Productivity in Your Associates: The Value of Rainmaking and Business Development
Rainmaking in the law requires you to project a certain savvy in a public-facing way. Whether it’s writing articles, making appearances and giving speeches, building your reputation in the community, or being strategic about lunches, dinners, galas, and other social events that will yield you the right clients, it requires talent in subtly delivering who you are and what sets your firm apart. Successful rainmaking will serve to consistently bring new business into the firm, and it keeps associates busy and worth the investment. Here are some quick tips on how to leverage rainmaking abilities across your firm:
Spot the talent and reward it.
If your associate is solid at practicing law, but is also great at problem solving, strategy, and working with people, then you have a potential rainmaker on your hands. Encouraging your associates to use their natural abilities to bring the firm new business, and incentivizing them monetarily to do so, will increase their job satisfaction and your firm’s profits. Some firms that move associates into this type of role will align their bonus structures based on the volume of business, the amount of money the firm is able to collect from the business the associates generate, and how well the matter is supervised and delegated.
Establish your firm’s story, and allow your associates to start telling it.
Coach your associates on the art of storytelling—or telling your firm’s story in a way that’s synonymous with the true essence of the way your firm does business. When you have a clear story about your firm— who you are, what you stand for, and the kind of clients you want to attract, then you will breathe life into that story by telling it and attracting the right client mix to the firm’s book. There’s nothing more magnetic than an attorney who can tell the story of how their firm was able to creatively solve a client’s problem and bring a matter to a successful conclusion.
Make sure your associates are also trained in the art of asking questions and listening intently to the answers to spot whether that client is the right fit for the firm. Bring associates to events with you, and let them watch, learn, and eventually participate. Always have retrospective conversations after each event or interaction where you are present to coach your associates on what went wrong and to celebrate what went right.
Incentivize business development and rainmaking efforts.
Take the associate’s business development results into account when assessing value and performance. If it’s a strength, allow them to push their work down to more junior members of the team so that it’s completed at a more economic rate for the clients and firm. Moving away from a billable hours target for bonuses is a great way to make sure that your talented rainmakers aren’t hoarding work unnecessarily and are instead focused on seeking new business opportunities for the firm.
Create a culture that values delivering the ultimate client experience.
Maintaining existing relationships with clients and referral sources is key in the overall rainmaking picture. These are likely the people who will give you great referrals for a job well done. Make sure your associates (and your entire staff) are aligned with your vision of treating your clients with respect and delivering value to them at every opportunity. High-quality client service comes in the form of keeping the client’s welfare top-of-mind during every interaction, anticipating the client’s needs, and communicating in a way that makes them see the value in the firm’s work. For example, a good associate will know that before they dive into a lengthy research project to pad their billable time, they should talk to the client and provide them with less costly options. For instance, they can delegate that task to a junior associate or paralegal which can make that task less costly for the client.
These tips illustrate that productivity in your associates is just as much about the billable hours they hit as it is about the overall value they offer to your firm and the clients you serve. Your ability to cultivate your associates’ talents through education, mentorship, leadership, direction, flexibility, and playing to their strengths will greatly determine how successful they are at your firm and whether their true value will be realized in the time they’re with your firm.
Nefra MacDonald is the Customer Success Product Manager at Rocket Matter. After working in various capacities at law firms, corporations, and non-profits, she decided to use her experience to help address the pain points that practicing lawyers feel every day. She currently co-chairs Rocket Matter’s Product Advisory Committee, which serves as a source of targeted feedback for the company’s product improvement strategy.