Rainmaking Recommendation #191: Do You “NO” Why You’re Not a Rainmaker?

For years, you’ve promised yourself that you were going to take control of your legal career.  You know that in order to do so, you need to have a book of business. 

A book of business that would give you negotiating power with your current firm to become an equity partner; a book of business that would allow you to lateral to a different firm if you so choose; a book of business that would let you start your own law firm. Whatever the reason, you know you need a book of business in order to be in control.

Yet, for all of those years, you have not done what you need to do to build a book of business for yourself. Do you “NO” why?     

Here are 10 reasons that you aren’t the Rainmaker you say you want to be:

  1. No Commitment:

John Assaraf, a business development mentor of mine, once was asked by his mentor: “Are you interested in achieving your life’s goals and dreams or are you committed?” He explains that his mentor changed his life by explaining the difference.

“If you are interested, you will only do what is convenient. You’ll believe your stories and excuses. . . . You’ll come up with all of the reason why you can’t achieve those goals and that’s what you’ll be focusing on for the rest of your life. . . . if you are committed, you will start today to let go of your stories, your excuses, your reasons why you can’t achieve your goals. . . If you are committed, you’ll upgrade your knowledge . . . you’ll upgrade your skills . . . you’ll come in every single day and figure out how you can achieve those goals . . .”

Are you committed to becoming a rainmaker, or are you just interested?

2. No Confidence

In the almost 20 years of teaching and coaching business development, one of the questions I get asked most often by my clients is, “What if they say no?” This lack of confidence makes attorneys reluctant to even try to develop business for fear that they will be rejected.

We all hate being rejected. It is in an innate desire to be accepted. And, according to research done by Dr. Larry Richards, founder of The Lawyer Brain and a psychologist who has studied lawyer for 30 years, lawyers have personality traits that make them successful lawyers but not so successful in business development.He explains that most lawyers are rather thin-skinned and they need to build resilience.

You need to build up your confidence to do business development without the fear of worrying about being rejected. How do you do this?

  • First, and to quote Susan Jeffers’ book, you have to feel your fear and do it anyway.  Once you face your fear and try the activity, you will realize that it wasn’t as bad as you thought it was. 
  • Even if you get rejected, understand that it is not about you or your legal skills.  They may have had a better relationship with the person who ultimately got hired, or they may have decided they don’t need legal help at this time. 
  • Remember it happens to everyone.  So, talk with colleagues/mentors/coaches you trust and tell them of your fear. They will help bolster your confidence.
  • And one of the ways I help my clients is to ask them “what’s the worst thing that could happen?” and when they realized that nothing bad will happen if they get a rejection, they feel a little more secure about the next time.  That is not the only potential client you will have the opportunity to work with. And maybe the next one will say yes.  

One of my favorite motivational quotes which helps me with my own fear of rejection – because yes, I still deal with that fear- is by Abdul Kalam, an aerospace scientist who became the 11th President of India who said:

“If you fail, never give up because F.A.I.L. means “First Attempt In Learning”. End is not the end, if fact E.N.D. means “Effort Never Dies.”  If you get No as an answer, remember N.O. means “Next Opportunity”.

3. No Knowledge

Business Development is both a science and an art, and there are ethics of which you need to be aware. There are people (YOOHOO, over here), books, and websites that can teach you the tactics you need to use, the ethical considerations of which you need to be mindful and the mindset you need to become the rainmaker you would like to be. Not knowing what to do is no longer an excuse because all you have to do is google the phrase “How To” and you can find out how to do anything in the world. And I do mean anything!

4. No Plan

I know I harp on this a lot but you must have a plan.  It doesn’t have to be extensive, but a plan, which allows you to take action on a daily basis, is a better way to develop business than the methods that most attorneys take:

  • The Throw it Against the Wall and See if it Sticks Method: They try blogging once or going to one networking event or even a few, or they produce a video, or they try social media, but when it doesn’t work (because marketing and business development require time and patience and not just doing one-off activities) they decide they just don’t want to do it anymore.  Or,
  •  The Field of Dreams Method of Marketing: With the idea of if I “build it they will come.”  I have a website or a bio page, I have a LinkedIn profile, I have written a blog so why am I not getting clients?

Your business development plan will insulate you from these marketing methods because they don’t work.  As I said above, Rainmaking is both art and science.  You need to create a plan which you will follow, using business development techniques that you will follow constantly and consistently.   

5. No Specialty or Niche

Another topic I talk about often is the idea of being involved in a specialty or niche. You cannot be all things to all people. There are over 1.3 million attorneys in the United States alone, and unless you live in an area where there are only a few attorneys in a 100-mile radius, do not try to be a general practitioner. Every day the law gets more and more complicated. Become an expert in a practice area or niche and become known for that, and people will search you out.

6. No Ideal Client Profile

Having an ideal client profile is important because it focuses your business development efforts and helps you determine who will be the clients with whom you want to work and who are those with whom you won’t. Once you have a profile of your ideal clients, you can create marketing and business development that addresses their needs and problems.

7. No Visibility

There was an old adage out there which says, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”That has been supplanted by a newer one: “It’s not what you know, it’s not even who you know, but it’s who knows what you know.”If you do not take the time to create a personal legal brand for yourself and ensure that you are always visible to the ideal clients you are targeting, then even if you are the smartest attorney in the world you will not get clients. Out of sight IS out of mind.

8. No Follow-Up

In real estate, it’s location, location, location. In business development and rainmaking, it’s follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. Yet, many attorneys give up after one or two times. Recently, I had a client who asked me how many times he should continue to follow up with a potential client who had been putting off making a decision on hiring him. My answer is until they say no.

Following up doesn’t mean pitching your services over and over again – that’s what sleazy salespeople do.  It means keeping in touch in meaningful ways that will benefit the person with whom you are trying to create a relationship.

9. No Time-Management Skills

Anyone who has read my blog, or worked with me, know I hate the term “time-management.” You cannot manage time – you can only manage what you do within the time you have been given every day.  Yet, lawyers who want to become rainmakers seem to have a difficult time with this.  Part of the reason is that the billable hour is all-important.  So, when they are busy with client work, they wind up forgoing business development activities until the work is done.  Then they scramble to find new clients.  This feast or famine cycle is all too familiar to most attorneys. 

And finally,

10. No Persistence

Business development is a marathon and not a sprint.  It takes a while to become known as the go-to attorney in your specialty/niche.  And it takes a while to build momentum in your marketing and business development.   But, once that momentum is built, it takes less effort to keep it going.  However, you need to be persistent.  The Rainmaking activities you undertake will not always lead to instantaneous clients, but the more consistent you are in your activities, the more you will find that Rainmaking and business development will become easier.

Rainmaking is simple but not easy.  Do not let the “NOs” become the reasons that keep you from becoming the Rainmaker you want to be.  In fact, there should only be one “NO” –


  • If you are a mid-level associate who would like to become a partner or a partner looking to become a Rainmaker and are interested in individual coaching but would like to take it for a test drive, schedule your FREE Rainmaking Coaching Session
  • If you are a law firm leader and would like to discuss bringing a training program or a Rainmaking Seminar (with Ethics CLEs) in-house please email me. 

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