The truth is that the practice of law is both a profession and a business. The practice of law, like the other professions, such as the medical profession, requires that lawyers help clients solve their problems. But the business of law requires that light bills and employees get paid.
I believe that that if a lawyer acts as a professional and focuses on solving the client's problems, the business aspect, to a great extent, resolves itself. This is because clients tend to send repeat business to successful lawyers. In addition, the successful lawyer understands the business equation- that is, she understands the value of solving the problem to the client. More importantly she is careful to ensure that the cost of the solution does not exceed its value to the client.
It's a difficult balance however, because the value of the solution may be difficult to quantify. This, by the way, is where the comparison to doctors breaks down at least in some cases. In the case of a medical problem, the value to the patient may be infinite. For example, if a doctor can restore a patient's eyesight, the value to the patient would be almost infinite (How much would you be willing to pay?). And in criminal cases, where a person's liberty is at stake, the value of their freedom might justify expending countless hours in resolution and sparing no expense.
But in the case of a business or personal problem, the value is typically quantifiable to a very specific amount. And the lawyer should rightfully be able to bill hours worked for the client. But there may be times when, for a variety of reasons, the cost exceeds the value. This is where the astute business lawyer can differentiate herself from the competition. By delivering value that exceeds the cost, a lawyer can earn the lifelong loyalty of a client, and that client's friends and associates.
Which brings me to the point about rainmaking. A lot of young lawyers mistakenly believe that rainmaking is akin to selling- it's based on connections, relationships, schmoozing and the like. The very thought of this is enough to turn idealistic young lawyers' stomachs. They didn't get into the practice of law to schmooze. They got into it to help people. The very thought of it all can tend to discourage young lawyers who think that rainmaking is critical to the partnership track.
However, the truth is that a good rainmaker is simply a good lawyer. A good rainmaker delivers value to the client that exceeds the client's expectations. This, in turn, results in client loyalty and repeat business. As an in-house lawyer, I have engaged many lawyers. There were some that I worked with that I liked a great deal. There were others that I didn't care for at all. But the common thread among all of the lawyers I continue to engage are the ones that delivered value that was worth
Certainly, to become a rainmaker, you need relationships with clients and potential clients. But more importantly, you need to develop your craft, your skill as a lawyer. You need to become a trusted advisor and problem-solver to your client.
There are numerous ways to begin to develop relationships- get involved in your community, your church, schools and the like. But relationships without having a solid foundation as a lawyer will likely lead to short-term success at best. To develop the ability to attract and retain clients, you need to be the very best lawyer you can be. You need to consistently deliver client value. You need to develop a reputation as an ethical, responsive and effective lawyer. If you do, you will find yourself attracting a retaining clients without trying. And more importantly, you will be serving your community and profession in the best possible way.
Best wishes in your legal career.