Amanda Wait is an antitrust partner in the Washington, DC, office of Norton Rose Fulbright. Amanda advises deal makers and litigants and combines her in-depth knowledge of Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Department of Justice (DOJ), and state attorneys general (AG) practice with a business-focused approach to getting deals done. A frequent speaker on antitrust topics, Amanda is regularly sought after by major media outlets to provide analysis of significant mergers.
Amanda wanted to be an antitrust lawyer since she was a junior in college. Studying business economics at the University of Cincinnati, Amanda discovered the practical application of industrial organization and microeconomic theory through the legal lens of antitrust law and never looked back.
After graduating from the William & Mary School of Law in 2004, Amanda served as a federal antitrust enforcer at the FTC for three years before joining private practice. She led the antitrust practice at Hunton & Williams (later Hunton Andrews Kurth) until the end of 2018 when she joined the global antitrust group at Norton Rose Fulbright.
Amanda lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband, two sons, and two dogs. She is an avid cyclist and Washington Capitals fan.
Shireen Meer (SM): What are the top three tips that would you give to a lawyer who wants to be a successful rainmaker today?
Amanda Wait (AW):
Tip #1: Identify Your Goals. Before any lawyer can become a successful rainmaker, she must first determine what that concept means to her. This may mean building and expanding relationships with “institutional” firm clients, bringing in new clients with whom the firm did not have an existing relationship, something else entirely, or some combination of those individual goals.
Tip #2: Be Organized and Disciplined. Once a lawyer has determined what being a “rainmaker” means to her and her specific situation, then I highly recommend developing a business plan (and sticking to it as much as possible). This business plan should include both measurable goals and specific action items to achieve those goals (including specific dates or timelines for each action item). But the business plan won’t do any good if you don’t follow it! I set a weekly recurring lunch meeting on my calendar as dedicated time to implement my business plan action items. A business development coach can also be a valuable resource in both developing a business plan and holding you accountable for implementing it.
Tip #3: Be Yourself. There is no “one size fits all” to developing client relationships. I was the sole female partner in my practice group for my first five years as a partner. The male partners in my group generated business in ways that I was not comfortable with or likely to succeed in doing. So I tried a number of different ways of developing relationships with current and potential clients. Some of them worked; many didn’t. I learned from the ones that worked and did not try to force the ways that didn’t.
SM: 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?
AW: During the early part of my legal career, I served as an antitrust enforcer with the FTC focusing on the antitrust review of mergers and acquisitions. In private practice, I develop and implement strategies for companies to clear antitrust review for their transactions. Clients have told me that they value the strong relationships I have maintained over the years with my former FTC colleagues and that I can provide an “insider” perspective into an agency’s review of a proposed merger or acquisition. As I have worked to grow an antitrust practice, I have sought to add other former enforcers to the team who can provide unique capabilities to serve our clients.
Another factor that has contributed to my success in developing business is that I joined Norton Rose Fulbright earlier this year with another lateral partner, Vic Domen. Vic recently completed a term as the chair of the Antitrust Multistate Task Force for the National Association of Attorneys General, where he coordinated antitrust enforcement across all state attorneys general. Vic and I, along with our other former enforcer colleagues at Norton Rose Fulbright, can shepherd clients through the review of their deals by any antitrust enforcement agency in the US – whether federal or state. I believe this uniquely positions us in our ability to serve our clients.
Your Typical Marketing Year
SM: How much time do you devote to marketing in a year?
AW: Between 500-600 hours per year.
SM: What types of marketing activities are you engaged in during the year?
AW: My marketing action items include internal marketing to my firm colleagues, external marketing to current and potential clients, public speaking, writing and being interviewed or quoted in appropriate publications, and social media. I also serve on the Council for the American Bar Association’s Antitrust Law Section. In this role, I work regularly with the “who’s who” of the antitrust bar, many of whom have been referral sources or me or co-counsel on matters over the years.
SM: What type of support for marketing do you have from your firm?
AW: Norton Rose Fulbright has approximately 4,000 lawyers and thousands of non-lawyer professionals around the world. This depth of resources was a primary driver for my joining the firm earlier this year. I work closely with our conflicts, marketing, and communications teams to ensure they understand my business development goals and to seamlessly work with them to achieve them.
SM: Do you have a team? If so, please describe
AW: In January 2019 I joined Norton Rose Fulbright’s global antitrust practice. Our global practice includes over 150 dedicated antitrust professionals in over 20 offices around the world. Closer to home, in the US, our antitrust group is growing. In the past year, we have added three senior former government antitrust enforcers (myself, Vic Domen, and another senior former FTC lawyer, Gerald Stein) and another counsel, all with a strong emphasis on representing companies on the antitrust aspects of mergers, acquisitions, and government investigations in addition to adding lawyers with other practice areas to our antitrust practice. Our global capabilities and ability to advise on federal and state antitrust reviews in the US sets us apart from our competition.
SM: If you could only engage in one type of marketing activity (e.g., speaking, writing, networking, meetings, participation in bar associations or other trade associations) for the next 12 months, what one activity would you choose?
AW: All of these types of activities are important elements of a business plan because you can use them in different ways to reach different audiences. If I could only do one of these for a year, however, I would pick in-person meetings, without question. Having face-to-face conversations with clients about their business and goals gives you the opportunity to better partner with them.
SM: What would that activity look like?
AW: I would try to meet in-person with as many of my existing and potential clients as possible. This could be informal meetings, such as breakfast or lunch “catch up” meetings, or more formal presentations about antitrust developments with a broader group of the client’s in-house legal and business teams. For prospective clients, I would seek as many introductions from current clients and contacts as possible.
