Making it Rain – Practical Tips from Those Who Do: Sherri Sharma       

Sherri Sharma

Name: Sherri Sharma
Firm Name: Aronson Mayefsky & Sloan, LLP
Address:  485 Lexington Ave, New York, New York 10017
Phone: (212) 521-3500
Interviewed by: Rippi Gill

 

Sherri is a partner with Aronson Mayefsky & Sloan, LLP, where she represents individuals in all aspects of matrimonial law, including equitable distribution of assets, custody, spousal support, child support, and pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements. She understands that each case and each client is different, and takes pride in helping her clients achieve their particular goals.

Sherri graduated from Yale University summa cum laude and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She received her law degree from Columbia University Law School.

Sherri was named a 2013 Rising Star and a 2014 Top Women Attorney Rising Star by New York Super Lawyers. She frequently lectures on various topics of matrimonial law such as Equitable Distribution, Maintenance and Prenuptial Agreements, including to the New York State Bar Association.

Sherri is on the board of the South Asian Bar Association where she serves as the vice-president of the Committee for Private Sector and In-House Attorneys. She is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Family Law Section of the New York State Bar Association where she serves as co-chair of the Diversity Committee.

  • You recently made partner at a boutique firm specializing in matrimonial law.  Describe the typical marketing strategies that you have employed, or plan to employ, as a partner? 

I think the basic foundation of business development is the same, whether you are an associate or a partner.  In my experience, maintaining relationships with past clients who know your work and can vouch for you is essential.

In my practice area – matrimonial law – I have also found that building relationships with other lawyers and trusted advisors is important.  When a client is seeking a divorce or about to get married and needs a pre-nuptial agreement, often the first person they will ask for a referral is their attorney (whether it be a trusts and estates attorney, real estate attorney or other practitioner).

  • What marketing tips would you give to those striving to make the transition from associate to partner within a boutique firm?

Never underestimate the value of doing good work.  If you are managing a case, and you are the client’s primary contact and are handling the day-to-day issues, the client will notice.  They will come to appreciate your hard work and trust you.  That client relationship will be invaluable in obtaining additional business or referrals.

Another important tip is to know your target market and make it as narrow as possible.  For example, my target market consists of other lawyers, particularly in the trusts and estates area, as well as wealth advisors and various bar associations and connections that I maintain.

Once you have identified your target market through existing contacts, set up one-on-one meetings or lunches.  Before the meeting, I’ve found that preparation is key.  Get to know your contact.  I usually check out their bio on their company’s website as well as their LinkedIn profile.  If they have written any recent articles, I skim them before the meeting.  Preparation also means knowing yourself.  Even if it is on my walk over to the meeting, I think about a case I have going on which might be interesting to discuss or something happening in my personal life (i.e., a vacation I have planned or a movie I just saw) that I can share so that the meeting is productive and memorable.

  • Your practice focuses on matrimonial law.  How do you cultivate and build client relationships within that field?

Once a client retains me, it can either be a very exciting time in their life as I draw up pre-nuptial agreements, or the worst time as I address divorce issues.  In either case, the matter is very personal and always on the client’s mind.  It is important to treat the case as a priority, be honest and responsive and provide an empathetic ear.  This is especially vital given the personal nature of my practice.

That being said, it is also important to set boundaries and realistic expectations for the client.  I strive to provide the best legal advice possible, and sometimes that means telling clients what they don’t want to hear.  Ultimately, if you can strike the right balance, you can develop strong client relationships.

  • Describe one experience that has remarkably shaped your marketing skills/ability?

Someone once gave me this advice, which I think is great: After every lunch or meeting with a business contact, I jot down a few notes about the person that I learned during our conversation.  It can be something as small as the name/age of a child, a recent vacation or a case he/she worked on.

As I may not see this person for several months, my notes serve as a refresher for the next one-on-one meeting, and it makes the next conversation more personal and the connection more real.  I also find that it makes you stand out as someone genuinely interested, which is important for business development.

  • What marketing activity (speaking engagements, client contacts/referrals, bar association events, etc.) has most benefited you when it comes to marketing and why?

The activity that has been most beneficial to me is maintaining my connections to trusts and estates lawyers, who are a rich source of referrals in my practice area.  Earlier in my career, my practice focused on trusts and estates work, and when I shifted to my present area of practice, I stayed in touch with many of my colleagues.

There is overlap between trusts and estates and matrimonial law. I have lectured to various trusts and estates discussion groups, or trusts and estates practice groups within large firms on topics of matrimonial law.  It is an incredible opportunity to discuss my practice in a smaller setting of ten to twelve attorneys where I can demonstrate my knowledge. It is a tremendous source for client referrals.  I have also reciprocated and invited members of the discussion groups to lecture at my firm, which, in turn gives them marketing opportunities.

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

Be yourself and make authentic connections.  If you do not, it will be obvious.  Once you establish a genuine relationship, and there is mutual respect, the referrals will follow.  In retrospect, I think at the beginning I was simply “trying too hard” and ultimately, I learned that the process should be more natural.

It is all about the follow-up.  Always keep the next step in mind.  Do not just hand out your business card, but be sure to follow-up and set up a one-on-one meeting.

Be patient.  Initially, I was frustrated because I wanted immediate results.  The reality, however, is that business development takes time and it requires an opportunity for a referral.  Last summer, I went to a birthday party with my four-year-old son and by sheer coincidence, an acquaintance from college whom I hadn’t seen in 15 years and who happens to be a corporate lawyer at a major firm, was attending with her daughter.  She was going through a difficult divorce at the time and we made plans to meet for lunch to catch up.  After our lunch, she virtually introduced me to a colleague of hers who practices trusts and estates law.  I had lunch with her colleague who later invited me to speak to her discussion group about pre-nuptial agreements.  One of the attendees subsequently invited me to coffee.  Since then, she has referred me several clients in need of pre-nuptial agreements.  This all took about nine months, but the results were well worth the investment and the wait.

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