Much of legal rainmaking appears to be based entirely on intuition, especially when we see lawyers create virtual downpours of business. It is not. Even when rainmaking seems to be second nature, the rainmaker has undoubtedly, and consciously, honed skills and techniques over many years. There are, of course, prerequisite personal attitudes essential to client success. Many of those caring attitudes could have been learned by rainmakers as young children.
The graceful landing of a client is no more intuitive than the Pythagorean Theorem. What seems like intuitive ease in the last proof of Book One of Euclid’s Elements needed 46 preliminary propositions to be proven before there was sufficient basis for the culmination of Book One.
Likewise, lawyers whose clients think of them as “my” lawyer use crucial social skills for the foundation of their rainmaking. The effective application of such personal skills may be so ingrained that the skills seem intuitive, but they are not.
Most of us were taught as children to care about the desires and feelings of others. Yet, as lawyers become technically proficient, there is temptation to believe that specialized talents should be sufficient to attract business. Some lawyers believe their skills in particular are crucial to their clients’ success. That is seldom the case.
Smart lawyers can start to believe their careers are about skills, rather than making their clients feel well served. Rainmaking lawyers understand law is a service profession. Even when told their most desired outcome is unobtainable, clients want lawyers who they believe desire to be of maximum help in achieving the client’s goals. A client’s disappointments as well as successes need to be noted, and no expression of disappointment should be ignored.
Successful rainmakers are facilitators and psychologists, not simply skilled technicians. Although egotists, bullies and those who are indifferent to others may achieve professional success in other careers (and there are fields where indifference to others is a plus), such people have difficulty becoming legal rainmakers. Rainmaking lawyers use their personal service skills over and over; they guide clients to the choice solution or (when necessary) calmly, with authoritative confidence, diminish their client expectations.
Clients hire and rehire rainmaking lawyers because those lawyers make them feel heard and understood. Lawyers whose behaviors demonstrate devotion to their clients’ needs make rain. Technical skills are not enough, and social skills need to be consciously and carefully used.