The term “rainmaking” is as old as the legal profession itself. To be a rainmaker, one generally has to be experienced in practice, and know how to build and maintain a book of business.
But what about new lawyers? More and more, new lawyers are being asked to pull in clients of their own. But without a strong book of business or referral network, not to mention a lack of experience, how can these new lawyers make an impact?
Enter “mistmaking,” the opportunity for new lawyers to begin creating a name for themselves at their firm and in the profession. When done right, mistmakers can build their careers and work their way up the law firm ladder to achieve full rainmaker status.
Mistmaking is the beginning of rainmaking for new lawyers. It is a business development process through which new lawyers develop a personal brand, build a strong network, and establish their place in the social hierarchy of their firm.
5 Mistmaking Tips for New Lawyers
Well-meaning law firm partners often tell new lawyers to focus on learning the craft and gaining experience in the field. Business development, they say, can come later.
Ignore this advice. You’ll want to earn your biz dev stripes as early as possible, so that you have a solid foundation in place when it comes time for you to become a lead rainmaker for your firm.
Here are five tips to help you make the most of your mistmaking efforts and get results early on in your career.
- Treat Your Partners Like Clients
The partners in your firm will be the biggest source of new business for you when you start out. Lean into building your book of business by leaning on these individuals. In doing so, you’ll gain both valuable experience and exposure to clients.
You may find yourself scoffing at some of the tasks given to you by your partners. You’d be making quite the mistake by turning down any offered opportunities. If your partners find they can rely on you to get things done, and you do them well, you’ll find them coming back to you often, helping you gain billable hours and level up your skills.
To that end, when considering how to approach and work with your partners, keep key customer service skills at the forefront, and bring them through a process akin to what your own clients would experience. For instance:
- Discuss project goals and expectations upfront.
- Communicate clearly and often throughout the engagement.
- Emphasize being proactive and responsive.
- Wrap up your engagement clearly and follow up to ensure you’ve delivered what was requested.
The more engaged you are and more open to various opportunities you remain, the more visible you will become throughout your firm. Find ways to become engaged in all firm activities so the partners get to know you, your work ethic, and your skills. This means being creative in how you get involved. Think outside the box; don’t just take on tasks, but consider how you can also tap into social outlets and client relationships.
- Get Social
Speaking of social outlets, there is no better way for you to start building your brand than by building out your social media presence. Consider the platforms where your audience will mostly spend their time.
For instance, if you’re looking to build referral networks with other attorneys and professionals in fields that support your services, you’ll need to present on LinkedIn. But being present isn’t enough. You need to establish yourself as a go-to in your practice area.
To leverage LinkedIn as the robust networking platform it is, implement these three elements:
- Optimize your profile. Before you begin outreach on LinkedIn, make sure you’ve made the most of your individual profile. Personalize your URL. Fill out every section. Upload a professional headshot and use the banner image in a way that captures your personal brand. Write a captivating description of who you serve and what you have to offer. Avoid generic headlines and keep buzzwords to a minimum. Your goal is to come across clearly and authentically.
- Connect, connect, connect. Once your profile is complete, you can begin to connect with those you know. Rely on shared items like schools, interests, skills, groups, and other similar items to provide you with fodder to write personal connection request messages. The more you can connect with the people you know, whether you know them well or not, the more you’ll be able to make the most of the next item on this list.
- Request introductions. With a robust number of connections on LinkedIn, you can now spend time looking at your first-tier connections to see whom else they know. If you find an interesting prospect, reach out to your connection and ask if they’d be willing to make an introduction for you.
LinkedIn isn’t the only space to be present, of course. Consider Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Tik Tok and other platforms for creative ways to connect directly with prospective clients.
A word of caution: Choose one platform at a time. You’re more apt to find social media success if you go in-depth in one platform than if you spread yourself thin across several.
- Share Your Knowledge
Once you get at least one social media profile up and running, you’re ready to start sharing your knowledge and experience with others. At the outset, these platforms will enable you to share snippets of insights you’re learning as you gain experience. The more you can share what you’ve learned and the more you can share others’ insights that you find useful, the more followers you will have.
