There has been a great deal of talk within the last few months regarding diversity and inclusion within law firms. And there is good reason. While nearly half of those attending law school are women, according to data collected by the American Bar Association, in 2017, only 23% of partnersin firms were women. Based on what I see, some women head to in-house positions, others choose to change career paths and some venture out and set up their own firms.
I am not professing to be an expert on how to fix all of the issues (there are many), but I can see what many firms are doing right and try to learn from that. In writing my book, Best Practices in Law Firm Business Development and Marketing, I noticed that there are a number of large law firms in the country that are run by women. There are some, but not nearly enough, that are founded by women.
Besides the common denominators of being incredibly intelligent and motivated, commonalities among all of these women leaders are that each one has had a strong book of business and is considered a rainmaker. Rainmaking and the ability to attract and bring in business to a law firm is a skill that provides additional career muscle and a greater chance of advancing to leadership positions. Therefore, while focusing on issues of unconscious bias and creating diversity programs are essential, I suggest firms make business development training, particularly for women and other minority groups, part of their curriculum.
Provide Adequate Training
The training does not need to be dramatically different for women and men. Yes, men and women are different, but I don’t think we can lump the genders together for the simplification of understanding behaviors. I don’t think one needs help on networking while the other does not, but rather that both groups need help. Providing an emphasis on helping women, however, may help to bridge some of the gaps in retention and leadership.
This Includes Both Teaching And Coaching
Good training should involve two parts. If done correctly, it includes a combination of both a teaching component and a coaching one. The teaching or training portion can be done in smaller groups, broken down either by practices, geography or seniority. That decision can be based on what works best within a firm’s culture. But the training, in order to make it stick and work best, should be supplemented by one-on-one coaching.
Individual coaching, where personal plans can be created and impediments and concerns can be openly discussed in a confidential setting, can create measurable change. It also allows the trainee to have check-in points with their coach, providing them with actionable goals and milestones to achieve. Within the marketing profession, there are extraordinary coaches. Selecting one with the experience level and chemistry with the trainee is not a tall order.
Cultivate A Business Growth Mindset
Not all sales training is rainmaking training. When training lawyers to develop business, it’s important that the training is done by someone who understands how business is brought into a firm and the long lead time and other elements at play. Once a lawyer has control over their work with clients, and has honed the ability to develop business, they can take the steering wheel and have more control over their career.
In addition, in professional services, particularly law, personal branding, one-on-one relationships and internal communications within a partnership all have a role in rainmaking. All lawyers should think about how they want their practices to be viewed, what types of matters they want to attract and with which kinds of clients they would like to work.
The most successful rainmakers are the ones who have thought about their own plan for success, rather than waiting for one to be handed to them by a more senior partner. Marketing through networking, speaking engagements and social media visibility can help add fuel to their efforts.
By making it rain, women lawyers and other women in business can help grow and cultivate their own futures.