helps you get
known, liked and trusted by target constituents.
Leadership positions allow
prospects to view firsthand how committed
they are to these roles and
Yet many attorneys fall into the trap
of following a textbook approach to
increasing and building their profile by
carrying out marketing activities they
don't really enjoy. To ensure success in
your business development endeavors,
it is essential to choose enjoyable marketing
tactics. Speaking, giving CLEs,
writing bylined articles, putting seminars
and conferences together and
becoming a source for the media are all
ways to increase visibility.
The key is to pick two to three of
these activities and to apply them consistently.
An attorney resistant to public
visibility may want to start by writing
for trade publications, becoming a
source for the press or playing an active
role on a committee of a trade organization
that is responsible for planning and
organizing educational programs and
The best rainmakers understand the
80/20 rule when deciding which clients
to focus on and how best to maximize
their time. The premise of this rule is
that 20 percent of your clients generate
80 percent of the firm's business.
Understanding the implications of this
rule enables rainmakers to establish
themselves as the trusted advisor to
their best clients; after all, these are
clients with whom they have relationships
based on demonstrated legal expertise.
The more attention they pay to these
clients, the more business they are likely
Good rainmakers take the initiative
and time to get to know the problems and
challenges facing their best clients. In
turn, clients will rely on the attorney to
see and anticipate any potential legal
problems they may have, which may
lead to additional business opportunities
for the firm. Failure to provide such
client-centric focus, however, will often
result in clients taking their business
On a practical level, becoming more
of a client-focused practice could be as
simple as establishing a number of contact
points beyond work-related issues.
This could involve sending a news clipping
of interest to the client, or forwarding
an article that you or another attorney
in the firm has written relating to the
client's circumstances. Attorneys can
also take note of client spouse/family
details and/or any special interests they
may have. Bottom line, the rainmaker's
objective is remaining on the client's
radar beyond the legal responsibilities.
The client needs to know and feel that
they are genuinely cared for.
The final attribute that all successful
rainmakers share is having good timemanagement
skills. The best rainmakers
know how to prioritize and focus on the
most important tasks so they don't miss
out on opportunities that might otherwise
fall through the cracks; they
remember, for instance, to follow up and
to keep calendars of important dates for
clients. They know when to delegate and
outsource tasks to others. They also
know which activities are time wasters,
particularly the random acts of networking.
On a very simple level this translates
into taking an audit of how they spend
their time before embarking on a focused
rainmaking plan. The audit includes two
lists: a to-do list and a not-do-to list; the
latter will bring to the surface all the
activities that are time wasters and reveal
how much time they take.
Stephen Covey in his first book,
First Things First, has a time management
matrix, which he breaks into four
classifications: The first quadrant contains
all the time-sensitive deadlines.
The second quadrant focuses on important
tasks but that are not time-sensitive.
The third quadrant contains items that
are not important or deadline-oriented,
but we fool ourselves into believing they
are important. For example, this quadrant
often includes random acts of networking
conducted by attorneys who
don't have a strategic plan in place. The
fourth quadrant includes activities that
should be outsourced or delegated, as
well as other tasks that are counterproductive,
such as reviewing e-mails all the
time. The key is to find a system that
works for you and then focus on business
development activities consistently.
Having good legal skills is a given;
rainmaking is both an art and a skill.
Most successful business developers are
not born with rainmaking magic but have
cultivated and learned the skills during
their careers. In turn, when they see the
successes they become more confident
and continue building upon them. The
more attorneys know how to attract
clients, serve their needs and make
money, the more control they will have
over their professional lives.
This article is reprinted with permission from the May 7, 2007 issue of New Jersey Law Journal. © 2007 ALM Properties Inc. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. All rights reserved.
About The Author
Paramjit Mahli is with Sun Communications Group of New York, N.Y., a marketing and public relations company that works primarily with small law firms.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.
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