Lawyers who aspire to be partners or run their own shop are inevitably expected to put down their legal pads and do something law school never trained them to do: generate new business.
And for many, the pressure to become a so-called “rainmaker” — that mythical creature whose legal brilliance is matched only by their genius for attracting new clients and fresh revenue streams — can be terrifying.
“The biggest myth about rainmakers is that they are a specific personality type, and that only certain people can become rainmakers,” says Jaimie B. Field, Esq. “That’s not true. The only reason most lawyers aren’t rainmakers is that they don’t do it and they don’t take the time to develop the necessary skills.” Through seminars, workshops, and one-on-one coaching, Field has taught lawyers how to become rainmakers themselves, believing that “rainmakers are a not born, they are taught.”
However, rainmaking itself has also changed. Thirty years ago, a lawyer in search of new business might have had to spend lots of time attending conferences, wining and dining potential clients, or spending wads of money on advertising. Many lawyers also recoil from what Field calls the “pitch and sell” school of self-marketing, which can feel aggressive and demeaning.
“The idea of self-marketing as something that’s difficult or sleazy is an old-fashioned one,” she explains. “It’s not about selling anymore, it’s about storytelling. It’s about authenticity. It’s about helping people and letting them know how you can help them better than anyone else.”
“The biggest myth about rainmakers is that they are a specific personality type, and that only certain people can become rainmakers.”
The internet is the game-changer, notes Field, yet most lawyers don’t take advantage of the resources and possibilities available at their fingertips. “Now that we have the internet, you can meet whoever you want,” she insists. “There used to be six degrees of separation between you an anyone else on the planet — now there are about two or three.”
It’s About Helping People
In her workshops, Field teaches lawyers how to use networking, social media, websites, blogging, article-sharing, and email correspondence strategically to expand their personal network, maximize the multiplier effect of social media, and establish themselves as an authority and thought leader in their area of expertise. More importantly for busy attorneys, she teaches a system for leveraging these tools that takes as little as 10 minutes a day. The key is to be “strategic and consistent,” she says, and to do it all in a way that enhances and expands a lawyer’s own distinctive online brand.
When someone wants to find a lawyer, the “first thing they do is start searching the internet for someone they can trust to handle their case,” Field says. The goal of her internet training is to teach lawyers how to position themselves online in such a way that when someone is looking for an attorney with a specific area of expertise, they find you — not someone else.
Be Positive, Authentic
The trick is avoiding the second-biggest mistake that lawyers make, which is trying to promote themselves too much, or in ways that look arrogant or off-putting, or in ethically questionable ways that feels like “electronic ambulance-chasing.”
“There’s a big difference between bragging about your accomplishments and being able to promote yourself in a positive, authentic way,” says Field.
Effective rainmaking doesn’t just happen online, however; it still requires an effort to develop and sustain personal relationships. “The legal profession is still a people business and it’s still about building relationships,” Field says. “People don’t just want a good lawyer, they want a lawyer they can like, talk to, and trust. They aren’t going to hire someone they hate.” Indeed, traditional networking, word of mouth, and referrals still have a place in the rainmaker’s toolkit, she observes, but “you have to work them differently.”
Ethics Are Key
The final piece of the rainmaking puzzle that Field teaches — and stresses — is that you have to do it all ethically and honestly, and in a way that doesn’t end up with an attorney being censured or losing their shingle.
“Every single rule of legal ethics can be violated when one engages in marketing and business-development activities. It’s a minefield,” she says. Referral fees can be problematic, for instance, if they are taken for the wrong reasons or under the wrong circumstances. “The key word is ‘ethical,’” she says. “I want to make sure attorneys don’t lose their license.”
And because the legal profession is still dominated by men, particularly at the partner level, Field also teaches a course specifically designed for women lawyers who want to improve their rain-making skills. “Women rainmakers have one skill that gives them an advantage — they listen before they speak,” says Field. On the other hand, women often struggle with “asking for the business.”
As effective as her coaching might be, Field is candid about the fact that none of it will work if people aren’t willing to put in the time and effort. “Rainmaking is really about the small, tiny efforts one makes every day,” she says. “You have to want to be a rainmaker.”