Reluctant Rainmaker? Five Ways to Build a Consistent Client Pipeline Anyway
Shortly after law school, I worked for sole practitioner “Bob” on a patent litigation trial. From September until the following March, the bulk of our time was focused on that one matter. I was working 14-hour days, so I never worried about what would happen after the trial. A few days before closing arguments, I asked about the work waiting for us, and Bob responded, “Yeah, I need to figure that out.”
As soon as we returned from the trial, I started sending out resumes. I didn’t know how to bring in business myself, and I had a long list of stories about why I shouldn’t even bother trying yet. I jumped to another firm, but it was a few years before I figured out how to land new business.
So what if you dread the thought of trying to land new business? You may have reasons (that is, excuses) about why you can’t be a rainmaker. And if you’re worried about the prospect of appearing to be too “salesy,” you may take on lots of activity but remain at “mistmaker” status, with just enough business for your practice to survive but never to thrive. If this sounds familiar, you’re probably a reluctant rainmaker.
Rejoice, reluctant rainmaker: you can develop a sustainable book of business and still feel good when you look at yourself in the mirror. Here’s how to start.
- Be specific about what stands in your way and commit to addressing that issue. Hate networking? If you dislike big groups, find ways to meet new contacts one-on-one or in smaller groups. Not sure how to ask for business? There’s terrific literature and plenty of colleagues who have mastered that art. Study up, get a mentor, and practice.
- Identify the clients you serve (or want to serve) and what you do for them. You’ll divide the world into those who might be your clients and those who will not. Once you’ve made that cut, you can stop spending marketing time on those who will never hire you or send you referrals.
- Pinpoint what sets you apart. Perhaps you have a skill or experience that distinguishes you from other lawyers in your area of practice. Identify and highlight that distinction.
- Create a clear, cohesive practice description and deliver it in the right channels. Develop a message that others understand, and share it with potential clients and/or referral sources. Whether you’re speaking, writing, or working in an organization, look for ways to enhance your credentials (which evidence your competence) and engage the right audience so you start to build relationships. Discover new contacts’ concerns and offer help (legal or otherwise) when you can.
- Find a way to ask for business that fit your style, but remember that you must ask. Depending on the setting your “ask” may be an offer of assistance, a suggested course of action, or a straight-up statement that you’d love to work with the client. If you don’t ask, you risk seeming uninterested. (Of course, adhere to your jurisdiction’s ethics rules).
When you follow these steps, you’ll discover that you can be professional, genuine, and a successful rainmaker. Take one small step each day. Well-tailored consistency in marketing delivers results… Even for reluctant rainmakers.