Lawyers who know their role can become 'Rainstars'
My grandfather used to say, “Life is a movie, and we’re all just actors in that story.” And just as all good stories have heroes, understanding who they are and what they want can help lawyers learn to become what I call a “Rainstar.”
To me, a Rainstar is a lawyer with a tremendous ability to generate significant revenue for their firm while excelling at client satisfaction and retention. As general counsel for a major music, technology and manufacturing company with a global presence, coupled with 15-plus years of in-house experience, I’ve had the opportunity to observe firsthand and learn what it takes to become a Rainstar. It may surprise you that of the more than 600 lawyers from over 50 law firms around the globe that our company has worked with, sadly, I’ve seen just two as Rainstars.
But back to my grandfather. Life is indeed a movie. For lawyers, that means if you find the hero of the story, you’ll find your path to becoming a Rainstar.
I assume many of you work for law firms. I also assume you worked incredibly hard to get to where you are. You studied into the wee hours while in high school, college and law school. Now you’re a lawyer within a law firm, providing legal services to your clients.
So tell me this: With everything you’ve gone through in your life and career to get to where you currently are, who’s hero of this story?
It’s you, right?
It’s your client.
Your client is the hero of the story.
Understand that, and you’re on the way to becoming a Rainstar.
Making your client No. 1
Every great story has a hero and a guide. Think back to some of the most enduring stories ever told, including The Lord of the Rings (Frodo is the hero, Gandalf the guide) or Star Wars (Luke Skywalker is the hero, Obi-Wan Kenobi the guide). When the hero succeeds, the guide succeeds. Alternatively, should the hero fail, the guide would fail, no matter how good, strong, just or intelligent the guide may be.
In your story, the client is the hero and you’re the guide. Why? Why aren’t you the hero of your story? Because no matter how amazing, intelligent and well-educated a lawyer you may be, none of this really matters should your client fail.
As general counsel, I’ve seen how lawyers across the globe can help our company succeed by putting us first and making us the hero of their story. By guiding us through challenging legal matters, understanding our needs and being proactive, the best lawyers have boosted our company while securing their value to us.
Now that you’ve identified your client as the hero, you can leverage this understanding into becoming a Rainstar. Heroes have an innate desire to not only survive but also to thrive by reaching their goals. If, for example, your client is an in-house counsel as I am, survival refers to your client’s ability to maintain stable footing within their organization to ensure their own job security. Inevitably, once your client has survived, their eye turns toward how to thrive. To thrive in this context refers to your client’s desire to move up in their career, look good in front of key decision-makers within the organization and/or ultimately excel in their role as in-house counsel. The same principles apply to representing small-business clients, individuals or other organizations. Your mission is to help them survive and thrive.
Clients are always ready, willing and able to pay for services that help them survive and thrive. By helping the client survive and thrive, you’re unlocking an immense, untapped potential for business development that you never thought was possible. Like many lawyers, you may sit back and wait for clients to come to you for assistance. That is the wrong approach. Always make sure you can answer any one of these in the affirmative:
• Will this help my client survive in their role?
• Will this help my client get closer to realizing their goals?
• Will this make my client look good within their company?
• Will this protect my client from pitfalls and reputational harm?
• Will this help my client thrive?
A hero in action
I’ll use one Rainstar lawyer as an example. A few years ago, I was tasked with leading the largest acquisition in our company’s history. I happened to mention to the lawyer that we were considering an acquisition. The next thing I knew, without even requesting it, I received a fully comprehensive acquisition checklist, a detailed timetable of deal milestones and a recommendation of other lawyers within their firm that can handle different areas of the law. The Rainstar lawyer didn’t simply sit back and wait for me to approach him; he was treating me as the hero of the story and wanted to ensure I survived in my role throughout the transaction.
However, what he did next was truly remarkable. The Rainstar lawyer set up a Zoom call with me with the purpose of getting a better understanding of what the successful completion of this acquisition would mean for me personally. I shared with him that should I bring the deal to a successful conclusion, it would greatly solidify my worth to the organization and perhaps lead to a promotion. What he was trying to understand was, essentially, what would make me thrive in my role.
So what happened? Well, the deal was successfully consummated, our company obtained an amazing organization, I was promoted, and I personally penned a letter to the Rainstar lawyer’s managing partner praising his work for the past several years and gave my wholehearted recommendation for him to be promoted to partner at his firm. He became a partner last year. That’s the mutually beneficial power of being a Rainstar.
If the success of your role as the guide depends ultimately on the success of the hero, then you simply cannot possibly know how to help, protect, support and/or guide your client unless you’ve taken the time to learn where they want to go.
Wow, what a powerful, client-centric way of thinking. Could having a law firm lawyer completely abandon their outdated passive mode of business development thinking be a competitive edge for a firm? As a sitting general counsel of a major global organization, I can answer that with a resounding yes!
Accepting your client as the hero of the story creates a powerful mindset change that will forever unlock incredible business development opportunities and take you ever so closer to becoming a Rainstar. Because why would a lawyer at a law firm want to be anything other than a Rainstar?
This story was originally published in the June-July 2023 issue of the ABA Journal under the headline: “Find Your Hero: Lawyers who know their role can become ‘Rainstars’.”
Aarash Darroodi is the general counsel, executive vice president and corporate secretary at Fender Musical Instruments Corp. He is also the creator of the professional course "How to Build a Rain Machine" at rainstaracademy.com.
This column reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily the views of the ABA Journal—or the American Bar Association.