Meet the Women Rainmakers!
Jonice Gray Tucker
Interviewed by Mavis Gragg
Name: Jonice Gray Tucker
Firm Name: Buckley Sandler, LLP
Address: 1250 24th Street, Suite 700, Washington, D.C. 20037
Nominated by: Mavis Gragg
Interviewed by: Mavis Gragg
Practice area: Financial Services
Most successful/favorite rainmaking tip:
Invest in relationships, put your clients first and be sincere. Sometimes this is as simple as talking less and listening more. I often see current clients or potential clients at conferences and industry events, and find this to be an excellent opportunity to hear more about the concerns and issues they are dealing with at that time.
In such settings, you get the opportunity to converse with folks about things that really matter to them at that moment. I see lawyers who seem to go around the room collecting business cards, but for me, I treat these situations as a chance to have meaningful conversations with key clients or prospects – I’m not there to necessarily meet as many people as possible. It’s more about building a relationship and demonstrating to clients that you understand their industry and their concerns, and have some thoughtful analysis or insights to share that might help them.
Biggest influence on career/best career advice:
The best advice I have been given was to choose a practice focus and concentrate on raising my profile, professionally and personally. With more than 1 million practicing lawyers in the United States, clients and potential clients have so many excellent lawyers from whom to choose. They look for people who know their businesses and can provide solutions to their legal challenges. It’s hard to stand out if you don’t select and promote a niche. For me, this means, speaking and writing about issues facing the financial services industry and being active in bar, trade and industry groups. Last year, I wrote five articles and spoke at more than a dozen industry events. I also led the retail banking sub-committee of the American Bar Association’s Banking Law Committee, and serve as a vice-chair of the fair access to justice subcommittee of the American Bar Association’s Consumer Financial Services Committee. Speaking, writing and actively participating in organizations focused on financial services has not only helped me to raise my profile, it has helped me to build relationships and become a better lawyer for my clients.
Percentage of time devoted to marketing:
I would say 10-20 percent of my time is spent on business development and marketing activities. This often includes speaking engagements, tracking the news and industry developments, reaching out to clients to see what is keeping them awake at night, and writing. Some months I devote more time to business development, but it is important to spend a little time at it every day.
My proudest professional accomplishment relates to work that I did for a Boston police officer named Kenny Conley (Conley v. United States). After my federal clerkship, I accepted an offer to join the litigation group at Skadden Arps. During my first week at the firm, I was assigned to serve as the primary associate on a case with legendary white-collar lawyers Bob Bennett and Saul Pilchen. This was a high-profile case that Bob had taken on, pro bono, to help exonerate a young cop who had been wrongly convicted of obstructing justice.
The case was a defining moment in my career. We ended up litigating that case for four years, going up to First Circuit twice, having an unfavorable panel decision overturned when the matter was heard en banc, and ultimately prevailing when the case was remanded to the district court. Our client was in his mid-twenties when this incident happened and all he wanted to do, in what turned out to be a 10-year saga for him, was to return to the police force. After the conviction was overturned, he was reinstated as a Boston police officer. He is now a detective in Boston.
As a young lawyer, it was an extraordinary experience to help achieve justice for someone in a way that was so very personally meaningful. To get a conviction overturned and essentially help someone reclaim their life is, I think, one of the greatest victories any lawyer could have.
Knowing what you know now, if you were starting out as a lawyer today, what would you do differently?
I’m not sure there is very much I would change. I have been very fortunate to work for extremely talented lawyers who are considered among the best in the nation at what they do. I was lucky to have several of those lawyers take me under their wings and personally invest in mentoring me. As a young attorney, I had a variety of experiences with different cases which really reinforced my love of the practice of law. I was also fortunate enough to find a field, financial services, that I sort of fell into and that I very much enjoy which has allowed me to do meaningful work on precedent setting cases. I feel fortunate to have developed an expertise in an area that is now the focal point of national attention.
Tell me about one rainmaking strategy or tactic that you initially thought would work, but it failed. Why did it fail?
This depends on how you define “failure.” I think in rainmaking you have to take the long view and realize that it takes years to become an effective rainmaker. If you had asked me two years ago, I may have said that I didn’t think much was coming out of my articles, speeches and all the conversations I was having in professional settings, but I see now that every effort I have put into business development and marketing has had a cumulative effect in helping me be where I am today.
One of my mentors told me a long time ago that it takes time to build traction. It takes time for you to become the go-to person. It takes time to build your profile and I never fully appreciated that advice until recently. So, I think it is really important to give a strategy an adequate amount of time to succeed before deeming it a failure.
Tell me about one rainmaking strategy or tactic that you initially thought would fail, but it was a great success. Why was it successful?
To be a successful rainmaker you need to consistently engage in intentional actions to develop new business. These actions vary from person to person depending on personality and comfort levels – one size does not fit all. To be an effective rainmaker, you need to find your style and devote time to business development every single day. No one strategy is going to work in and of itself, but consistent, deliberate acts of business development in the aggregate will pay off better than one-time “campaigns” or tactics.
