By Atty. Estrella C. Elamparo, Senior Partner
“How many clients can you bring in to the Firm?” was the very first question asked in my very first interview as an applicant in a law firm after the bar examinations.
It was a panel interview in a very modern and intimidating conference room of one of the major law firms then. The one who had asked the question was the most intimidating of them all—a high profile lawyer who had graduated valedictorian in one of the best law schools in the country. And a bar topnotcher.
I was stumped.
I was young and had no business connections. I would like to think that I usually aced interviews being the stereotypical ESTJ personality-type. But, all of a sudden, I had a giant lump in my throat. Eventually, I managed to utter what I now realize was one of the worst answers in interview history: “I’m sorry, I didn’t know we had to get clients.”
Fortunately, I was able to bounce back and got hired. Still, I had an early jolt to a reality that perhaps many young new lawyers are not prepared for.
In law school, we are taught to master the intricacies of the law and be good “technicians.” There is no subject, not even an elective, on rainmaking.
Lawyering is a profession imbued with public interest. To be concerned about making good profit or money makes one sound like a mercenary with all the negative connotations. Yet, the reality is, a law firm is a business enterprise. It has overhead expenses, bills to take care of, and salaries to pay for. Without a decent profit, a law firm will be difficult to sustain. The bigger the law firm, the higher the expenses and the bigger the need for higher income. To get higher income, a law firm needs paying clients, many many of them.
While we would hope that clients with legal needs will somehow magically find their way into our firm’s doorsteps, the client-getting process is not usually that easy. One may think that a Firm’s reputation for excellence is enough to bring in hordes of clients with caboodles of cash, but in a highly competitive environment, it is far more complicated.
Efforts have to be exerted. And, like it or not, some are just better at client-getting than others.
Enter the rainmaker.
According to an article in Investopedia, “a rainmaker is any person who brings clients, money, business or even intangible prestige to an organization based solely on his or her associations and contacts. Traditionally, the term ‘rainmaker’ has been applied to members of the legal profession, like attorneys-turned-politicians who retired from public life and went on to practice law at nationally recognized firms.”
It is not difficult to understand that from the business owners’ point of view, rainmakers are very important, perhaps regarded as generally more important than the “technicians”. As a Senior Partner in a law firm, I feel the responsibility, if not the duty to bring in clients as well—an aspect of my job that I had basically ignored in the first two decades of my career.
Realistically, I do not expect law schools to start training students to acquire the “soft skills” for rainmaking but it is important for those planning to engage in private practice to be conscientious about opportunities that will help one market. Instead of being in denial or resisting the thought of having to do business development, perhaps the mindset to cultivate is it is part of our job.
That said, there should also not be any bias against the so-called technicians, especially the good ones. A conundrum arises because the rainmakers may get the bulk of the income from an account, which may lead the technicians to feel left out. This imbalance has to be addressed too.
The truth is, rainmakers may be able to open doors for law firms but, ultimately, it’s the good technicians that keep those doors open.