When a law firm discovers that it doesn't have enough work to keep its lawyers busy, the problem originally started with hiring mistakes made long ago. There are three types of lawyers: finders, minders, and grinders. The last two are easy to find, and law firms create long-term problems by hiring and promoting them.
- A finder is a rainmaker. These lawyers have numerous relationships, write many blog posts, speak at crowds of clients and are in leadership positions in the organizations of clients. Finders are very good in their law practices and also in generating new business. One finder can keep 10 other lawyers busy.
- A minder is a lawyer who maintains a long-term relationship with a client. They are book-smart and good at holding the client's hand. Minders answer the phone when a client calls, visit the client's office and take them out to tea. The client always belongs to someone else.
- A grinder is a lawyer who writes great appellate briefs, drafts solid opinion letters, and bills a lot of hours. They got top grades, clerked for a judge and went to a prestige law school. They are the ones to call when there is a truckload of documents to review. They work through lunch and have no social life, and never bring in any new business.
Because law firms are suckers for a high grade-point average, they hire a lot of minders and grinders -- and elevate them to the partnership. The problem is that 25% of these lawyers can't sell because of their personality. They are introverted, skeptical, have low sociability and low resilience. They went to law school so they would never have to sell.
Waiting for an assignment
So when work gets slow around the office, minders and grinders don't know where to start. They will be impatiently tapping their fingers for new assignments. On the other hand, a finder will start calling on clients to see if they have any additional work, will contact referral sources to fire up an exchange relationship -- and will get out the office to start speaking, meeting and greeting.
Most lawyers have an employee mentality. These worker bees just want projects from someone else's client. In contrast, a rainmaker has an owner mentality and doesn't take assignments, they give them. Rainmakers want to control their own destiny and devote a lot of effort to building up the business of a law firm.
Rainmakers are the partners who run the law firm, which is great until they decide to retire, which many Baby Boom lawyers are doing now. This creates a problem for many law firms because the next generation is composed of 45-year-old lawyers without any clients.
One solution is to hire partners laterally who have a portable book of business. Of course, they will command the top paycheck in the law firm and may be gone in a few years.
The real answer is to hire lawyers who are potential finders. These are young people with big networks they've been growing for years. They belong to organizations and are considered rising stars. It is easy to find out about them because they write blog posts, and are active on social media. They have a strong ego drive to succeed. Young finders have cognitive empathy, which is taking the perspective of the client and asking people what they need. They have high resilience and handle rejection well. They are accommodating and pay attention to the other person. And they are meticulous, have a follow-up plan, execute business development well and don't play things by ear.
They're also trainable and can be taught the behaviors that generate new business. In my experience, they respond well to individual coaching and are willing to execute on a marketing strategy. I've coached thousands of lawyers at hundreds of law firms.
So before all the rainmakers retire, leaders should look at their attorney workforce and be realistic about what kind of lawyers they have. It's never to late to hire a young rainmaker.