SM: If you could only choose one more activity, what would it be and why?
AW: This would be a toss-up between speaking and publication opportunities. These types of thought leadership are important to ensure that you stay abreast of recent developments and to show clients that you are a leader in your chosen field.
SM: How did you get your first client?
AW: As a mid-level associate, I was invited to join a dinner with an existing firm client with whom we were seeking to gain antitrust work. The client’s industry was generally subject to merger reviews by the FTC, and I was invited to join given my prior experience working at that agency. The night before the dinner, the partner forwarded me an email from the client’s in-house counsel asking a hypothetical question about a possible acquisition. I worked several hours that night and the next morning to prepare a short presentation outlining the relevant facts, how the FTC would review the deal, the likely antitrust risk, and things the company could do to mitigate that risk. Ten years later, that in-house lawyer and I still work together and have become personal friends. I even attended her wedding this summer.
SM: How did you get your most recent client?
AW: My most recent client came through a referral from another law firm. The law firm had represented another party to a transaction I worked on years ago and remembered me. This is a great lesson in being civil and kind to all your co-counsel. You never know when one will send work to you in the future!
SM: How did you get your best client?
AW: I have so many “best” clients—each for different reasons. I have developed close, personal relationships with many of my clients. These relationships have transcended the business relationship to the point we can talk about their personal challenges, families, and other issues which makes me feel more personally invested. I have other “best” clients for which I have handled particularly challenging issues or had significant successes that have been transformational for their businesses. I love helping my clients achieve their merger goals! Each representation brings unique issues and challenges. My favorite matters are the ones where I can roll up my sleeves, dig into the weeds with the clients, and develop creative strategies to help them reach their business goals.
SM: How did you get your most unexpected client?
AW: I was traveling to my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, for client meetings one winter and got stuck unexpectedly in a snowstorm downtown. When one of my meetings got canceled due to weather, I found myself standing at Fountain Square, in the snow, in heels and a suit, with no place to go for a few hours. I looked up at the closest building to see the “Taft” name on the side. It was the home of the law firm, Taft Stettinius & Hollister. Fifteen years earlier, I had been a paralegal at another Cincinnati law firm. One of the junior attorneys I worked with was now a partner at Taft. I called his office out of the blue (it was literally a “cold call”) and asked if I could borrow a conference room for a few hours. He was very kind to let me in, give me a cup of coffee, and introduce me to some of his partners. One of those partners referred a significant matter to me only a few months later.
SM: How do you get in front of clients/get asked to respond to RFPs?
AW: Getting in front of clients is just about building relationships. RFPs come as a result of those relationships, and also as a result of reputation building, including being referred by others. Being interviewed and quoted, speaking on panels, writing, and other business development efforts all create name recognition. When companies that I have relationships with have an RFP, I am often told I am on the list to participate because of my relationships, reputation or both. Of course, working in a well-respected, global firm like Norton Rose Fulbright has helped by providing additional credibility, capacity, and resources.
SM: How do you “close the sale” once you are in front/in contact with a client?
AW: I think the phrase “close the sale” can be affirmatively harmful. You shouldn’t think of your clients as consumers to sell something to. You should constantly think about how you can add value for them. Be generous with your time and resources. Think about what your clients need and how you can give it to them. Sometimes this means billable client work, but sometimes it means putting them in contact with an industry expert, or someone who can talk to them about a school they are considering for their child, or something else entirely that may not even relate to law. Clients want partners who are looking out for them and not for themselves. Closing is just a word. The key to developing business is moving your client relationships forward with trust.
SM: What obstacles have you overcome to build your book of business? How did you overcome them?
AW: Two years after making equity partner at my prior firm, my first son was born with my second son joining us 19 months later. Having children so early in my partnership career was a challenge but it forced me to be efficient with my limited time. As a result, I developed some habits that both increased my efficiency and my personal well-being. For example, I started commuting to work by bicycle to combine my commuting time with my daily exercise. From a business development perspective, I also hired a business development coach, the amazing Stewart Hirsch of Strategic Relationships, with whom I have worked for over five years. Stewart helped me streamline and focus my business development efforts. He also kept me on track through regular meetings.
SM: Knowing what you know now, if you were starting over as a lawyer today, what would you do differently?
AW: I don’t think of things in terms of doing things differently. I believe that every lawyer should have goals and a plan to achieve them. But you should also be prepared to pivot when needed. Sometimes opportunities arise when you least expect them. You have to be prepared and have the courage to take advantage of those opportunities. Looking back, I put time and energy into my work, my career path, building relationships and, of course, my family. These efforts made me ready to jump with confidence on opportunities when they arose.
SM: How has the world of marketing legal services changed over the last 3-5 years?
AW: The greater influence of social media has been extraordinary. Posting an article on LinkedIn or Twitter, for example, can expand your audience exponentially. I think more has remained the same than changed though. It’s still all about trust and relationships. Relationships can be formed online and advanced in person. But, as I have said, the in-person communications make all the difference.
SM: What, if anything, do you plan to do differently with respect to marketing your services next year or in the future?
AW: One thing I’m currently focusing on is having more targeted and effective social media postings. I recently attended a meeting in which Mark Schaeffer spoke about the importance of personal connections and storytelling in marketing. I’m trying to apply some of that learning to my own social media posts. I’m currently reading his book, Marketing Rebellion, and also Peter Guber’s Tell to Win.
About the Author
Shireen Meer is an economic damages expert and associate director in the Washington DC office of the Berkeley Research Group. She can be contacted at email@example.com.