Many myths surround successful rainmaking in the legal profession. Perhaps the biggest myth is that only attorneys with an outgoing and gregarious personality stand a chance of attracting clients.
I know that you’re skeptical, but give me a chance to make my case.
Think about the most successful rainmakers in your firm, practice area or geographic area. Make a list containing at least six. Does each and every one of them fit the “life of the party” profile? I would be very surprised. I’m quite confident that there are a few quiet and unassuming lawyers on your list who seem to know how to make rain, even if they’re among the first to leave a party. So, how do they do it?
The DNA of successful legal rainmakers is relatively simple. The top three traits are:
- They listen well,
- They genuinely care about their clients and want to help them, and
- They are disciplined in their approach to business development.
Any lawyer can accomplish all three.
After practicing law for more than 30 years, I’ve met a fair share of lawyers. Few of these lawyers had a problem with talking. Most, however, seemed challenged when it came to listening. We attorneys make our living by solving problems. How can we do this if we’re not good listeners? Clients always prefer lawyers who thoroughly understand their needs by listening carefully to what they have to say.
Successful rainmakers are empathetic.They have the ability to put themselves in a client’s place, understanding the client’s circumstances, business risks, point of view, thoughts and feelings. This is not always easy to do. Empathy also needs to be the real thing. You can’t fake it. Clients will spot false empathy a mile away. They will be offended. Lawyers who fake it never get hired.
Discipline, Discipline, Discipline
Successful rainmakers stick with the program. If you listen well and genuinely care about people, but stay locked up in your office all day, how will potential clients and referral sources know that you are a good listener and a caring person? They won’t. Your rainmaking goals will never be achieved.
The easy part is putting together a personal marketing plan. Determine with whom you should be networking. How often? What groups should you join? Can you reach your targets by writing or blogging? Should you speak? Where should you write or speak? Will social media help your practice?
Now comes the hard part. Just do it! IMHO, the primary reason lawyers fail in their business development efforts is not because of a lack of personality. It’s simpler than that. It’s because they lack the everyday discipline to execute the plan.
Give yourself deadlines and hold yourself (or have someone else hold you) accountable. And stop with the excuses. The fact that your brief is due tomorrow is no reason to cancel a networking lunch. The brief and the lunch are both important. I have full confidence in you that you will figure out a way to do both.
Likeability is Paramount
When I was in-house, lawyers in private practice frequently asked me, “Roy, you hire lawyers all of the time. What’s the secret formula?” Of course, there is no secret formula. My answer was very straightforward. I hired lawyers whom I liked. If you listen and care and don’t stay holed up in your office all day, you’ll soon see that there are many people out there who will like you – and then hire you.