MCCA’s Annual List of Rainmakers proves that the profession has talented lawyers who also have valuable business development skills. This list includes attorneys from around the country who practice a wide variety of law. Their success stories offer insight and value to lawyers at every career stage.
Hunton & Williams
Location: Miami, FL
Years Practicing: 27
Practice Area: Corporate Mergers and Acquisitions; Banking and Finance
FERNANDO ALONSO DISLIKES the term “book of business.” “It’s my practice,” says Alonso, a partner at Hunton & Williams in Miami. “And my practice is the result of lasting relationships and client referrals. It’s built on trust. Often, when an officer leaves one client company for a new company or institution, I’ll work for them at their new employer. You don’t get that unless you maintain top-notch client services.” Alonso says he benefits from a broad practice. “I don’t follow a narrow or confined role, and that’s been good for business. You can be successful specializing as many attorneys do in big firms, but my own career hasn’t been like that. When finance is shut down because of the market I turn to more general corporate, M&A, or banking activity, whichever may be stronger. It’s worked out well for me.”
He also chairs the firm’s Latin American practice group. When Alonso returned to Miami to start his practice (after graduating from Yale Law School and serving as a judicial clerk for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York), his hometown wasn’t the focal point for cross-border business that it is today. “Back then, negotiating a residential real-estate deal for a foreign client was about as international as business got. Today, we’re doing complex international deals and financings here. Rainmaker status is not an accomplishment,” Alonso adds. “It’s not static. You’re never done with anything. You’re always evolving, always problem solving. If you maintain that attitude, the work will follow.”
JANICE P. BROWN
Founder and Senior Partner
Brown Law Group
Location: San Diego, CA
Years Practicing: 28
Practice Area: Business Litigation
NEVER HESITATE WHEN IT COMES TO RAINMAKING. So says Janice Brown, founder of Brown Law Group located in San Diego, and serving the southern California area. “Lawyers are smart people looking to be smarter. For a lawyer to think they need XY and Z skills to get out and develop new business is a trap. The skills are a given, but what lawyers need to know is that rainmaking is about building trusting relationships. In the long run, they will benefit with results that matter… a book of business.” After four years as a trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice – Tax Division, Brown started as an associate at a midsize firm in San Diego. Almost immediately Brown says she noticed that the happy lawyers were the ones who had their own clients. Determined to become one of those lawyers, Brown immersed herself in business and personal development classes, creating her own network of clients. As a result Brown was asked to join the firm’s executive committee in 1995.
In 2003, she founded her own firm and continued to build a solid book of business, a necessity for the firm. Still, business development continued to be a source of anxiety for her. To help keep herself and her team on track Brown devised an easy-to-use points system called Cloudburst that rewards attorneys for completing proactive outreach for business development. She continues, “Cloudburst helped me maintain the habit of building trust and eliminated the anxiety, because now I had a measurable tool.” In 2013, Brown will market that system, finally responding to colleagues who have requested her to do so. “It works for me. I hope it can help others.”
I. NEEL CHATTERJEE
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP
Location: Silicon Valley, CA
Years Practicing: 15
Practice Area: Intellectual Property
“BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT? I WORRY ABOUT IT ALL THE TIME,” says Orrick partner Neel Chatterjee. “It is essential to ensure stability of the group. Any one case can go away and change everything. So I always worry about the pipeline of opportunities.” Known for creative problem solving, Chatterjee concentrates his intellectual property practice on complex litigation for technology companies. Cutting-edge internet cases have helped him with branding and market positioning, but “the real rainmaking started on the patent side of things, which is a much more congested practice area.” Chatterjee has very specific ideas about how to build a fulfilling career. In fact, he has tailored a presentation on successful lawyering for diverse law students titled “Achieving Maximum Awesomeness.” He breaks it down neatly into a few concepts: Go for the twofer (achieve two personal interests at once, such as business development through public service), be bionic (try harder and exert more effort), and love what you do by doing things you feel are important.
“Being a partner at a law firm can be intense,” he says. “When prospective clients are looking to hire someone for an important engagement, they need to see the resident badass who works harder and does better work. It is really important to give prospective clients confidence that you fit the bill. “If you’re rainmaking you need to think you’re changing the world. I do a lot of complicated IP cases. In my career, I’ve handled four cases where the corporation’s founder threw their arms around me and thanked our team for saving their company. I’ve watched those clients grow to huge, successful corporations. It’s pretty awesome to play a small but important part of such successful companies.”
