More than ever before, the hiring and promotion of lawyers by a law firm depends on a lawyer’s ability to attract and retain clients – or to be a ‘rainmaker’. Rainmakers are adept at generating business for their firm, not just in their own practice area. They also enhance a firm’s reputation, thereby increasing their own professional value and stature. But what skills do rainmakers possess and how can individuals develop these talents?
Astute clients now expect their lawyers to have expert legal knowledge and the ability to deliver speedy service as a matter of course. But like their entrepreneurial counterparts in business, rainmakers in the legal world possess additional qualities. Confident and proactive, they also display good people skills. Chief among these is the art of effective communication. Clarity and conciseness lie at the heart of good communication, and the ability to truly listen to and empathise with others help rainmakers establish a personal rapport with clients, introducers, business partners and help to inspire work colleagues.
Clients report that they especially value those lawyers who take the initiative to provide information, ideas and even referrals that aid their business. Developing a broader knowledge of the business world, and especially the environment in which a client works, helps a rainmaker gain a greater awareness of how their clients and potential business partners might best be served. Visiting a client’s place of business and keeping in regular contact provides first-hand experience of what clients do and the on-going issues they face. Valuable business lessons can be learned from skilled and experienced commercial clients too.
A sound knowledge of their own law firm and its capabilities and good working relationships with colleagues also serve rainmakers well in generating new business. Making clients aware of the full range of services a firm provides and getting feedback on its performance, can reveal opportunities for increased collaboration.
Rainmakers are typically dynamic and most famously have the ability to identify and target new areas of growth for their practice. A planned approach helps here. Good databases help keep track of contacts and new sources of business. Possible networks that can be investigated and developed include those in the local community and specialised business groups. Clients, past clients, corporate counsel and alumni are all contacts that are nurtured over the long term. Other lawyers and firms should not be ignored. The most successful rainmakers are tenacious and recognise that it can take many years to reel in the biggest clients.
Writing articles and speaking at events help a rainmaker position themselves as a key player in their field and will encourage the honing of personal skills like public speaking. While all lawyers are competent public speakers, investment in voice and personal coaching can transform levels of confidence and communication skills.
Not everyone has the personality or desire to become a fully-fledged rainmaker. But for the ambitious lawyer, developing the skills rainmakers display is a sure way to enhance personal growth, work satisfaction and to benefit their clients, colleagues and their firm.