It is sometimes a legitimate choice not to be a rainmaker. Some reasons are practical: not enough time, you have an academic or government job or work at a corporation that seems like it will be around for a while.
The non-practical reasons often have less legitimacy. On the emotional side, there are three primary reasons lawyers do not want to be rainmakers: admiration or affection for the one who makes your rain, lack of ambition and fear. Provided you understand your motives, the first two of these may be legitimate reasons. Fear, however, which is the predominant emotional reason for not taking risks about rainmaking, needs to be scrupulously examined, and often questioned.
Regarding sensible subordination, I know of no finer example than Alexander Hamilton. Robert Troupe, Hamilton’s friend, said, The pen for our army was held by Hamilton and for dignity of manner, pith of matter, and elegance of style, General Washington’s letters are unrivalled in military annals. During the War years, Hamilton hitched his career to Washington’s largely out of admiration.
Even at the battle of Yorktown, where Hamilton finally got to use his military understanding and skill, and took the tenth redoubt in under ten minutes with few casualties, he still did not demand military honors. He expected his star would rise later, and he served.
Private practice lawyers who lack ambition have seen that in bad economic times, skills alone may not make a career. With luck, skills create a good pay check, but for maximum safety skilled lawyers without a client base may want to test the rainmaking waters.
Fear of rainmaking is wholly different. Pursuing clients frequently means not getting them. Some rejection is even personal. It hurts your finances and your self-esteem. Still, if you do not have a Washington-like figure to fall behind and you want to control your own professional life, it helps to make some rain. You may not be the biggest cloud on the planet but every bit adds to your self esteem and income.