Early on, I wondered how much time I should spend at networking events talking to one individual or potential client. Should I circulate around the room? Should I try to meet this person or that person? What I have learned is it better to meet one person with whom you’ve had a chance to establish a rapport than it is to meet 30 people who won’t remember you tomorrow. When you take time to stop “networking” and actually engage a person in meaningful dialogue your chances of making a meaningful impression increase dramatically. Conversations in these settings don’t always have to be about work or legal issues, but when they are, take the time to provide real insights and professional expertise. When you have a chance to show someone that you care about their issues and challenges, have substantive knowledge and are willing to give a bit of your time, you are well on your way to developing a relationship that has a greater chance of resulting in business down the road. It is also important to take time to build strategic partnerships with other lawyers outside of your firm. It’s somewhat counter-intuitive, especially if you view those lawyers as your competitors, but more often than not a strategic alliances or relationship with an attorney with a complementary practice can create opportunities to work collaboratively. Lawyers from other firms can become valuable referral sources if you take the time to invest in those relationships as well.
What has been your greatest frustration about trying to get new business or new clients?
I think that a real obstacle all lawyers face is that potential clients have their go-to firms or their individual go-to lawyers on speed dial already. It can be difficult to break into a space with a new client where that client has historically used a particular law firm for decades. When trying to jump-start a new relationship like this, I’ve found a nice way to break in is by offering complementary services to those already being provided by another law firm. When you are in a niche field like financial services, that concern can be more pronounced because there are a finite number of financial institutions and many of them already have their go-to firms. It’s a challenge, but by focusing my practice, I can often offer an expertise or level of service that many of my clients’ go-to firms cannot offer.
If you were mentoring a young woman lawyer, what advice would you give her regarding rainmaking?
I would give a young woman lawyer the same advice I was given. Have the confidence to start building your personal profile early by seizing opportunities when they present themselves. You can do this through networking, membership in and attendance at various industry events, getting published and looking for speaking opportunities. Associates tend to be very focused on getting in and doing the substantive legal work, which they absolutely should be. However, younger lawyers tend not to focus on marketing and business development until they become senior associates or even partners. It’s never too early to starting networking and raising your profile.
For example, if you are not speaking but you are helping a partner write a speech, look for opportunities for you and that partner to turn that speech into an article. Look for opportunities to present that speech in another forum. Talk with the partner about doing a more personalized seminar for a client who might be interested in hearing about that new industry trend.
One more piece of advice: find a mentor. I think the best mentor relationships happen naturally and often stem from close working relationships. When opportunities present themselves, you have to seize them. If you have a close working relationship with someone you respect and who you believe can be a good mentor, go the extra mile. Seek opportunities to write an article with the mentor. Invite her/him to coffee or lunch to discuss the issues you are thinking about in terms of your own career development. Ask for their guidance on what you can do to improve your legal practice. You’d be surprised how flattered a person will be if you take the time to ask. And you’d be equally surprised by how much that person will do for you once they become invested in your career.
Would you say you ever had a mentor that made a genuine difference in how your career turned out? If yes, please describe.
I have been fortunate to have many people I considered to be a mentor. I had a female mentor, Toni Cook Bush (Antoinette C. Bush), who was the driving force for me accepting the offer to join Skadden Arps. Toni, who is a highly regarded communications lawyer, was a great mentor while I was a summer associate. And, even though she was not a member of my practice group, she mentored me throughout my time at Skadden and continues to do so even now. I also was fortunate to work with at least four partners in the litigation group at Skadden who took a significant interest in helping me develop both substantively and in terms of my ability to build business on my own. Those people were Andy Sandler and Ben Klubes, who are now my partners at BuckleySandler, as well as Bob Bennett and Saul Pilchen,. The judge for whom I clerked, Marvin J. Garbis, has also been a great mentor. I consider myself fortunate that I had very senior people who took an interest in my career, in different ways, and who gave willingly of their time and knowledge to help me be a better person and lawyer. For example, Andy was focused on helping me to build a profile and business. Saul was focused on making me the best brief writer that I could be and has been instrumental in shaping my writing. Each person has taken the time to help me develop and build qualities that have been instrumental to my success.
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?
I think firms have become much more family friendly. That is very significant for women who wish to have children. When I was starting out as an associate, it was a big challenge for women to figure out how to balance having a family with a successful law practice. In recent years, and particularly here at my own firm, I have been pleased to see that many young women lawyers are able to have families earlier on in their careers without having to choose between the two. They are not necessarily working any less, but there is greater flexibility on the part of firms with respect to accommodating work schedules that will allow one to balance having a family and also being a successful lawyer.
List words that best describe you:
Focused, Persevering, Dedicated, Creative, Thoughtful
LAW PRACTICE TODAY
Micah U Buchdahl, HTMLawyers, Inc
Richard W Goldstein, Goldstein Patent Law
Andrea Malone, White and Williams LLP
BOARD OF EDITORS
John D. Bowers, Fox Rothschild LLP
Barbara H. Brown, Meagher & Geer PLLP
Margaret M. DiBianca, Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, LLP
Rodney Dowell, Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, Inc.,
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
George E. Leloudis, Woods Rogers PLC
Allison C. Shields, Legal Ease Consulting, Inc.
Gregory H. Siskind, Siskind Susser, P.C.
Ben Stevens, The Stevens Firm, P.A. Family Law Center
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