What if we all began to take on a larger scale view of what rainmaking really means?
“Rainmaker” is a title donned with much pride, and for good reason. Those who have earned this designation have done so through hard work, perseverance, networking and smart planning. They know bringing in business does not happen overnight and that it takes more than sitting behind the desk doing good work to win new work.
But what about the worker-bee attorneys? The ones who feel they best serve their firms by holing up in their offices and doling out work? Or those who are uncomfortable with small talk and social situations? Are they doomed to fail in this new era of law firm business?
If you look up “rainmaker” in Merriam-Webster, the first definition involves artificial rain creation. That’s not the definition we’re focused on here. Skipping to the second definition, we see it is defined as “a person (such as a partner in a law firm) who brings in new business.” This is the definition with which we are all familiar. The next part of the definition is where I really want to draw your attention:
“a person whose influence can initiate progress or ensure success.”
This is how we need to rewire our brains to view rainmakers.
Bringing in new clients and new business is great, and very critical to the success of the attorney and to the firm as a whole – but it should not always be the most immediate focus of efforts.
Instead of primarily chasing clients and new matters, what if law firm partners were encouraged to think and act more broadly? What if we all began to take on a larger scale view of what rainmaking really means? Sometimes the efforts with a 10-year yield can be just as impactful and long-lasting, if not more so, than activities that generate more immediate results.
“Initiating progress” can appear in many forms:
- creating or improving processes that streamline workflow,
- pushing for more diversity and inclusion within their firms,
- working with multiple departments to improve firm client experiences
– all of these examples can initiate progress while also “ensuring success” through long-term positive impacts on clients and overall business.
Who are the attorneys in your firm who are “initiating progress?” What are they doing? What are their motives and goals? Partner with them whenever you have value to add. Perhaps you can assist in making connections between two projects. You may be able to offer a resource that was unknown to the attorney. Sometimes we can even join the effort to a greater degree and help elevate it to a larger, firm-backed initiative.
While these efforts may not at first appear to be directly tied to pitching new matters or pursuing clients, they can yield great payoff for the firm, its employees, its partners and its clients down the road.
Nexsen Pruet, a 180-attorney firm in the Carolinas, recognizes attorneys’ efforts to embrace firm initiatives and support the firm’s strategic vision to provide next level service and client-centric solutions. “In today’s fast-paced world, legal clients are demanding a sophisticated approach to the challenges facing their business. Their demand for innovation, customization and customer service is transforming the business of law and forcing firms to explore new business models,” says Peter Santos, Nexsen Pruet’s Managing Member of Professionals.
Nexsen Pruet’s encouragement and recognition of these efforts is allowing the attorneys opportunities to drive success for the firm and its clients. Additionally, the attorneys participating in these initiatives realize their potential and ability to grow business outside of the traditional cycle, and feel a greater sense of buy-in.
Don’t underestimate the value of that buy-in.
It is a critical part of success for both firms and individuals, as well as for firm culture. Think of an attorney you know who generally sits behind his or her desk, churning out client work and constantly turning down your invitations to attend networking and client events. Don’t be too quick to write them off – see if you can learn more about their reasons for holding back. Are they too busy, or do they find those situations to be uncomfortable or boring? What areas of the firm and/or client service are they passionate about? If you discover an excitement, or even a pain-point, for a certain area, consider using that to their – and the firm’s – advantage. If they are frustrated by client billing, ask questions. What specifically causes the frustration? What would fix the problem?
Can you work with various departments to tweak the existing process for greater efficiency and satisfaction? It’s certainly worth exploring. And that attorney who you thought didn’t stand a chance? They’re on their way to “initiating progress or ensuring success” – the very definition of a rainmaker. A bonus result is the buy-in the attorney now feels toward the firm and the drive to push towards its future success.
Viewing rainmaking in these broader terms can encourage the attorneys who don’t feel they thrive in today’s traditional business development model and offers a different path to “ensure success.”
In this age of open-mindedness and inclusivity, perhaps we should rethink what it means to be a rainmaker and encourage everyone to view this limited club, and its membership, through a new lens.
Morgan Lewis, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Society 54, LLC, has a decade of legal marketing experience under her belt. Utilizing her experiences, Morgan helps her clients create and implement strategic goals, learn how to effectively and efficiently generate business, and helps fill gaps in firm talent (for firms both large and small).