Book Review: Bringin’ In The Rain: A Woman Lawyer’s Guide to Business Development

by Aileen Chou, Esq.

Ten Rainmaking Steps from Bringin’ in the Rain

Bringin’ in the Rain by Sara Holtz is an easy read that can be used as a daily exercise book to help its reader turn each chapter’s probing questions into a comprehensive strategic marketing plan. Ms. Holtz was an in-house lawyer and was the first woman chairman of the Association of Corporate Counsel before she founded her consulting firm, ClientFocus, to coach women lawyers to grow their practices. Holtz breaks down “business development” into palatable steps that can be thoughtfully integrated into our work habits and lifestyle. Each chapter offers a practical tip to guide us on our rainmaking activities. I’ve listed out ten rainmaking steps from the book that I plan to adopt.

  1. Profile the ideal client. Identify the type of client you want to target. This is the client whom you enjoy working with and who values what you do and is willing to pay for it. While it may be tempting to market yourself as a generalist that can address any client’s every problem, focusing your marketing efforts on your target clients helps to ensure that you will work with clients that you actually like and on projects that you can excel on. Holtz offers questions to help you build the ideal client profile, including “How does their work help build your expertise?; “What type of matters do they have”; “What industry are they in?” and “Are they likely to be a continuing source of business?”
  2. Translate your strengths into marketing opportunities. Take time to consider and create a personal brand based on your individual strengths, practice area, industry expertise, highlights from your year(s) of experience and your firm’s reputation. Ask yourself which business development opportunities you enjoy and energize you and those that drain you. Focus on the business development opportunities that capitalize on your strengths.
  3. Adopt the pebble-in-the-pond approach. Holtz says that the best place to begin your marketing efforts is with those who know you and have seen you in action. She suggests focusing your marketing efforts on those whom you are currently working with or those you have represented in the past. After you’ve exhausted possibilities in this circle, then move to those who have referred matters to you in the past. Then move on to people within your firm that can refer business and if you ever reach the edges of this circle, move to marketing towards “strangers” – those whom you have no previous client relationship.
  4. Develop marketing habits. Business development can happen at any place and any time. When we adopt a marketing mindset, we can utilize any opportunity we are given to highlight our skillset or get to know our contacts better. Sara reminds us to turn day-to-day tasks into marketing opportunities. Ask about what your colleague is working on and store that away under collaboration or cross-selling opportunities. Warm up your relationship with your opposing counsel by easing in a few personal questions when you speak to her on the phone. Set up Google alerts to receive daily news about your potential clients and their companies.
  5. Develop a strategic marketing system. You are the product and developing a direction for where you wish to take your practice gives you an anchor to ground your marketing activities. Then you can fill out your marketing system by:
  • Identifying additional marketing materials, i.e. references, articles, deal lists and awards;
  • Creating customizable modular selfie bios that highlight different aspects of your expertise for different client sets;
  • Developing an organized contact management system with notes about the contacts, such as particular quirks, issues they’ve expressed an interest receiving follow up on and other thoughtful details that will help to impress how much you understand them;
  • Creating a follow up plan that specifies how you will reconnect with your contacts a week, a month or a quarter from now; and
  • Calendaring your high-return marketing activities and updating the list by conducting critical post-mortem analyses to evaluate whether these activities are worth your time and effort and how they could’ve been used more effectively.
  1. Say “No” to non-essential, non-strategic activities. Avoid energy-draining events and commitments that do not further goals in your strategic plan.
  2. Focus on nurturing the relationship. Sara reminds us that “relationships are at the core of successful business development”. Learn and get to know your clients. When you speak to your client regarding an issue that came up on the deal, don’t hesitate to take the opportunity to ask them a few questions about themselves. Find opportunities to connect and understand.
  3. Make the ask. This is never easy. Sara says that the key to success is to first focus on understanding the contact’s compelling needs. Only then can you offer a convincing presentation to showcase how you can meet their currently unmet needs. If you’re not ready to ask for business, ask to follow up or ask to add them to a firm publication list. And don’t just target potential clients to ask for business, ask friends and colleagues for referrals and cross-selling opportunities.
  4. Practice and refine your plan. As you receive feedback on your marketing activities, strengths, and client approaches, continuously practice your marketing habits, refine your strategic plan and pivot as needed.

By breaking it down into easier to swallow steps, Sara shows how business development can be as simple as picking up the phone to call someone you haven’t spoken to in a few months and as organic as being curious and asking a potential friend some questions. True, it certainly requires diligent research, meticulous allocation of our limited time and smiling through uncomfortable moments, but none of these actions are things that we cannot do.

Sara’s parting tip and my tenth rainmaking step: just do it.

Aileen Chou is an Associate in the Corporate Department of Kaye Scholer’s Silicon Valley office. Aileen’s practice focuses on securities and corporate transactions, including public and private debt, equity and hybrid securities offerings, acquisition financings and other corporate finance transactions. Additionally, she advises clients regarding US securities law, corporate governance matters, periodic reporting and other corporate matters.

Prior to joining Kaye Scholer, Aileen worked in the New York, London and Hong Kong offices of other leading international law firms. She is proficient in Mandarin Chinese.