Business of Law

What really makes a rainmaker successful?

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Ari Kaplan

Ari Kaplan

Ari Kaplan speaks with Jim Cranston, a principal with LawVision Group, a law firm consultancy focusing on growing firm revenue; strengthening lawyer confidence; and maintaining client loyalty.

This Q&A has been condensed.

Ari Kaplan: Tell us about your background, and the genesis of LawVision Group.

Jim Cranston: I spent about 14 years in accounting in business development, so I had a significant sales and BD background prior to going into the legal space. I worked for Arthur Andersen, and when Andersen went out of business I was recruited to join an AmLaw 25 firm to help them with their business development efforts. That’s really what launched me into this industry. I worked as a principal at Hildebrandt for four years and after Thomson Reuters acquired the company, it decided to leave the consulting business. So, we basically put the band back together again by forming LawVision about six years ago.

Ari Kaplan: At what level is coaching and training most effective?

Jim Cranston: We feel like helping lawyers understand how to develop business starts from the very beginning—the day they show up at their particular firms. These lessons are most effective right around partnership, and during their first three to five years of being a partner because they have the most at stake. They have to be successful doing this stuff, so that’s when they’re most willing to put in the time, energy, and effort to learn how to develop business.

Ari Kaplan: Can you describe your system or process?

Jim Cranston: It is basically a four-step process: approach, assess, present and close.

Ari Kaplan: What are the most common rainmaker traits?

Jim Cranston: First of all, there is no one-size-fits-all model. Successful rainmaking can take on many shapes and sizes, so to me it’s about being proactive. A good rainmaker engages in a high volume of business development activity. Not a day goes by that a rainmaker is not thinking about doing something to help a client or a prospective client. Rainmakers also tend to be great listeners. They really focus and listen to their clients. The willingness to help mindset in and of itself creates great rainmakers.

Ari Kaplan: What are some general misconceptions about rainmakers?

Jim Cranston: A very common misconception in the market is rainmakers have to be extroverts. There is a notion that one needs to have a Type A, larger-than-life personality to be a great rainmaker. That’s absolutely false. That’s not to say there aren’t rainmakers out there with big, bold personalities, but I have worked with many partners over the years that were basically the antithesis of that profile and were outstanding rainmakers.

Ari Kaplan: What made those partners outstanding rainmakers, given that their personalities defied expectations?

Jim Cranston: I think it’s a focus on the client, as well as an interest in adding value. Rainmakers are proactive in providing value and anticipating the legal needs of their clients.

Ari Kaplan: How does the focus on rainmaking reflect a changing legal market?

Jim Cranston: The industry has gone through so much change in the past five years to 10 years. In fact, we recently hit the 10-year anniversary of the financial crisis, which had a large impact on the legal community. Clients demand a lot more today than they used to. Going forward, we will see a greater use of technology. The firms that grasp that use of technology will be the winners. We’re also going to see firms that accept different models of delivery for their clients to become more productive and cost efficient. It’s more of a symbiotic relationship with clients these days than it used to be.

Listen to the complete interview at Reinventing Professionals.

Ari Kaplan regularly interviews leaders in the legal industry and in the broader professional services community to share perspective, highlight transformative change, and introduce new technology at his blog and on iTunes.

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