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Do You Need To Carry Your Firm?

Earlier this month I received a call from the sole rainmaker at a small firm. He was in professional turmoil. During the last few years he has brought in less business. He complained of exhaustion and was angry about single-handedly supporting his firm. His firm has a couple of other lawyers, a paralegal and support staff. I informed this chief that he has three solutions: he can close his firm and take a position with another firm (perhaps not as an equity partner), he can find another rainmaker or he can encourage and inspire the legal professionals at his firm to bring in business. Because he likes his firm and his colleagues, he decided to pursue this last option first.

The maxim that we cannot change anyone’s behavior but our own applies in every relationship. With that in mind, this lawyer and I discussed what he can do to help others share in his rainmaking burden.

For his own sanity he must first recognize that he had never requested nor expected rainmaking from any of his colleagues. This acknowledgment helps remove resentment. Leaders who teach and encourage without resentment are more effective.

A change regarding fundamental expectations is a big deal, and needs to be communicated like the big deal that it is. Call a meeting at which no phones should be answered. Explain that the pursuit of business is now expected and that sensible efforts alone will be noticed, at least for a while. Results are seldom immediate and never come without effort. Make yourself available to attend client pitches. Offer a modest entertainment budget with appropriate caps and approval processes. Efforts must be made, but need to make sense.

It is unfair and fundamentally incorrect to assume lawyers who have not sought business cannot be rainmakers. Managing clients is probably not what drives those lawyers but certain new behaviors can be encouraged. When a moderate amount of billings have been collected, financial incentives should be offered. Rainmakers develop over time.

Atlas did not hold the world by choice. He was being punished. If being the sole support of your enterprise feels like punishment, please stop punishing yourself.

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