Lessons in Rainmaking
In honor of the ABA Women Rainmakers’ 20th anniversary celebration this year, Law Practice has invited the group’s current chair, Jamie Spannhake, and its cofounder, Marty Africa, to develop a collection of writings for 2010 highlighting the experiences of successful women rainmakers. To kick things off, Marty Africa spoke recently with past and present ABA Women Rainmakers leaders about their experiences with the organization, and asked them to share some of their best marketing and networking tips. Watch for her article in an upcoming issue of the Law Practice Today webzine devoted to ABA Women Rainmakers. In the meantime, here are some highlights from the article.
LESSON 1: Stick with the Facts. “Focus on how you are best qualified to meet the needs of your prospect in factual terms,” says Shelley Canter, career coach and immediate past chair of ABA Women Rainmakers. But always remember “it’s all about them, and not about you. When it comes to winning business, the strongest case you can make is based on factual themes about your experience and skills that demonstrate value to your audience,” she says. Worries about undermining relationships when asking for new business often impede women in their rainmaking efforts, she explains. By focusing on factually based, unique qualifications, you not only build your strongest case, you can reinforce rather than weaken the relationship. This is not only an effective strategy, it’s a comfortable one for women.
LESSON 2: Put the Client’s Needs First. It may seem obvious, but it is easy to lose sight of the client’s perspective when forming your business development strategy. Stephen B. Lewis, Managing Director at Previsio Partners and the first male member of ABA Women Rainmakers Steering Committee, says one of the most important lessons learned from great rainmakers is to keep the client perspective foremost in both delivering and marketing your legal services. “The practice of law is a business, and pleasing the customer benefits the customer (client) and lawyer.” Linda J. Ravdin, a principal at Pasternak & Fidis, was a member of ABA Women Rainmakers’ first Program Planning Committee in 1990. She remembers fellow divorce lawyer Kathryn Marshall telling the audience at the first ABA Women Rainmakers’ program to “never take more clients than you can handle with loving care.” Linda says she continues to apply that powerful and profound advice in her practice today.
LESSON 3: For Endless Referrals, Build Relationships to Last. “Stay in touch with your contacts. Someone may be able to help you or may need your services when you least expect it,” says Barrie Drum, Managing Director at Citigate Global Intelligence and longtime active member of ABA Women Rainmakers. She adds that joining and becoming involved with the group greatly improved her network across the country and opened up lines of communication with many firms. Former Steering Committee member Kyle Midkiff, a forensic accountant and principal at Nihill & Riedley, P.C., adds, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer; you never know where that referral will come from.”
LESSON 4: Join ABA Women Rainmakers. ABA Women Rainmakers is focused on educating women lawyers about the need to market themselves. It offers programs to teach them how to do so and then provides networking opportunities at which women can practice their skills. This education shows women how to develop as leaders, lawyers and rainmakers. Judith Fryer, a former chair of ABA Women Rainmakers and a principal shareholder at Greenberg Traurig, says that by becoming an active member of ABA Women Rainmakers, “I developed significant business and, even more importantly, I developed lifelong friends. It was the catalyst to my own business development success.” Gilda Turitz, a partner at Sideman & Bancroft LLP, co-chaired ABA Women Rainmakers for four years. She says the group came along at a critical point in her career, attributing the “support, skills building, camaraderie and networking through the group as very significant contributions to my success in building my practice and client base. The proof was in the pudding—when I changed firms all the clients that I had developed and nurtured followed me.”
Corinne Ball, a partner at Jones Day and a longtime member, remembers that the women of ABA Women Rainmakers “gave me courage. I like to think we not only encouraged each other, but gained strength and courage from the support of likeminded, talented women. I had zero doubt that if I called out for help, they would be there and vice versa, without hesitation.”
Learn about ABA Women Rainmakers, including its Mid-Career Workshop coming in October, at www.womenrainmakers.org .