Eventually, you’ll be able to turn those snippets into longer-form content that you can share on your blog, on LinkedIn as an article, in an industry publication like this one, and so much more. You could also consider eventually giving a presentation, hosting a CLE event, or participating in another form of speaking engagement.
As you build out your thought leadership, you’ll be able to repurpose your content in myriad ways, ensuring you’re in front of your audience often. Not only will this help you build out your “know, like, and trust” factor with prospective clients, but it’ll also help you create a list of accomplishments to help bolster your credibility.
- Network, Network, Network
Not every attorney is an extrovert. Yet every attorney needs to include some type of networking activity in their schedule at least once a week.
There’s a saying that goes something like this, “You’re only as strong as your network.” This statement doesn’t do much to support your individual skills, knowledge, and dedication. But it does help you remember that the key to your success will lay in how many connections you can build and how strong your referral network is.
Networking can come in many different forms, from attending industry conferences (either your industry or your ideal client’s industry) to holding one-on-one coffees with folks you find on LinkedIn.
Networking takes serious effort, however. It’s not just about you adding more connections to your list. It’s about building reciprocal relationships that offer benefits to all parties involved. The best way to experience those benefits is to build chunks of time in your calendar to network and honor those times accordingly.
- Create a Database of Your Successes
As you gain experience, be sure to track the details of your work in a database. Sure, your first few cases may always be ingrained into your memory, but not all of your work will be.
With a database, you’ll be able to easily identify how many matters you’ve handled in various areas of the law and what the outcomes were. You’ll find this to be an indispensable selling tool, as you’ll be able to offer real data to prospects instead of broad-brush statements of generic experiences. This type of database can also help you keep track of your successes in client matters including trial outcomes, settlements, etc. This information, scrubbed of details, is often needed for biographies and pitch materials created for potential client meetings. It can be helpful to have it on hand when it is needed.
Remember to Play the Long Game
As an eager new professional in the legal field, you want to make a name for yourself while cementing your place in your firm. Just remember that doing this takes time. Business development and professional development require dedicated focus; results will not occur overnight.
If you’re willing to play the long game, you’ll find yourself with several advantages over your contemporaries. Two of those advantages include gaining invaluable business development and marketing skills that will serve you throughout your career.
While it’s easy to want to dive into as much as possible at the outset, choose one mistmaking activity to try first. Fine-tune your approach to that first step before moving to the next. Let each step’s success drive you forward; before you know it, you’ll be a successful mistmaker on your way to full rainmaker status.
About the Author
Meranda M. Vieyra is the owner of Denver Legal Marketing LLC. She is one of the most visible legal professionals in Colorado law with over 20 years of service in the legal community. Her award-winning marketing firm has earned a strong reputation as the go-to for impactful, cost-effective legal marketing strategies. She has helped her clients secure coverage by well-known publications and has obtained local, national, and international awards on their behalf. Meranda enjoys working with solo practitioners and law firms of all sizes helping them attract recognition, promotion, and visibility to their practices. She also advises medium-sized and national law firms on DEI, business development and marketing strategy.
Meranda is a lecturer and author on issues related to marketing including how lawyers can use LinkedIn effectively, how to develop a personal brand, and the promotion of legal services through community service. In 2018, she was honored to be named to the 40 Under 40 list by the Denver Business Journal and to be given the 10 Under 10 Award by the Metropolitan State University of Denver Alumni Association (top 10 alum of the decade). In 2019, Meranda was named in the Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Business by the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce and in the Top 100 young professionals in Colorado through the Gen XYZ Awards published by ColoradoBiz Magazine. In 2020, she created and launched the first class on legal marketing at the undergraduate level in the country at her alma mater, MSU Denver and was named a Go-To ThoughtLeader by the National Law Review. In 2021, she was named to the Denver Business Journal’s Outstanding Women in Business and received the 2022 Inclusiveness @Work Business Corporation Award from the Center for Legal Inclusiveness.
For more information, go to www.DenverLegalMarketing.com