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A Five Step Quick Start Guide to Rainmaking for Associates

Updated: Mar 14

A Five Step Quick Start Guide to Rainmaking for Associates

By Liza Vasquez CMC ICF and Jeffrey F. Silber MBA CMC

Certified Master Business and Life Coaches

Perhaps you know that Jeffrey began his professional life as an accountant, not as a lawyer. All these years later, he still remembers his first day of work in the Wall Street office of Arthur Andersen & Co. “

To me the partners of the firm seemed like gods that had come down from Mount Olympus to allow us mortals to gaze upon them. In a sense, this impression was continuously re-enforced over the next few years as I learned what work the exalted partners engaged in as compared to the activities that filled the long hours of work that we humble juniors did.”

This impression is certainly true of the difference between the partners and the junior lawyers in any law firm today.

Foremost among the mysterious things that the partner-gods were able to do was conjure up new clients. Back as an undergraduate and again later in his MBA in Finance, there were no Harry Potter-like courses in casting spells that would make company owners and corporate executives walk into your office like Zombies in a trance to become your clients. How on earth did the partners do it?

Few things strike more panic into the hearts of associate lawyers than the realization that one day they will be required to bring their own new clients to the firm in order to keep their careers moving forward. Initially, most associates believe that success as a Rainmaker is either impossible or at a minimum, highly unlikely.

What we have seen in our many years of practice is that even when associates acknowledge the need and importance of bringing their own clients, and even after they firmly pledge that Rainmaking is their goal, they really do not believe they can do it.

There is often still a gap between what they say and why they believe in their hearts that they can accomplish. They just cannot really imagine themselves as Rainmakers and they cannot visualize that there might even be a yellow-brick road that could take them to the lofty goal of Rainmaking.

What we have seen in our many years of practice is that even when associates acknowledge the need and importance of bringing their own clients, and even after they firmly pledge that Rainmaking is their goal, they really do not believe they can do it.

There is often a gap between what they want to accomplish and what they believe they can accomplish. They just cannot really imagine themselves as Rainmakers and they cannot visualize that there might be a path that could take them to the lofty goal of Rainmaking.

The problem for associates starts in law school when there is not one class in how to obtain clients. The problem gets worst when they have no mentor or Coach in their law firm who can help guide them on their journey to Rainmaking.

To a rare few, it is instinctive, but not for most young young lawyers. By definition, they have never been Rainmakers before, so why should they have an instinct for attracting new clients? It is a skill that must be learned.

If it were only as easy as having a GPS to guide you. “You are here. Go 200 meters and turn left, there you will find a potential client, shake his/her hand and now say this ….”

Obtaining clients is an Art not an exact science and there can never be a single set of instructions that will work for everyone in every circumstance.

What we would like to do this month is to give the young and ambitious associate a few pointers that will serve him/her for the next few years: A Five Step Quick Start Guide to Rainmaking.

Step 1 - Study and Work Hard

There is serious justification for the right-of-passage that your law firm is putting you through by making you work those long hours. You must be a competent lawyer, or you will lack credibility when you go into the market in search of clients.

Most lawyers tell us they learned the legal skills with which they earn their livelihood after law school. In many ways, we see law school as a long and arduous aptitude test to see if you have what it takes to become a lawyer. Now you are in the real world and now is when you are going to learn your craft for the first time

Eventually, when you go into the real world in search of clients, The competition will blow you away unless you are a well-grounded lawyer with a solid knowledge of the law in your practice area.

In your early years as an associate, no one is expecting you to land any meaningful clients, but they are expecting you to learn how to be a lawyer. Dedicate yourself to it. Go the extra mile. For example, if you turn over some documents to a lawyer above you, and he/she takes the papers back to complete or polish them, review what your supervisor did. If it means coming in on a Saturday, to review the file. Do it.

You will never grow if you see only a small part of the picture. Come in on a Saturday? Yes! Didn’t you realize that the practice of law is a calling, not a mere job. Wrap your mind around that idea, and you will have no trouble being successful. If you stay with the herd, you will never get ahead of the pack. You will want to stand out.

Step 2 - Build Your Network of Contacts From the First Day

Young lawyers continuously tell us they have no vast network of contacts like the senior associates or partners have in order to draw upon in the search for potential clients. This is simply not true. In high school, college and law school you had a wide network of friends and acquaintances who are also on their way to successful careers.

