“You have to look at everybody the way they are,” said John Snyder, managing partner of the Kansas City office of Dentons. Some are very good at building relations. Some are so technically sound that people will seek them out. And some will only be a service partner, able and willing enough to do the work, “and you need those people, too.”
“Most rainmakers,” said Rob Adams, a partner at Shook, Hardy & Bacon, “make connections with people. They truly care about the people.” He cited his fellow Shook, Hardy partner, Harvey Kaplan, as an example. “When he meets somebody, especially a client, he will learn everything appropriately to be learned about that person,” said Adams, “and they’ll be friends for life.”
Kaplan was not of the opinion that rainmaking skills could be taught. “People either have it or they don’t have it,” he said. “It’s a people business. It’s making connections. It’s having a little foresight to be kind to people that you’re dealing with in every respect, because you never know where those people are going to end up.”
“I completely agree you can’t teach talent,” said Jim Ash. “But what you can do is unlock it. And you can squelch it.” Husch Blackwell, Ash explained, has a direct mentoring program in which senior partners help get new associates involved in the community. Herb Kohn had a different take. His firm, Bryan Cave, has been offering a voluntary course called “rainmaking” for the past seven years. One part of the instruction is teaching young lawyers to be authentic, to be themselves, even in a legal setting. Another is teaching them to be inquisitive.
Shook, Hardy & Bacon also offers training sessions on rainmaking, much of which is pretty basic, such as making sure one’s bio is up to date or developing a solid elevator speech. “For some people,” said Adams rainmaking “just doesn’t come naturally.” He thinks the training his firm offers has been very helpful.
Perry Brandt wondered just how im-portant it was for young attorneys to involve themselves on charitable boards and other civic activities. He cited Herb Kohn’s axiom that “you never get on a board or some kind of activity unless you’re going to be president.”
As Kohn clarified, this meant that attorneys not join 18 boards. They should just pick one in which they are really interested and work their way to the top.
Jay Selanders, managing partner at Kutak Rock, affirmed that board memberships should be taken seriously. “The folks that [attorneys] interact with see what they do with that board. Are they fully energized, are they working hard, are they doing their job or are they just showing up once a month?” Fellow board members will judge that attorney’s legal capability by his skills and dedication as a board member.
Making the Pitch
John Mullen saw the value in any civic activity that enabled young lawyers to show their commitment to the community and their expertise in a given area. The biggest mistake many young lawyers made, according to Mullen, was that they did not see the need to ask their civic contacts for their business. Mullen added that actually making the pitch can be “most uncomfortable” for young lawyers.”
“That’s the difference between sales and marketing,” said Pete Smith. “People have to have enough confidence in themselves to be able to ask for the business.” The ones who don’t ask will not do well at rainmaking. “Guys that are good salesmen,” said Smith, “are the ones who truly believe that [the client] would be better served and the world would be better served and justice would be better served” if the client hired them.