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Seven Hang-ups That Will Ruin Your Rainmaking

Vivia Chen

November 8, 2012

Today's guest blogger is K.C. Victor, the principal of Victor Legal Solutions. Victor teaches rainmaking techniques to lawyers

by K.C. Victor

Raining_by_Tijana_FotoliaIn my 30 years of working with lawyers, I've found that they often have misconceptions about business development. Rainmakers are not necessarily savvy or brave.  Nor are they wiser than their fellow lawyers. Many successful rainmakers are careful, precise, and even quiet. One need not be gregarious to build or increase a book of business.

No particular personality is required for rainmaking, but lawyers should first make sure that they are going into it with the right attitude. So before you begin, check that you are not falling into these seven attitude traps:   

   1.     It feels rude and maybe arrogant to pitch clients who already have lawyers. You can't assume that the client’s current lawyer is meeting the client's needs. She might be, but it's possible you might have better rapport with the client and the business team. Give the client the chance to choose.

  2.     I hate selling. Do you believe your legal skills are valuable? Do you believe your legal work helps people in building their business? If you listen well and practice law well, you are not just selling; you are offering a service. 

  3.     It's too overwhelming. I don't know where to start. Start with people with whom you have already worked. Have you spoken with them recently? Call and say hello. People like attention. Ask what they have been doing lately. People like to talk about themselves, and conversations evolve. 

  4.     I can’t call and ask for business! You don’t call and ask for business. You call and say, “I’ve been thinking about you.” Ask, “How are you? How is your business?” Share a helpful fact or anecdote. People care when you care. They care more when you help. It is sometimes a numbers game, so call the people you've worked with and make a personal impression. 

  5.    I'm afraid they might tell me “no.”  Sometimes “no” feels like a personal judgment, but it seldom is in this context. If you were given the time to pitch, you've already passed the skills and personality test. Moving on after “no” distinguishes rainmakers from the rest of the pack.

  6.    I am not a smooth mixer. Rainmaking is not about making small talk or clever conversation. It's about asking good, pointed questions about people’s business. Decide the kind of client you want to cultivate, and ask thoughtful questions, and show genuine interest.

  7.    I feel out of place, perhaps even sleazy, offering unsolicited business advice. Good lawyers are part of the client's business team, so you should be ready to give solid business advice and not just legal counsel.  However, lawyers often feel business advice is not their role, so get over that “it's not my job” feeling. Remember, few outside of your client’s business know as much about their work as you do.

Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? Email chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at vchen@alm.com.

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I don't believe it. That's really what it comes down to. I've practiced law and dealt with clients and prospective clients for 32 years, and the statements from K.C. just don't match with my perception of reality. The "attitude traps" do. In all those years I've never received one bit of positive feedback from a client after making any kind of pitch for new or additional business. Not once. Evidently, I and the people I've been dealing with for all those years are dreary and dysfunctional.

I think the dreary and dysfunctional are the spice in the blog - but of course it can still be meaty. Few recipes work with only one of the two. Bits like "If you were given the time to pitch, you've already passed" the marketing test and "somehow a big rock on your engagement finger is always considered tasteful" are enlightening, and even thought provoking, even if not useful to my practice.
(Hey, speaking of useful: Ms. Chen is supposed to be an expert on career technique, as well as an actual Woman - so, as a Man, I'm astonished to learn at my age that even expert women have no idea why big diamond engagement rings are in good taste. The men of the world might have saved ourselves a bundle all these years if we'd known that!)

K.C.’s insights are helpful – especially number 5. The importance of getting over the perceived rejection of hearing the word “no” is known to all sales people, but, oddly, not to all lawyers. It’s funny, we are comfortable having the “asks” we make on behalf of our clients rejected, but uncomfortable with the idea that someone might say “no” to our services. K.C. is right, in the context of offering legal services, a “no” is not likely to reflect a personal judgment.

Great post. Let's have more of this and less about how lawyers and the legal profession are dreary and disfunctional. (More fun to talk about the latter, I know.)

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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