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Can Rainmaking Be Taught in Law Firms?

Can Rainmaking Be Taught in Law Firms

Can rainmaking be taught? There are credible arguments on both sides.

“Learning to sell is a skill,” wrote Gaston Kroub in the first of a series on Above the Law. “One that can be learned, and one that must always be nurtured.”

Mr. Kroub also says those skills can grow “stale” as the business dynamics change. In addition, selling skills apply to both new and existing clients.

The latter is important given businesses usually finds the cost of selling more to existing clients is far lower than closing new clients – and another reason to foster attorneys that share data in law firm CRM systems.

Yet not everyone agrees.  Kevin O’Keefe cites a survey by Lawyer Metrics and draws a distinction between rainmakers and a “client service partner.” He urges law firms to identify and get rainmakers involved in online networking activities such as social media and blogging.

“Get it right and you win big,” he wrote.  “Rainmakers interviewed in the survey averaged over $4 million in annual business, approximately six times client service partners.”

Teaching Associates Rainmaking

Whether or not business development skills can be taught some law firm are indeed aiming to nurture rainmakers.

This was the central theme of David Gialanella’s article in the New Jersey Law Journal titled, Post-Recession, Firms Try to Teach the Art of Rainmaking.  In it he describes several different approaches law firms are taking to genuinely train associates in business development.

In some law firms, the ability to develop new business is a formal program – complete with individual plans, back briefs and part of the evaluation process.  Others deem business development an informal program though incentivized nonetheless.

The common denominator in all cases appears to be the effort to create a culture of rainmaking:

“…the bottom line is that rainmaking is more crucial than ever to firm and lawyer alike with greater competition for client business.”

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Business Development Focus

As crucial as it might be, business development doesn’t have to be overwhelming – especially if everyone is pulling their weight with a few basics.

“Focus on the fundamentals,” writes Bruce Alltop on the LawVision INSIGHTS Blog. That appears to be his advice to ensuring that business development and marketing activities happen at law firms.

His fundamentals are simple:

a) develop a network and keep in touch with the people in it.

b) use technology like LinkedIn – take the time to complete a profile and engage.

c) make a business development plan, which he defines as creating “three quantifiable goals and then create action items that tie directly to achieving those goals.

If everyone wears a customer service hat in a law firm, perhaps everyone wears a business development hat too – and it’s a glimpse about where things are headed. In his New Jersey Law Journal article, Mr. Gialanella captures the essence in a quote from Diane Benttino, a partner with Reed Smith:

“You have to be the whole attorney.”

Photo Credit:  Flickr; CC BY 2.0

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About Frank Strong

Frank Strong
Frank Strong is the communications director for the LexisNexis software division located on NC State’s Centennial Campus in Raleigh. In this capacity, he leads communications efforts in support of software products for law practice and law department management and also litigation tools – across large law, small law and corporate counsel segments. With more than 15 years of experience in the high-tech sector, Strong previously served as director of public relations for Vocus, which developed marketing, PR and media monitoring software. He has held multiple roles both in-house with corporations, ranging from startups to global organizations, and has also endured the rigors of billable hours, having completed gigs at PR firms including the top 10 global firm Hill & Knowlton. A veteran of two year-long deployments, Strong has concurrently served in uniform in reserve components of the military for more than 20 years, initially as an enlisted Marine and later as an infantry officer in the Army National Guard. Strong holds a BA in Film and TV production from Worcester State University, an M.A. in Public Communication from American University, and an M.B.A. from Marymount University. He is a PADI-certified Master Scuba Diver and holds a USPA "B" skydiving license.


  1. […] what is easy over what is important. The same rule applies for attorneys. While there are natural rainmakers at every law firm, most attorneys need a business development process that is simple and easily […]