Rebecca Livingston Lando received her undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and her J.D. from Duke Law School. Her first legal job was at Akin Gump’s Washington, DC office. She later returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh as an associate in the Financial Services and Real Estate Section of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, where she remains a shareholder. She has served as section leader of one of the firm’s largest departments and is on the firm’s board of directors.
Elizabeth A. Whitman (EAW): What is different, either about you, or your firm, or anything else, that has allowed or enabled you to become a successful rainmaker?
Rebecca Livingston Lando (RLL): I’ve never thought of myself as a rainmaker—more of a relationship-builder. This approach has led to numerous business opportunities, as the people I’ve built relationships with advanced in their careers and took on roles where they could direct legal work or be referral sources for me. I definitely have been the “turtle” in the turtle-hare race of generating business.
My firm bio quotes a client who once said I am the type of lawyer whose friends become clients and the type of person whose clients become friends. I approach my work in a way that inspires confidence and makes people want to get me involved in their transactions and then use me again on the next one. While most of my clients are banks or large real estate investors, I work to understand what drives my contacts at those companies and what worries them, which leads to being a better counselor and often a friend as well. As I rose through my career, I learned from one of Buchanan’s top rainmakers about the importance of always adding value to every relationship and it is what I still practice to this day.
EAW: Describe your typical marketing year: Do you have a team?
RLL: Buchanan pours a lot of resources into the client and industry-focused teams and, as an uber-team oriented person, I am part of several teams that we market and serve clients through. When I am part of a team, I try to look for what unique skills and experiences I can bring to it. For example, when I first joined Buchanan, one of the firm’s largest bank clients was expanding in the Washington, DC market, and because I had practiced in Washington and worked with some DC-based developers, I was able to successfully assist in the market expansion. The real estate bankers I worked with then are now in leadership roles in that market, and 20-plus years later, our firm continues to work closely with them, including attorneys we have brought into the team through lateral hires to our DC office.
EAW: Please discuss any differences in your approach to marketing with existing clients vs. prospective clients?
RLL: It’s no secret that it is almost always easier to market and expand services to existing clients than it is to bring in new clients. I believe that is because having done prior hopefully excellent work, you have established credibility with the client. It is also because your existing role gives you insight into the client’s needs that you would not otherwise know about.
One of my most important client relationships is with a machinery supply company we represent in corporate, employment, litigation, and other work—all of which is outside of my practice. I learned about the company’s need for representation from an executive of an affiliated company I had been working with that invests in and develops real estate projects (which is in my practice). My contact, who I had worked with for many years at different companies, indicated that the machinery company affiliate had outgrown their existing primary law firm and was looking for a cost-effective new legal provider. She introduced me to the in-house attorney for the machinery company and was helpful in guiding our initial approach to that company. Two years later, we have a broad team of attorneys serving the machinery company client in multiple areas of expertise with a large annual legal spend.
This success highlights the importance of keeping open lines of communication with existing clients that extend beyond the immediate work. What else are they focused on? What opportunities are their companies pursuing? Can I make introductions for them that would further their company’s objectives? How can I find good moments—either in person or on calls when they have downtime—to talk? While I still look for ways to market to prospective clients, I probably spend 90 percent of my marketing time on existing clients.
EAW: Knowing what you know now, if you were starting over as a lawyer today, what would you do differently?
RLL: I would be a little more “hare,” a little less “turtle,” at the outset of my career. At every level of an attorney’s progress, we have contemporaries who work for our clients, and if I were starting over, I would be more intentional and organized about those relationships from the start. That said, the beginning of my legal career coincided with having children, and I’m not sure I had the bandwidth or energy then to spend additional time on marketing. In fact, I spent a number of years on an alternative work schedule that allowed me to be home with my children most days after school.
What I think I did right back then and would recommend to younger, particularly female lawyers with children, is to stay in the game. Although I reduced my workload (and compensation) on the alternative work schedule, I stayed with my firm and did not pursue a staff attorney kind of role that would have taken the pressure off to generate business. My longevity with one firm made it easier for me to ramp back up when my children got older and also to absorb some good business development practices that others around me were doing even if I wasn’t spending much time on them myself. I was lucky to be at Buchanan, which pretty much allowed me to define my own role. Law firms are more flexible now, but that approach was innovative in the 1990s.
About the Author
Elizabeth A. Whitman is an attorney and managing member of Whitman Legal Solutions, LLC, a business and real estate law firm in Potomac, MD. Contact her on Twitter @elizwhitman.