Many of them will be excellent targets for you in the years ahead; or they may be members of wealthy families with businesses that may have legal needs now or in the future; or they have friends who may need your advice and help in the years ahead.

What typically happens is that when you start working twelve-hour days at the law firm, you don’t have time for yourself; for your friends; or even for your life partner (or for the search for one). Your once strong network of friends begins to whither like a grapevine in a drought. You have a million-dollar asset that you are allowing to waste away. You must water your grapevine of contacts before it dies.

Make a list of all your friends and acquaintances that you are no longer in contact with or where you can see the friendship is already drying up. If you are too busy during the week, allocate Saturday mornings to meet with all those friends one at a time. Remember, no one is expecting you to land any big clients, so there is no pressure. Just keep these friendships alive.

Do not try to sell anyone any legal services. For now, all you want to do is to keep these friendships alive. In the 1938 Harvard study of relationships, which continues until today with the remaining survivors of the study, people who have a wide circle of friends live longer, live healthier and have happier lives.

For now, keep your circle of friends alive and well and these friendships will pay dividends in terms of clients in the future and a better life for you.

In addition to your old friends, go out and make as many new friends as you can.

Step 3 – There Is No Such Thing as Small Talk

“But I don’t care about other people’s kids, or where they like to vacation or what sports team they support….” When you meet new people, the conversation is likely to be filled with might appear to be small talk.

Perhaps this kind of conversation sounds to you like when Charlie Brown’s teacher speaks to the class in the Peanuts cartoons “Wah, wah, wah, …..” No more. From now on, there is no such thing as small talk. In order to build friendships, you need to show interest in the other person.

Everything that other people tell you, will be a piece of gold with which you will build a future conversation or an exchange of emails, texts or WhatsApp. In fact, this information is so important that we have an 80/20 rule. Ideally, in every situation you should be listening 80% of the time and you should be speaking only 20% of the time – and your 20% should be mostly questions.

You will make a good impression by making this other person believe (hopefully genuinely so) that you are sincerely interested in them. From now on, imagine that every person you meet has a sign hanging around their neck “Make Me Feel Important.”

Here is an obvious secret. Obvious, but often not observed: Actively listen to the person in front of you. People know when you are not paying attention. As soon as your mind wonders, there is change in the look in your eyes or you make some micro gestures that let the other person know you are no longer engaged in the conversation.

That does the opposite of making the other person feel important. Force yourself to be in the moment. You can think of the work you have back at office later. Do not think about chores or other things you need to do. Concentrate on what is being said and making mental notes for future use.

Step 4 – Get Out of the Office

At this stage of your professional life, we do not want you to sell anything. You have plenty of time for that. We want you to begin the life-long search for interesting friends.

You meet interesting friends (potential clients) in both formal and informal settings. Of course, the formal setting are meetings of industry organizations or chambers of commerce and the like. Informal settings are meetings of the parents and teachers of your children’s school, meetings of your home-owners associations, weddings, bicycle clubs, and so on.

When you have become a highly specialized lawyer with a few years of experience, the formal settings are more appropriate forums for you to hunt for clients because in that setting, the experienced business people you meet will have very specific needs. For now, we want you to concentrate on the informal settings.

In the formal settings, people are not on their guard against the attack from all sides by accountants, lawyers, insurance sales people, private bankers and so on, where everyone is trying to sell their services to everyone else - and everyone knows it. The informal settings are more relaxed. No one is expecting to be sold anything and that is perfect for you, because you just want to make friends.

Eventually, these friendships will morph into a network of professional contacts and referrals.

Step 5 – Make Junior Level Introductions

Your contemporaries are also in the early stages of their careers. While none of you may be in decision making positions yet, you can suggest to a friend of yours, who is still a relative new-comer in his/her company, “Let’s get together for lunch.

You bring your boss and I’ll bring mine.” In most law firms, you would get recognition of some sort if that kind of introduction bears fruit. And you will get to see how networking works.


Lao-tzu, a Chinese philosopher (604 BC - 531 BC) said “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” In our neighborhood, we used to say: “Start with baby steps.” Here we have given you five simple ways to begin. Come back in a few years and we will give you the next five secrets for obtaining more new clients.

© Copyright 2019. All Rights Reserved. Any unauthorized distribution or reproduction of this material in print or in any electronic form is strictly prohibited. Persons or organizations desiring to use this material, must obtain the prior written consent of Silber, Vasquez & Associates.

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