Meet the Women Rainmakers – Anna Erickson White


Anna Erickson White

Name:  Anna Erickson White
Firm Name:  Morrison & Foerster LLP
Address:   425 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94105
Phone:   415.268.7000
Practice area:  Securities and other complex, high-stakes Civil Litigation

What are the top 3 tips that would you give to a lawyer who wants to be a successful rainmaker today?

  1. Nurture your relationships with your clients—:that can mean many different things, but providing outstanding client service always has to be the number one priority. To do this, you need to always do exemplary work, but also build trust by seeking feedback, being honest and direct, looking out for your clients’ best interests, celebrating their successes, and showing appreciation.  For example, at the beginning of an engagement, ask about more than just the legal issue:  Do they prefer to communicate by email or phone?  Who at the client’s organization needs to review the work product or weigh in on a strategy decision and on what schedule?  What’s the client’s budgeting process for legal fees?  Browse the client’s website, read its annual reports and quarterly filings (if it’s a public company) and offer to spend time at the client’s offices to learn more about its business.  Set up news alerts to get updates about your client’s business.  Finally, go to events that your client supports or where they will be receiving an award.
  2. Cultivate your relationships—a vast majority of new work often derives from existing or past clients and referral sources. It’s important to stay in touch with those individuals. There are a number of different ways to do so, from just calling to say hello or asking them to join you at a ballgame, to inviting them to an educational legal program at your firm to showcase the expertise of your lawyers, or to asking them to partner with you on a marketing activity, such as co-writing an article or speaking at a conference.
  3. Work as a team—business development does not have to be a lonely endeavor. At MoFo, we work together to develop new clients and to deepen our existing client relationships. Not only is it more rewarding, but it is also better for the client since you can marshal all of the best talent within the firm to show new and existing clients how you can help them.  Let me give you two recent examples, one big and one small.  The big example is our response to an RFP for work for a significant global company.  Attorneys from about 10 practice groups and seven offices jumped in to get on top of the client’s business and legal needs, prepare a response to the RFP, and meet with the client, with help from our professional staff in marketing and finance.  As a result, we ended up being chosen as one of three global service providers.  The small example is a client recently asked me to present on a couple of issues, one outside my area of expertise.  Within five minutes of my asking, two of the best lawyers in the US who practice in the other area had agreed to fly across country to help me present to the client.

Gateway to the Future: Marketing and Business Development Strategies for the New Legal World

One of the reasons why I was attracted to becoming managing partner at MoFo was because I wanted to be more involved with the development of the firm’s client service program, which encourages us to work together to provide exemplary client service across practice groups and geographies. In addition, in that role, I get to learn from some of the best lawyers and business developers in the firm.

Describe the biggest influence on your career.

I’d have to say my father, and his former law partners at Erickson Beasley Hewitt and Wilson, which included several women. They worked together for at least 30 years and inspired me to become a lawyer. They worked hard on interesting cases, did great work and truly enjoyed working together. They helped to shape the kind of lawyer I am today.

Describe your typical marketing year:

As the managing partner who is largely responsible for overseeing our marketing and client development initiatives, I dedicate quite a bit of my time to marketing initiatives. I work closely with our CMO and department chairs on setting priorities for the firm’s global marketing efforts and finding ways to invest in our business in ways that help us do even more for our clients, while ensuring that we are prepared for the challenges of a changing market. These include the expansion of our key client program, which we launched about six years ago.  Through the program, we help to continually educate our attorneys about the client’s business and legal needs, as well as organize client events and in-house MCLE presentations, among other things.  Just this past year, we decided to build off the success of the key client program and expand our client service efforts across a broader client base.  This broader client service effort has been a terrific way of engaging more attorneys and professional staff in deepening our client relationships.

How did you get your first client?

I got my most recent client, in part, as a result of great work we had done for the general counsel when he was at a previous company. But that just gave us a leg up in the pitch process. We then worked hard to show him and his new team not only what great work we would do, but also how we would work as a team with them to achieve the best results possible. This meant getting the best people at the firm together to analyze the issues, giving immediate and practical advice on how to address the issues, and being immediately responsive to any questions or concerns the client had.

Knowing what you know now, if you were starting over as a lawyer today, what would you do differently?

Two things—as a new attorney, I’d spend more time maintaining and cultivating relationships, and I’d ask more questions. Some of the most successful business developers I know are ones who have always spent time and effort keeping in touch with former colleagues and clients. It may take years, but it often pays off. And some of the best lawyers I know are ones who aren’t afraid to ask questions.  This may sound simple, but I’ve found it can be a challenge for lawyers at all levels.  For example, when preparing for a pitch, you should call the prospective client in advance and ask as many questions as possible—:what issues is the client particularly interested in, who would the client like to attend the pitch, does the client want a formal presentation or not, what types of materials would the client like to receive at the pitch or in advance?

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