By the time most law firm associates have reached the senior level (six to nine years out of law school), they have developed the technical skills and proficiency necessary to be good lawyers. The associates who are able to use these qualities to bring in new business, as opposed to simply completing the work assigned by partners, are much more likely to become partners themselves one day. So, how does one make the transition?
Business development usually revolves around expertise/track record, interpersonal relationships or a combination of the two. An attorney with a highly specialized, hard-to-find expertise (such as enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) or a highly publicized record of success in a unique area (such as defending chief executive officers in white-collar crime litigation) will receive new business without spending much time developing interpersonal relationships. On the other hand, an attorney with a general commercial litigation background will need to diligently pursue and manage relationships with clients and referral sources to develop a steady stream of business.
There is no single right way or magic formula for becoming a rainmaker. Successful rainmakers draw on their own personal strengths. It follows, then, that associates seeking to make the transition from worker bee to rainmaker must identify and capitalize on their own unique skills and assets to create a business development plan. Of course, all associate marketing efforts should be consistent with the goals and plans for the firm or practice group.
Creating a niche
A senior associate who does not already have a niche should create one -- and update marketing materials to reflect it. In some situations...