April 2013 | Disaster Prep: Special Issue
Meet the Women Rainmakers!
Interviewed by Katherine Britton
Most Successful/Favorite Rainmaking Tip:
Treat every public meeting as a rainmaking opportunity. You never know when the people you meet will send you business. Very often, the discussion topics will pique someone's interest and can turn into business.
Biggest Influence On Career/Best Career Advice:
The biggest influences on my career have been some of my bosses and mentors. I’ve never turned down an opportunity to be mentored. I think you can always learn something from someone. Sometimes it’s just one lunch or one phone call and other times it’s a relationship that lasts for years. I had a mentor from my time at the Federal Trade Commission who I continued to call for a couple of years after I'd left the FTC; he was very influential, particularly in helping me interface with the FTC in ways that made my transition into private practice that much easier.
Percentage Of Time Devoted To Marketing:
I would say at least 25 percent of my time goes towards rainmaking, and it’s at least an hour a day. I look at having a lunch with a person as a rainmaking opportunity even if it’s with someone I've known for years. I have lunch with one of my former co-workers at least once a month. Just yesterday, I sent some work to my former firm because Mintz Levin ended up with a conflict, and I knew that one of my former partners would be perfect for the matter. By helping the company find a good lawyer to work on their project, that company is more likely to either send me business in the future or say to another company, "I had a really positive experience with Christi Braun. She wasn't able to work for me but she helped me find someone who was able to do the work for me." Word–of-mouth is the cheapest and best advertisement.
I don't know that there is any particular accomplishment of which I am more proud of than anything else. Getting through law school was hard for me. Not from an academic standpoint, but emotionally. I lost my mother during my first year of law school. I was in a joint degree program, which meant that I was biting off an awful lot all at once. I had gone straight through from undergrad, so I burned out on school at a certain point. Yet, I came through it and graduated with honors. I have achieved a lot since then, but I experienced a lot of adversity and a lot of triumph during law school. Getting my degree was a very big accomplishment for me.
Knowing What You Know Now, If You Were Starting Out As A Lawyer Today, What Would You Do Differently?
I would have had fewer preconceived notions about what I needed to be. I would advise lawyers starting out today to have an idea of what interests you and certainly work towards doing what interests you, but don’t limit yourself. Too many lawyers get caught in some area of law that does not really interest them and it makes being a lawyer that much more difficult. We put in really long hours, so if you are not interested in what you are doing as a lawyer, you're not going to be a good lawyer.
But I think too often, young lawyers and law students have the idea I need to work for a big firm, or I need to be this type of lawyer. It's important to be open to all of the opportunities. In my career, the best things that have happened to me have been things that I didn't really plan but came from taking advantage of opportunities. I think it's a mistake to pass on an opportunity because it doesn't fit what you had in mind for your future. That does not mean that you have to take every opportunity, but dismissing something without really thinking through what it could do for your career and how it could affect your life, I think is a mistake.
Coming out of law school, I knew that I wanted to be a health lawyer and I turned down some opportunities because I was so focused on being a health lawyer. And yet, when push came to shove, I ended up being an antitrust lawyer specializing in healthcare. I remember interviewing with a firm that I desperately wanted to work for and a partner asked me, "If we don't hire you, what will you do?” And I said, "Well, I have a job offer from the Federal Trade Commission." He scoffed and said, "If you do that, you'll never be anything but an antitrust lawyer!" And I ended up having the last laugh because his firm has actually sought out my advice on antitrust matters.
Tell Me About One Rainmaking Strategy Or Tactic That You Initially Thought Would Work, But It Failed. Why Did It Fail?
One of the partners for whom I worked thought that writing was the key to getting business. I have found that writing does not necessarily get me that much work. It ends up taking far more time than any work it actually generates. In some ways, I feel that I've given away a lot of my intellectual property without getting a return on that investment. Personally, I have found that attending conferences, networking, and speaking at conferences and on teleconferences have been far more successful as rainmaking strategies for me.
Tell Me About One Rainmaking Strategy Or Tactic That You Initially Thought Would Fail, But It Was A Great Success. Why Was It Successful?