ERNEST LAMONT GREER
Greenberg Traurig, LLP
Location: Atlanta, GA
Years Practicing: 20
Practice Area: Chair, Atlanta Litigation
AS A YOUNG LAWYER, ERNEST GREER FOUND OPPORTUNITIES WITH SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS. “They were my first clients. My job was to ensure that nothing kept those then-fragile businesses from prospering. As they grew, I became their outside general counsel.” Over time, as Greer’s practice expanded and he started doing litigation for bigger corporations, he continued to work with those ever-growing first clients, making it a specialty. Today, he is a managing shareholder in Greenberg’s Atlanta office, and his practice includes litigation, corporate, bond work, and economic development. Still, he credits those early years as general counsel to several small companies and participating in their growth for allowing his career to grow in the way that it has. “I’m a litigator who thoroughly understands how corporations work. You don’t always find that,” he says.
Greer is a little uneasy with the rainmaker moniker, believing it takes away from the essence of what lawyers do. “We solve people’s legal problems. To me ‘rainmaker’ infers that we bring in business but don’t necessarily service clients. I get hired and do the work.” And what is it that prompts him to bring in business? “I’m driven to have security in life,” he explains. “I’m a guy whose parents invested everything they could to get me educated. There was no way I was going to sit behind the desk and depend upon others for work. Since the beginning of my career, I’ve gone out and found my own opportunities and now I get to pass that forward.”
MARTY B. LORENZO
DLA Piper LLP
Location: San Diego, CA
Years Practicing: 15
Practice Area: Corporate, Securities
“YOU CAN’T THINK ABOUT YOUR BOOK OF BUSINESS TOO MUCH,” says rainmaking attorney Marty Lorenzo. “If you set out to build a skyscraper, it can be a daunting task. But if you focus on laying each brick and enjoying the work, it’s not so hard. At the end of the year, you look up and say ‘Wow. Look what I built.’” A partner at DLA Piper in San Diego, Lorenzo began his career as a litigator before concentrating on corporate. Today, much of his practice involves acting as an outside general counsel for clients, especially for those with smaller legal departments. Lorenzo becomes immersed in their businesses and goals. This way he can be part of decision-making as an extension of clients’ management and give optimum service.
“Taking a holistic approach to client relationships takes time at the front end,” Lorenzo says. “But truly understanding a client’s mission and vision allows me to give well-rounded advice, anticipate their needs, and keep focused on the client’s ‘big picture’.” Over the years, Lorenzo has reinvented himself as clients’ needs change. First he did IPOs in the late ’90s, and when the stock market bubble popped, he got into mergers and acquisitions. “A lawyer has to be able to sharpen the skill sets in demand to address clients’ needs,” he says. “To really be a value-add to clients, we also need to possess enduring traits like good business sense and leadership.” Lorenzo honed his leadership skills as he came up through the ranks in the Marine Corps Reserves, where he is now a major in his 24th year of service.
Akerman Senterfitt LLP
Location: New York, NY
Years Practicing: 35
Practice Area: Co-Chair, Latin America & the Caribbean Practice
AKERMAN SHAREHOLDER CARLOS MÉNDEZPEÑATE CREDITS A LOT OF HIS RAINMAKING SUCCESS TO RELATIONSHIP BUILDING. In the early 1980s, Méndez-Peñate left his position as an associate at Coudert Brothers in New York where he had represented prominent Latin American corporations and financial institutions, specifically to start a Latin American group for Holland and Knight in Miami. At the time, he says, Latin America was emerging from a lost decade of debt defaults and recessions, and Miami was nothing like the thriving city it has become today. Based in Florida and trained in New York, the Cubanborn attorney was well positioned to take advantage of emerging opportunities.
“To build a practice, I capitalized on contacts and travelled the region, meeting business people and lawyers. Nothing beats face-to-face meetings. It’s the only way,” he says. “Eventually, existing relationships flowered and new ones developed. I was retained by increasing numbers of Latin American corporations and financial institutions on complicated and interesting deals.” Business exploded, says Méndez-Peñate, and he returned to New York (again at Coudert and later at Akerman) to be closer to the major investment banks. “For decades I’ve generated all of my own work. In addition to my specialties—mergers and acquisitions and capital markets—clients also entrust me with litigation, bankruptcy, and tax matters for which I turn to colleagues expert in those disciplines.” There is no resting on your laurels, he adds. “Business development never ends. You’ve got to think about it all the time and be willing to try something new and often take a chance.”
