The “secret” of successful rainmakers

What if the secret is that there is NO SECRET?  What if landing legal clients didn’t depend on being extroverted or charismatic?  What if it required no special selling strategies or tactics?  What if these rainmakers are just good lawyers?

The rainmakers I know are curious.  They ask questions.  They listen intently.  They are analytical and reflective.  They educate. They want to help.  They are creative and think about unique ways to solve problems.  They are relatable.

Are any of these attributes really secrets?  Aren’t they just the characteristics of a good lawyer?

I asked one rainmaker who specializes in business immigration law and employment law to describe the sales strategies he uses to motivate potential clients to sign up.  He said, “I don’t rely on sales strategies.  I just help potential clients recognize what I bring to the table that can help them get the outcome they are after.  Whenever I talk to a potential client, I try to get in the weeds quickly as if I have already been engaged.  I seek to learn enough facts for me to formulate some preliminary conclusions about the client’s problem and determine whether I can assist. Sometimes I can’t.”

He cited the following example of how he landed two of his biggest clients.

“Employers in the hospitality industry have frequent hiring needs and regular turnover.  They tend to hire a lot of foreign nationals.  I learned from listening to several of these employers that they would receive periodic messages from HR regarding errors on I-9 Forms (forms all employers must have and maintain for employees’ employment eligibility verification in the U.S.).  These errors can lead to fines, ICE investigation, or even allegations of document abuse and discrimination.”

“One of these employers was a client of the firm for which I was asked to help.  The employer concluded that the I-9 Forms problem was the result of frequently hiring foreign national employees without employment authorization.  After going on-site and talking with some of the foreign nationals, I discovered that they did in fact possess evidence of employment authorization.  However, the HR personnel responsible for executing I-9 verifications were not properly trained and did not have a uniform system in place for onboarding new employees or for later checking/auditing I-9 Forms as part of internal compliance efforts.  So, I helped the employer recognize that its conclusion centered on the manifestation of the issue rather than its root cause.  Once the employer made sure the appropriate personnel were trained and prepared for executing I-9 obligations uniformly on behalf of the company, the problem disappeared.  Since the successful conclusion of that matter, the employer has turned to our firm (with me as the relationship partner) for all of its employment litigation and immigration matters.”

“I shared our success with the firm’s hospitality team and suggested that we offer to help any firm client who may be having similar issues.  It turned out that another client was having similar problems.  So, after successfully handling the issue for them, I now find myself in the role of relationship partner for all of the litigation and immigration matters for that client as well.”

So, is just being a good lawyer sufficient to attract new clients?

More or less, yes.

The strategy for dealing with prospective clients is similar.  To connect meaningfully and demonstrate your legal skill you have to ask appropriate questions to get the prospective clients to discuss their challenges and describe the ultimate outcomes they desire.  Once you get the prospective client talking, it’s imperative that you hold back and stop yourself from offering your insight too early.  This is something that took me years to perfect and I’m still working on it.  The idea is to keep asking questions and hold off showing how much you know until you have sufficient information from which to draw upon your expertise and offer relevant information regarding an appropriate path forward.  Whenever I don’t follow this approach, it’s a double loss.  I wind up giving mediocre advice, based on insufficient information, on an issue that isn’t the core problem.

So for those looking for the “secret,” to becoming a rainmaker:

  • Sharpen your legal skills, your questioning skills, and your listening skills.
  • Uncover all facets of a prospect’s/client’s situation before offering advice.
  • Identify the root cause of a problem before you start developing a solution.
  • Identify and clarify any misconceptions.

In other words, be a good lawyer.

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at