Mintz Levin decided to put on webinars for existing clients on discrete health care topics. Initially, I did not give much credence to this idea. I thought, this is an awful lot of work and it is not necessarily going to generate business if we are just doing it for existing clients. And yet, these webinars have not only generated new business from existing clients, but existing clients have told others about the webinars. We have also had a lot of people randomly view or listen to the webinars on our website. These webinars have been successful in ways that I never expected.
What Has Been Your Greatest Frustration About Trying To Get New Business Or New Clients?
In the current economy, general counsel know that there is a lot of competition among law firms for new business. Lately, I have been seeing more requests for proposals that ask for legal strategy and even sometimes legal advice as part of the proposal. I find myself questioning whether it is even appropriate to respond to such RFPs, in part because (1) you are doing work for a potential client without charging them and (2) you are creating an attorney-client relationship without them being a client. Not to mention the fact that I put in a lot of time responding to these RFPs and the actual return on that time investment is low.
If You Were Mentoring A Young Woman Lawyer, What Advice Would You Give Her Regarding Rainmaking?
Women, particularly young women, tend to be their own worst critics and tend to be easily intimidated. Young women need to have pride in themselves. I would tell a young woman starting out today: believe in yourself, believe in your abilities, put yourself out there, and don’t even think about failure. If you fail, pick yourself up and move on; but don’t think about the possibility of failure before you actually fail. Just go out and do it.
One thing that I recommend to any young women lawyer that I mentor is put yourself out there for speaking opportunities on conferences, teleconferences, and webinars. It’s never too early for your first speaking engagement. You have to start getting them under your belt early. I always tell women: don’t turn down the opportunities, seek them out, and don’t say "Well, I've only been out of school X years, so I don’t know anything." Go for it. There is always something that you can speak about, and, if you don’t feel confident speaking about a topic, you can moderate a panel. If you don’t put yourself out there, it’s unlikely anybody is going to ask you to speak.
A few of my early speaking engagements were ones that someone else agreed to do and then couldn’t. And they said to me, "You have expressed an interest, Christi, would you like to do this presentation?” And there I was, out speaking at conferences and on teleconferences. I did a number of speaking engagements in my first couple of years out of law school that, looking back, I think, wow, how did I do that? But nobody told me I couldn’t. And I honestly believed I could. When I was out in private practice after four years at the Federal Trade Commission, having already done speaking engagements, it was that much easier for me to start doing the rainmaking.
Would You Say You Ever Had A Mentor That Made A Genuine Difference In How Your Career Turned Out? If Yes, Please Describe.
Yes, I've had a number of mentors who have made a big difference in my career—the projects I worked on, the job opportunities I’ve had, and even the type of law I practice. And because of the mentors I've had, I firmly believe in mentoring other people. I've mentored a lot of people outside of formal mentoring programs and I regularly sign up in formal programs to be a mentor just because it’s a way of paying my mentors back. What I mean is that I can't really pay back the people who have made such a difference in my career, so I pay it forward. I really believe in that concept.
Think About When You Started Out As A Lawyer. Now Think About The New Female Lawyers Just Starting Out. What Is Different Now Compared To When You Started?
The job market is horrible right now. It wasn’t great right when I came out of law school, but it wasn’t anything compared to what it is like today. It's unfortunate because so many of the things that worked for me in getting my career off the ground don’t necessarily work today in this economy. I think that the most important thing for young women today is to network, network, network. And when you are tired of networking, network some more. In this economy, getting a job or getting an opportunity is more about who you know and who your connections are than it is about where you went to school (unless you have a good alumni network), what you learned in school, or what you did as your first job.
List Words That Best Describe You:
Tenacious, patient, and hard-working.
LAW PRACTICE TODAY
Micah U Buchdahl, HTMLawyers, Inc
Andrea Malone, White and Williams LLP
BOARD OF EDITORS
John D. Bowers, Fox Rothschild LLP
Margaret M. DiBianca, Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, LLP
Nicholas Gaffney, Infinite Public Relations, LLC
Nancy L Gimbol, Eastburn & Gray
Richard W Goldstein, Goldstein Patent Law
Katy M. Goshtasbi, Puris Image
William D Henslee, Florida A&M Univ College of Law
Allison C. Shields, Legal Ease Consulting, Inc.
Gregory H. Siskind, Siskind Susser, P.C.
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