All lawyers at some point in their careers will be responsible for rainmaking, as I quickly realized when I recently opened my own law practice. So what are some tried and tested strategies that bring in clients? I asked a few practitioners to gather the tips below.
Understand your business. Good rainmaking must start with an understanding of your business. The firm’s practice areas need to be well-defined. A basic structure needs to be in place, and there needs to be a plan that corresponds well with the goal of the firm. For example, is your aim to establish a high-volume practice? If so, perhaps reaching the masses is a great idea. Perhaps rainmaking should involve various forms of paid advertising. On the other hand, if you are in the business of doing appellate work, you will probably get most of your cases by referrals from other attorneys. Developing a great network of attorneys should be your number-one priority in this case.
Additionally, having a niche makes it easier to target rainmaking efforts. It is much better to say to someone, “I give advice and legal assistance to businesses worth between $1 million and $5 million,” as Tawfiq Ali, president of Ali Law Practice LLC in Chicago, Illinois, states, than it is to simply say, “I am an attorney” or even “I am a business attorney.” The former paints a picture of exactly what it is that you do, while the latter lacks specificity. Once you know your ideal client, you can easily discover where your ideal client spends time and where this client looks for information. Use this knowledge to define your rainmaking efforts.
Make it personal (follow up). It is important to be active in organizations involving other attorneys as well as non-attorneys. The benefit of staying involved may not come immediately, but the lawyers I spoke with found that by being known in the community as a helpful participant, they were able to get assistance with unfamiliar issues that arose with clients, as well as a steady stream of referrals.
The key, Ali says, is to follow up. Networking is about building relationships, not handing out business cards. Justin R. Burton, a partner with Kriezelman Burton & Associates, LLC, in Chicago, agrees. “You should not look like you are one to go out there and grab clients. It’s to provide a community that you can rely on, but it happens that many of those people will send me cases,” he says. Poorvi Chothani, an attorney from Mumbai, India, whose practice includes U.S. immigration law, has a unique challenge in that Indian law does not permit paid advertising for attorneys at all. “I have no choice but to rely only on networking and publishing as a way to generate awareness about my practice,” she says. This may not be such a bad thing given that clients gained through referrals are often more serious clients and more likely to open a case than are clients obtained through paid advertising.
Quality matters (follow through). “You have to be known for your work product. Marketing is useless if you don’t have something to back it up with,” Burton explains. Former and current clients are often the most reliable sources of referrals if you make excellent work product and customer service the cornerstones of your practice. If you make promises while marketing your services, it is important to be able to follow through to create a brand of excellence for your law practice. Customer service is equally important. Ignoring client calls and disregarding their concerns is a surefire way to lose potential referrals. Although not all clients are ideal clients, it is still important to maintain a system and a culture in your practice that revolve around great service.
Marketing is a full-time activity. Wherever you go, you should be aware of the opportunity to create a positive impression for yourself and your practice. Tejas N. Shah of Kriezelman Burton & Associates, LLC, explains that he often has people who observe him in court schedule an appointment to talk to him in person.
Your potential clients and referral sources could be anywhere and might come from places you least expect. The clerk at the grocery store, the owner of the sandwich shop you always visit, family friends, all may be potential clients or referral sources. When you are aware that you represent your law practice, your professionalism, and even the legal profession at all times and in all places, your behavior automatically reflects that awareness.
Keep it real. Rainmaking should not be looked on as a show that is put on to grab clients. It should come from real, quality relationships and quality service. Of course, there is always a place for paid advertising, but with it should come a fulfillment of the promises that are made. In the end, happier clients mean more referrals and peace of mind.