|Rainmaking: The Hammer to Break the Glass Ceiling for Women Lawyers
Yes, Virginia, there is a glass ceiling in law firms. We know that women start to leave in their 4th or 5th year, with the result that only 17 percent of partners at major law firms are women, according to the National Association of Law Placement. (The same obstacles face lawyers of color.) The primary reason is that law is still a white men’s club – often a legal locker room with little support for ladies without a book of business.
“As a practical matter, rainmaking skills play a large part in the ability to advance and succeed, especially in private practice,” said Christine Cartwright Baker, a rainmaker and partner for 15 years at Drinker, Biddle & Reath. She recently took the post of Vice President of Litigation for Realogy Corp. Legal Department in
The turnover is costing law firms millions of dollars, as they invest in bringing along women associates only to see them go just as they become profitable to the firm. From a strictly economic viewpoint, it’s bad for business to lose the valuable women lawyers. It makes much more sense to teach women business development skills, so that they will enjoy success and generate more revenue for their firms.
What women lawyers really need are female mentors who can demonstrate how to open a new file from a current client; they are not getting this career-making advice from the old-boy’s club of senior lawyers. The cure – and the hammer to break the glass ceiling – is to train women lawyers to generate new business and get more clients. A lawyer with enough clients to keep herself and several associates busy is a valuable asset to a law firm.
My point is that law firms must begin to offer women lawyers support in business development. Marketing certainly isn’t taught in law school, to the fury of lawyers everywhere Rainmakers are not born, they are trained. A recent survey I conducted revealed that 73% of rainmakers took a course or training session in marketing after they began their law practice. See http://tinyurl.com/2q4tp8.
Following are several constructive ideas that law firms should adopt to reduce turnover among women lawyers, geneate more business and thus boost firm revenue:
“Women can do business development,” Ms. Baker said. “A lot of women are intimidated or overwhelmed because they picture business development as cold calls or sales pitches, and not too many of us are comfortable doing that, including men. But that’s not really the best way to develop business. On the contrary, the best rainmakers are people who are good at developing and nurturing relationships. That’s a skill that most women have and are innately good at, so that’s not something women need to learn. ”
A rising tide lifts all boats, but not if most of the women professionals are being torpedoed. It is in the enlightened self-interest of law firms to train their women lawyers to become rainmakers. Not only will the firm benefit, but the glass ceiling that stops the careers of women lawyers will be shattered.