This week’s rainmaking recommendation from trainer and coach, Jaimie Field, dovetails nicely with my second tip from this week’s post on “Fixing the Two Biggest Networking Blunders that Lawyers Make.”

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For almost 20 years as a Rainmaking Trainer and Coach, I have been saying the same thing:  It’s not about you.  It’s about them.  “Them” being the prospective, current and former clients.

It’s always been about them, but every year there is a proclamation about the fact that lawyers and law firms must become “client-centric,” and “put the clients first.”  You have been told that it is a buyers’ market (and it is).
Yet, attorneys are not trained to be empathetic; to make it about “them”.  They are trained to be pragmatic – to look at all sides of the legal matter.  The personality traits that make us great lawyers – urgency, logic and intellect, the desire to be autonomous – do not always make for the most empathetic individuals.  However, that’s going to be one of the most important skills you can develop if you want to build a book of business.

One recent article states that currently, 23% of lawyers’ work can be automated.  This means that a lot of the routine work which is currently being performed, like document review, due diligence, and certain research can more effectively and  – more importantly to clients –more cost-effectively performed by technology.

The Necessity of Developing Soft Skills:

The increasing use of technology in law firms means that many of your current billable hours are going to be shorn away.  This will necessitate that you obtain more new clients, and more new matters from old clients and to do that, you need to hone your “soft skills.”

Soft skills are your interpersonal skills.  MBO Partners defines soft skills as “the ability to interact amicably with others. Soft skills are personal attributes that can affect relationships, communication, and interaction with others.”

These are the abilities necessary to build your book of business.  You have probably heard it before, and I know those who have been reading my blog for a long period of time have seen it over and over – all things being equal, people do business with people they know, like and trust.

What Does This Mean From a Practical Standpoint?

According to an infamous 2002 article by Dr. Larry Richard entitled: Herding Cats: The Lawyer Personality Revealed, lawyers tend to score low on the sociability index.  This means they would deal with information than with interacting with others.  In addition, he found that Rainmakers score higher on soft skills than service partners.

Don’t get discouraged – on a practical note, you can learn soft skills.

Instead of going into a client meeting with your own agenda, you have to learn to ask questions to find out what is on the potential, or even current, client’s agenda.  And this is the case whether you are meeting with a client for criminal, family, bankruptcy, or business matter.  Each person with whom you meet has a problem; a problem which only a lawyer can help them solve.   It’s what keeps them up at night.

Even if you are working with general counsel, it’s the problems the corporation has that keep them up at night as well.  What can you do to help them?

The key is to listen to what they are saying, ask questions, and then listen again, and ask more questions clarifying what they are saying, and then listen some more. . . ad infinitum.

This requires empathy.  And yes, you can learn empathy.

If they have contacted you, then chances are they already know what you can do as an attorney.  As I mentioned in Rainmaking Recommendation #149, potential clients have most likely already done their research on you.  Even when they are provided a strong referral to you by family, friends or colleagues, they will still go the internet to learn more about you.

By the time you are meeting with them, most potential clients have already done their research.  They want to know HOW you are going to help them sleep at night, not where you went to law school, not how many cases you have won, not how many years you have been listed as a “Super Lawyer,” but specific information about how you are going to help them with their problems or achieve their goals.  But, too many times attorneys go into their meetings and tell clients instead of listening to clients.

Yes, you can discuss how other cases you worked on may shine a light on how you can help them, within the parameters of the Rules of Professional Conduct in your state regarding client confidentiality, it will help them to understand how and why you work the way you do.

However, the only way for you to figure out how you are going to help them is to figure out what their case is about.  Or said differently, what are the problems they need you to help them solve.  This means that you have to learn everything about your clients.

Those soft skills allow you to be more “client-centric” – which in turn will allow you to find, obtain and retain more clients.  And, by putting your client’s priorities first, by asking them what their main concerns are, allows you to distinguish yourself from the other attorneys who are just talking about themselves.

  • If you are a mid-level associate who would like to become a partner or a partner looking to become a Rainmaker and are interested in individual coaching but would like to take it for a test drive, schedule your FREE Rainmaking Coaching Session
  • If you are a law firm leader and would like to discuss bringing a training program or a Rainmaking Seminar (with Ethics CLEs) in-house please email me.