Janice Brown is the founding partner of Brown Law Group, an employment and litigation boutique in San Diego serving business clients, including the federal government, throughout California. Brown Law Group has 11 talented lawyers and a great staff. Ms. Brown has been named the Department of Justice Lawyer of the Year, the California Association of Black Lawyers’ Lawyer of the Year, the Witkin Legal Professional of the Year, the San Diego Business Journal Woman Who Means Business, and a Girl Scout “Cool Woman.”
What are the top three rainmaking tips that have led to your success? Would these be the same tips that you would give to rainmakers today?
Always follow up with people, think about what you can do for someone else, as opposed to what people can do for you, and learn to like business development. These tips remain important today.
Describe your typical marketing year: How much time do you devote to marketing?
It depends on the time of year. In the month of September, there are a number of conferences that I attend. So, in September, I spend almost 40 hours on business development. Most months, I spend three hours a week on business development. On most workdays, I use my Cloudburst point system, a software platform which includes follow up and a calendar that I created to keep me on task.
In what type of activities are you engaged? Which have built your practice the most?
I am on the board of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA), where I am the only outside lawyer on the board. I serve on the board of the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF). I also serve on the San Diego Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and the Insurance Commissioner’s Diversity Task Force. To date, NAMWOLF has provided my firm with the most networking opportunities that have actually turned into business, but I believe that MCCA has tremendous opportunity as well. In San Diego, being part of the executive committee for the San Diego EDC has been a tremendous opportunity to learn about economic development and meet business leaders in iconic local companies.
Do you have a team to support your marketing efforts, and if so, what roles/ responsibilities do they support?
Yes. First, I have other lawyers in my firm who use Cloudburst and have commitments to the community. One of my lawyers, Arlene Yang, is the president of the Pan Asian Bar. Another, Stacy Fode, is past president of the San Diego Women’s Bar, and a past vice president of the San Diego County Bar Association. Bottom line is that most of the lawyers in Brown Law Group are involved and attempt to bring in business. In addition, I have an amazing marketing staff person—Valeina Jack.
If you could only engage in one type of marketing activity—speaking, writing, networking, and participation in bar activities/trade associations for the next 12 months, what one activity would you choose?
I would chose networking followed by writing.
What would that activity look like?
I would attend events and follow-up with the contacts I made. I would choose networking because I love the energy of people. And if I could choose another activity, I would choose writing because it is a way to share your thinking with a large group of people. I love reading because it evokes emotion in me. I hope to write in a way that evokes emotion in others.
I understand you are a member of NAMWOLF. How has that helped your practice?
NAMWOLF has helped because I make an effort to teach others what has caused me to be successful. The more you teach, the better you get at whatever you are doing. We tackle the tough issues and sometimes that is difficult, but it makes a better organization because we do. Most of the corporate participants are real people. Bottom line, NAMWOLF is a group of entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are fun people, not afraid to take a risk.
How did you get your first client?
I asked for the business, by telling the client that I did not know how to ask for the business. I told the truth about my lack of skill.
How did you get your most recent client?
I served as a mediator in a case with that client.
How did you get your best client?
I don’t know how I would say “who is my best client.” Perhaps the one who trusts me the most? I met the CEO, who is a very tough questioner, and I gave the CEO everything I had and I got hired.
How did you get your most unexpected client?
My first client was unexpected. I showed up at lunch and she brought files for two cases. hat has never happened since, though I keep looking for it—like a rainbow.
How did you find companies to which you pitch? What would be your “pitch tips” and “close tips” for a deal?
We have an ideal client list, which identifies the type of clients that we like. Among some of the characteristics my ideal client would have would be to appreciate the work we do, being timely in all facets of the case, and be honorable. I know that is sounds very zen, but my best pitch tip is to be fully present, listen (which can be a challenge for me), and to think what is best for the other person, even if it means sending them to another lawyer.
What obstacles did you overcome to build your practice? How did you overcome them?
The biggest obstacles were in my own head, about my own limitations. I overcame them by reading books about successful people, praying daily, meditation as often as I can, exercising and doing yoga. All of these disciplines are designed to help me focus on my truest essence, which is unlimited. I try to remember that whenever I feel less than or limited—that is merely my mind playing tricks on me.
Knowing what you know now, if you were a starting lawyer today, what would you do differently?
Quiet my ego. We are in a competitive industry. Someone crushes it. Someone is skunked. We also are in an industry where anger can win and/or aggression is rewarded at times. So through all of that you must show compassion for the wounded opposing counsel who can’t live up to his mother, the crazy client who believes his crazy story, or to the judge that feels slighted. We all run into these situations which can flare your ego and you want to fight back. And that fighting back is like drinking black-inked poison. It gets into your body and you suffer for the benefit of that minute where you told them off. The quiet ego allows you to do your best rather than be concerned about winning in the moment.
How has the world of marketing of legal services changed over the last three to five years?
It is much more transparent and aggressive. Naked aggression can be difficult for women because we are not comfortable showing it. You may get called a bad name. So, until women are more committed to being authentic than being liked, we have a ways to go before we reach a comfort level with aggression.
What, if anything, do you plan to do differently with respect to marketing your legal services next year or in the future?
Find a way to clone myself.
What books would you recommend reading and why?
The Surrender Experiment and The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer, Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, books by comedians, something saucy, and books by Brene Brown. Together, these readings bring me peace.
What other advice would you give that we have not covered?
Hire a coach. I hire coaches for my lawyers. I recommend coaches to others. I use a coach from time to time. Right now I am using a coach, because I was feeling overwhelmed with all of these great opportunities. The coach helps me find ways to focus on what I am doing now and not worry, so much, for the future. Also, get a great doctor. I have one; her name is Dr. Alma Harb. She is an angel.
About the Author
Jeanne R. Lee is an attorney and business development coach for lawyers and executives. She can be reached at 303.333.2417 or Jeanne@lawyermentorcoach.com.