Rachel Adcox is an antitrust partner at Axinn and a member of the firm’s three-person Executive Committee. Rachel skillfully leads clients through their most complex multidistrict litigation and criminal and civil investigations, defending billions of dollars in potential damages in the last year alone.
Jetta C. Sandin (JCS): What are the top three tips that would you give to a lawyer who wants to be a successful rainmaker today?
Rachel Adcox (RA):
- First and foremost, focus on the quality of your relationships. Ensure that you keep seeking out and nurturing strong relationships because they are the fundamental building blocks of any practice.
- Clearly understand and be able to articulate what is unique about you, and what you bring to a representation. Your point of view, the types of cases you handle, your management style—all of these can be strengths and differentiators. Figure out your strengths, and how they can be helpful to a client. It will help set you apart from the rest.
- Be sincere in your desire to help your client. Put yourself in your client’s shoes, and treat them the way that you would want to be treated. Sincerity goes a long, long way.
JCS: What is (or was) different, either about you or your firm, that has enabled you to become a successful rainmaker?
RA: Axinn is a great platform for attorneys who have an entrepreneurial mindset and want to build a practice. From day one, everyone is encouraged to act like an owner. There cannot be a more conducive or supportive environment for going out there and developing new client relationships.
It is different for everyone, but I also think it helped that I was older when I entered the legal profession. The law was actually my second career. I had a more developed sense of self when I was starting my practice than I might have had if I had gone to law school straight out of college. That helped me to differentiate myself from others early in my legal career.
JCS: What is your opinion regarding cultivating relationships with other attorneys as a potential referral source?
RA: I have always found attorneys to be a rich referral source, from both inside and outside the firm. The antitrust bar is a relatively small community, so it is important that you build those relationships. Those personal referrals can really give you a leg up; it might be the biggest reason that you get that call or meeting, which then gives you an opportunity to gain the client’s confidence.
JCS: Describe your typical marketing year. How much time do you devote to marketing? What types of activities are you engaged in the most? What type of support do you have from your firm?
RA: Marketing and business development probably consume about 15% of my time, and that includes everything I do to promote firm brand recognition and other partners, not just myself.
I spend most of my time finding ways to keep up with my network. In-person contact is ideal, but I’m finding virtual meetings to be very meaningful as well. In whatever format you are meeting, it’s important to really listen to what’s going on with your contacts—both their challenges and their successes. Having those conversations and really listening is the best possible method for growing your relationships.
Axinn actively encourages its attorneys to advance their marketing and business development efforts. Our marketing and business development team works with all of our attorneys to develop and implement marketing and business plans, and brings structure and consistency to our various activities. I partner closely with that team and rely on their support and encouragement.
JCS: 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 and why?
RA: Meeting with people, virtually or in person, is an essential marketing activity. The quality of the interaction is what makes the difference. Ask questions. Get to know people. Meeting with someone allows you to get below the surface in a meaningful way.
JCS: What would that activity look like?
RA: It all depends on who I’m talking to, and how well we already know each other. For a new acquaintance, I might offer to discuss a topic of interest to them, just to add value and provide a natural focus for the conversation. However, sometimes you need to touch base just to touch base. This is especially true now. While we’re all navigating the challenges of working virtually in different ways, we also have something new in common. So we’re connecting on levels that didn’t necessarily exist before. Despite the circumstances, it’s crucial to find that point of connection. At the end of the day, people want to hire smart, capable people that they also see as teammates—people who have their back.
JCS: Everyone loves a good war story. What is the story of how you got your first client?
RA: I got my first client when I was in Japan with a colleague and stayed a few extra days to do compliance training. After the training, we went to dinner, and then to karaoke. Glee was very popular at the time in Japan, so I sang a few Glee songs (I remember “Don’t Stop Believing” was a particular hit). I stayed in touch—occasional reach outs, holiday cards—but heard nothing for years. And then, one day, I got an email out of blue asking for help.
JCS: How did you get your most recent client?
RA: I was referred to the client by a colleague from another firm who was conflicted out of the representation—a great example of why it is so important to maintain your referral network. I was interviewed along with lawyers from two other firms and was ultimately chosen to handle the matter.
JCS: Have you ever had a client pitch not go as expected? What did you do and how did it turn out?
RA: Several years ago, I was in a pitch with two of my partners. We were in a conference room with two of the company’s representatives, and a third representative was on a video screen. After my two partners completed their part of the presentation, I began to speak. When I was about three sentences in, one of the company representatives stood up and excused herself from the room. On her way out, she took her colleague with her. I had no idea why she left, and I couldn’t discuss the situation with my partners because the other company representative was still with us on the video screen. So we sat there. In silence. Eventually, they came back and asked me to please continue, so I took a deep breath and picked up where I left off. We left the meeting totally baffled, but, much to my surprise, it all had a happy ending—they hired us!
JCS: What is one thing that helps set you apart from other attorneys once you are in front of a client?
RA: I think it goes back to having a point of view. You have accumulated a decade or more of experience. You have developed a point of view on how a case or a matter should be done. Do not be afraid to express it. Knowing the law and business is the baseline. Ultimately what gets you hired is that you can inspire confidence in your client. Make sure you communicate what you do best, and why you are best positioned to make good things happen.
JCS: Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to attorneys just starting out?
RA: Developing a legal practice is not a canned thing; it is all a process, and it will be different for everyone. Take in all your experiences and use them to inform your view. Observe everything you can about your area practice—good and bad—and use that experience to really think through what you want your practice to be. And when you figure it out, put it out there. A lot of the battle is being memorable. Having a unique perspective and the confidence to back it up is part of that.
About the Author
Jetta C. Sandin is an antitrust associate at Axinn, representing clients in civil and criminal antitrust matters.