From the April 25, 2005 print edition
Philadelphia Business Journal
Deluge of clients the goal for legal field rainmakers
In a competitive legal environment, lawyers need to overcome their traditional aversion to generating business and acquire sales skills that allow them to stay ahead of rivals.
That's the starting point for two Philadelphia firms that provide sales training for a profession that hasn't always seen the need to represent itself proactively to clients.
In building a client base, lawyers are constrained partly by a professional code that forbids a direct approach to a person with whom the lawyer has not previously done business. But there is also a reluctance to engage in the sales process because, lawyers traditionally argue, they were trained to be lawyers, not salespeople.
As law firms become more cognizant of the need to sell themselves, some attorneys known as "rainmakers" head up the sales effort, but they are not necessarily well-qualified to pass on that expertise to others, said Lisa Goldstein, president of Rainmaker Trainers, a new Philadelphia company offering sales-training services to the legal community.
"Just because you are a good rainmaker doesn't mean you are good at teaching it," said Goldstein, a lawyer by training. "Lawyers are selling the firm, but it's not their real job."
Lawyers who have taken the plunge into sales may lack the sophistication of a proper sales training, she said.
In a sign that supports the need for better interpersonal skills, 9 percent of corporate law departments complain that outside counsel has a patronizing attitude, according to a survey quoted by Rainmaker Trainers. It's likely that those lawyers are simply unaware of the way they are perceived, and so should undergo client service training, the company said. At Rainmaker Trainers, the initial evaluation of participating attorneys includes an analysis of body language and what it says about that person's approach to sales.
"They take the approach that 'This is what we have to offer you,' and leave it at that," Goldstein said. Too often, they don't pay sufficient attention to the needs of the prospective client, thus missing the opportunity to identify new sources of business.