Francine Friedman Griesing is a serial entrepreneur, litigator, and ADR neutral. She is the founder of Griesing Law, LLC, a full-service women-owned and operated law firm. Fran also started and grew two other businesses: Bossible, a marketing and business development consultancy, and GriesingMazzeo Leadership, a diversity and inclusion training and professional coaching company. All of her businesses were created to advance professional women and other underrepresented groups.
Emily Griesing (EG): How did you begin to hone your rainmaking skills?
Francine Friedman Griesing (FFG): Early in my career, I noted that the partners at my firm with the most power and independence, the ones who seemed to have the most control over their professional lives and enjoyed their practice the most, as well as being the most highly compensated, were the lawyers who generated work for themselves and others. They were all men, and generally, they tended to focus on mentoring and cultivating other men, to whom they would pass on their clients when they retired. As a woman, it did not appear likely that most of them would take me on as a protégé or groom me to inherit their practice. I realized as a mid-level associate that if I wanted to have the perks of a rainmaker, I would have to figure out how to develop business for myself. I looked closely at the partners who were the most successful doing that in my area, the litigators, and I tried to assess what each of them had done to become successful. I asked them about it and about how they built their practice. From that, I tried to pick the elements from several peoples’ approaches and craft one that might work for me, particularly as a woman. Then and even now, it was trial and error to assess what activities yield the greatest return for the time spent.
EG: How has that approach changed over the course of your career? How about during COVID-19?
FFG: Over time, I have learned what activities generate the most return and what activities are a drain. The same principles apply to how we practice and develop relationships during the pandemic. The biggest difference is finding effective ways to generate new relationships and cultivate existing ones without face-to-face interaction. Many of the techniques I find most effective – building a reputation as an expert, as someone who is responsive and accessible, speaking and writing on legal topics – can be applied fairly easily through remote means, such as videoconferencing. Playing golf or attending events is not as easy, but they have never been a big part of my approach.
EG: What are the top three tips that you would give to a lawyer who wants to be a successful rainmaker today?
FFG: I was given this advice many years ago by people who were highly successful and I have shared it frequently over the years:
First, become the best lawyer you can be because no one can take that away from you.
Second, develop expertise in a niche and become the “go-to” person for that area.
Third, take charge of your own career and don’t expect someone else to take care of it for you.
EG: What is (or was) different, either about you, or your firm, or anything else, that has allowed or enabled you to become a successful rainmaker?
FFG: I have always moved to the beat of my own drummer; sometimes that makes life at a firm more challenging, which is why I created a firm that reflects my values and goals. I wanted to create a firm that was collaborative and where each team member could reach his or her full potential without the obstacles often faced in large traditional firms. The mission and our teams’ commitment to being more innovative, collaborative, and nimble, have contributed greatly to our rainmaking success. I refer you to my article “Small But Mighty” in the ABA’s Law Practice magazine for more on that.
EG: Describe your typical marketing year. How much time do you devote to marketing?
FFG: Twenty-five percent of my overall work time is spent on marketing-related activities.
EG: What types of marketing activities are you engaged in?
FFG: I devote considerable time to keeping in touch with my contacts, reaching out to check in on them, and offering help with personal and legal matters, whatever is keeping them up at night. I also write and speak frequently on ethics, professionalism, diversity and inclusion, and litigation topics. I have served on many nonprofit boards and been active in professional groups, especially groups focused on women, minorities, and other historically disadvantaged populations.
EG: Do you have a marketing team? If so, please describe
FFG: We have an entrepreneurial COO, a marketing manager, and a marketing coordinator, who work with our team to put out top-quality materials that showcase our capabilities and our diversity. Our firm COO, marketing manager, and I also have a separate business, Bossible, a marketing and business development consultancy that serves other lawyers, professionals, and business owners. Our Bossible team helps small firms and individual lawyers become best-known in their market for the work they do by enhancing their status as thought leaders, much like what I’ve tried to do at my own firm.
EG: Knowing what you know now, if you were starting over as a lawyer today, what would you do differently?
FFG: I would have started building my network, speaking and writing on topics of interest while in law school, rather than as a mid-level associate. You cannot begin this process too soon. Marketing is now essential in any legal role, even in-house or in government, because you are selling your services internally even if you are not trying to secure outside clients. These skills do not come naturally to most of us so I would have studied more business and marketing while still in school and earlier in my career.
EG: How has the world of marketing legal services changed over the last three to five years?
FFG: Now we must all be facile in using social media, communicating virtually, and being responsive around the clock. These trends are likely to remain important post-pandemic.
EG: What are your biggest barriers to bringing in business today?
The biggest challenge and barriers relate to how institutional clients view women and minority-owned firms. More companies are talking the talk of wanting to increase their use of women and diverse providers, but unfortunately, many of them only go through the motions. One particularly challenging and troubling practice is fairly common, and often an issue with some of the companies most loudly touting their commitment to diversity and inclusion. They will interview diverse firms and invite them to participate in onerous RFPs really tailored to mega-firms, so they can say that they considered hiring the women or minority-owned firms. However, after they have the diverse firms jump through multiple hoops, they do not hire them, instead of sticking with the big, majority-owned firms and majority lawyers they have always used. If companies do this, they cause considerable harm to diverse firms like ours because they entice us to devote our limited resources when the decision-maker at a company does not feel comfortable using a new firm and is often wasting the diverse firm’s time.
About the Author
Emily Griesing is the marketing manager at Griesing Law, LLC and co-owner and chief strategy officer of Bossible.