Building A Culture of Rainmakers

How do you create a culture of rainmakers at your law firm?

That was the question I asked 60 CMOs and other thought leaders responsible for building revenue in law firms. I was researching a book for the ABA titled Building Rainmakers, The Definitive Guide To Business Development For Lawyers, and some of the answers may surprise you.

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Here is a 10-point summary from that research:

  1. Start by developing a plan with specific goals that include metrics to test your progress. You already know that without a plan you won’t know where you’re going, or whether or not you’ve ever arrived. Select revenue targets. Establish rainmaker training penetration levels within all practice areas.
  2. Harness the wisdom of your existing rainmakers. Let’s be blunt. You want to know what they know about bringing in new clients and new matters before it’s too late. They could die or be poached. So, time is of the essence. No one I interviewed put it that succinctly, but it’s the truth, isn’t it?

It’s not as simple as, “Tell me, Rainmaker, how do you do it?” You need a CMO, BDD or consultant skilled in the art of essence-interviewing who can discern from the rainmaker those specific actions that are making the difference; then translate that information into educational chunks that can be easily learned by others.

  1. Formulate a regular and systematic acquisition and delivery system of rainmaker knowledge. Many firms formalize this approach into an ongoing learning program. For example, Allen Chichester, CMO at Barnes & Thornburg LLP, took the point of view that to get things moving, the firm needed to have some type of institutional cover to start engaging the attorneys. Out of that decision came the “BT Law Academy,” which is an institution for business development and professional development training.

A pre-packaged rainmaker enhancement and creation program can be purchased from the law firm that developed it. The program, called Fast Forward, initially took 20 lawyers and grew their revenue by $7.5 million within two years with a $150,000 investment, a 5,000% ROI. If interested, contact Jill Weber, CMO and business development officer at Stinson Leonard Street. In my opinion, you’re cheating yourself of a valuable resource if you don’t at least make an informational call to Jill and ask her how she does it.

  1. Don’t leave anyone out. It’s a mistake to think they are a researcher or writer only. Every person breathing in your firm can ask four questions. Those inquiries can be made in any setting and through any medium. Make sure they all know what those questions are and what your level of expectation is of them. If you’ve created a culture of people passionate about the firm’s mission, then participation will be automatic and enthusiastic. Your receptionist may have an uncle who is married to a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Your paralegal may have a Facebook friend who is about to launch the next Uber.

The four questions everyone in your firm can ask:

  • May I ask, what business are you in?
  • What opportunities are you currently exploring?
  • What challenges are you facing?
  • How could a law firm like mine assist your business?

“How” is one of the most powerful words in the English language. It forces the brain to seek a solution in the direction guided by the question. In this case, a solution that is biased in favor of your firm’s mission. I discuss language that generates revenue at greater length in the ABA book titled, The Associate As Rainmaker, Building Your Business Brain. Test question number four against, “Do you think my firm could help?” Any one of your litigation deposition specialists will confirm the vast difference between the potential results of the two different question designs.

  1. Give major support to your star players. Although you make the rainmaker training available to everyone, you give particular support to your high achievers, the 10% who bring in 80% of the revenue. Just like in basketball, you have your starting five, your all-stars, and you make sure they are nourished and publicly appreciated. But you ignore your bench at your peril.
  2. Know what makes you special and know that everyone in the firm knows this, as well. Given that every major business uses multiple law firms, why should your firm stand out? Can everyone in your firm give a one- or two-sentence elevator pitch that delivers the unique value available from your firm? Elevator pitch (also known as verbal business card training) is available from many sources, including the book Building Rainmakers.
  3. Build a philanthropic brand. Once you are a finalist because you have met the potential client’s legal skills threshold, you may get the work because of the value you deliver to the community or the world at large. Build a philanthropic brand. Become known for certain acts of charity that make everyone in the firm proud to be a member, and makes your clients proud to select you over others because you “give back in a meaningful way.” Many clients appreciate witnessing that extra bounce from their bucks.
  4. Grow the passion. Remember rainmakers have certain definable qualities. One of them is passion. It’s the job of every manager of every area, including administration, to make sure that each member is feeling the love and feeling passionate about the firm and their role in it. If you say, “Hey, I’m paying their salary and I expect their passion will follow their pay check,” you’re wrong.

Business is personal. Business is always a one-to-one relationship on some level. And that one-to-one begins with every member of your firm. A few key questions can usually unearth the passion lying below the surface of everyone. You need to know how to do that or hire someone to teach you, your managers, and your attorneys how to do that.

You need the passionate support of your team members. The same training that teaches them to call out the passion in co-workers can be used to call out the passion in a potential client. Describing how to do that is beyond the scope of this article. Many are skilled at teaching your managers and lawyers how to extract passion from themselves, their colleagues, and their clients. One is David Adams with the business development consulting firm Revenue Wise. Others are CMOs and business development specialists with their respective firms like Adam Stock with Allen Matkins, Cherie Olland with Jones Day (now retired), Dave Bruns with Farella Braun + Martel, Barbara Lauterbach with McKenna Long & Aldridge, Adam Severson with Baker Donelson, and Jill Weber with Stinson Leonard Street, just to name a few; and, of course, probably a few folks at your law firm who come to mind, now that you’re thinking about it.

  1. Employ personal coaches. Most business development consulting firms talk about a 10-to-1 ROI on your investment for their services. The Legal Marketing Association can refer you to a number of talented independent coaches, locally and nationally. The good BD coaches are also certified “executive” life coaches because life circumstances, without being healthfully addressed, can crush a potential rainmaker’s success.

Rainmakers generally engage in these four activities:

  • They go out and see clients. Research by many law firms shows that a client visit will usually uncover new business for the firm.
  • They are active in a trade organization or business organization which includes their target clients.
  • They develop an extensive and ever-expanding referral network.
  • They keep a high profile. Rainmakers are speaking in front of crowds, they’re writing articles that are published on the web and in magazines, and they are on the board of organizations.

A coach can hold an attorney accountable for these activities and many others; and can customize a BD plan to suit an individual’s personality. When interviewing potential coaches, ask them how they identify and address different personality types and work styles.

  1. Show the love. Provide stress reduction venues for all members of the firm. Why do employees love working at Google? Because Google loves them, and demonstrates its love, respect, and appreciation every day in many ways. Google allows you to take 20 paid minutes a day to chill, meditate, take a walk. It’s called Google Pause. In my dissertation research on the topic of MicroMindfulness I came across a study that proved a 30-second break every two hours dramatically reduced keyboard typing errors. The cost of the software placed on every computer that had the 30-second break reminder every two hours rendered a 9,300% ROI on savings in time not needed to correct errors compared to the control group.

These 10 guidelines combined with your knowledge, the wisdom of all the members of your firm, and the support of outside consultants, as needed, can allow you to create a culture of rainmakers that can dramatically increase the firm’s revenue.

About the Author

David King Keller is the author of two bestsellers published by the ABA on the topic of rainmakers, The Associate As Rainmaker, Building Your Business Brain, and Building Rainmakers, The Definitive Guide To Business Development For Lawyers. Learn more at www.KBDAG.com, and connect with David on LinkedIn or by email at david@kbdag.com.

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