ARNOLD P. PETER
Managing Partner and Founder
Peter Law Group
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Years Practicing: 20+
Practice Area: Complex Entertainment and other Commercial Transactions, Litigations
PRIOR TO OPENING PETER LAW GROUP IN LOS ANGELES IN 2009, Arnold Peter was both a lawyer and business executive at Universal Studios and then headed up the global entertainment and media practice of a large international law firm. Peter’s practice is unique: He handles both litigation and transactional matters, mostly in the entertainment industry. Both his firm’s labor and employment litigation disputes and transactional practices focus on film and television production.
Peter, who grew up in India and Pakistan, says his law group is the preeminent firm focusing on the interplay between Hollywood and the Indian entertainment industry known as Bollywood; they work with the top stars and studios based in India and in the United States. The firm recently represented the leading Indian studio on international films featuring Nicole Kidman, Olivia Wilde, and Jason Bateman. As founder and managing partner, Peter brings in most of the firm’s business. He focuses on creating the supportive and collaborative environment necessary to do good work. “I bring on people to the team who have a similar work ethic and who do their best on a daily basis,” he says. “I surround myself with colleagues like these so I can be successful; they make me look good.”
LINDBERGH A. PORTER
Littler Mendelson P.C.
Location: San Francisco, CA
Years Practicing: 32
Practice Area: Employment
“YEARS AGO, A CLIENT SAID TO ME AT THE CONCLUSION OF A TRIAL, ‘THE REWARD FOR DOING A GOOD JOB IS THAT YOU GET TO DO IT AGAIN,’” says rainmaker Lindbergh Porter. “That comment has remained with me through the years. Whether it’s a client I have ongoing matters for or one who retains me every two or three years, existing clients are the best source for business development.” Porter began his career at Littler’s San Francisco office as a summer associate in 1980 and with the exception of seven years at a general practice firm (1999 through 2006), has been there ever since.
He concentrates on employment, wage and hour, and whistle-blower litigation, including class actions in state and federal courts. Porter quickly adds that he also tries to keep clients out of courts. His practice includes traditional labor law, representing employers before the National Labor Relations Board, in arbitration, and in collective bargaining. “I enjoy finding solutions where parties have competing goals but whose work lives and fortunes are interdependent,” he says about traditional labor practice. After three decades, Porter is now working more with new and mid-level attorneys to help them develop. “Our clients can choose from more than 900 lawyers in our firm. I assume those who select me do so because of the way I represent them. It is my obligation to clients and the firm to help train other lawyers to continue the firm’s relationship with these clients.”
IMAD I. QASIM
Sidley Austin LLP
Location: Chicago, IL
Years Practicing: 30
Practice Area: M&A and Private Equity, Corporate Governance and Executive Compensation, Securities
AS A PARTNER AT SIDLEY AUSTIN, IMAD QASIM SAYS EACH DAY AT THE FIRM IS DIFFERENT. While he regularly advises public companies and their boards on corporate governance and securities law matters, the biggest part of his practice is transactional work. And some of his favorite things are negotiations, problem solving, and give-and-take. Fortunately for him, his practice area fits all of those things. In advising associates he suggests, “Aim to do excellent work, but keep in mind that we are not a guild working in a vacuum. We also need to meet our clients’ needs efficiently. And always return your clients phone calls promptly. That alone is half of what they need.
“The legal profession is not static. As you get older, your focus shifts,” says Qasim, who is based in Chicago but has also worked in Sidley’s Middle East and Washington, D.C. offices. “It’s the nature of the process. Your role evolves over time and your client counterparts become more senior. Obviously there’s evolution there but fundamentally as far as I’m concerned, doing the best work you can and addressing each client’s real need rather than just acting by habit ensures an attorney’s success. I don’t think that changes.” After thirty years practicing, he believes “doing excellent work and being responsive are at the heart of business. Otherwise whatever you’re doing misses the point of being a lawyer. If you effectively and efficiently take care of your clients’ needs, the work will come.”
SASHA G. RAO
Ropes & Gray LLP
Location: East Palo Alto, CA
Years Practicing: 16
Practice Area: Intellectual Property
“ONE THING I’VE LEARNED AS A TRIAL LAWYER,” says Sasha Rao, an IP partner at Ropes & Gray in Silicon Valley, “very little of what you do, from witness examination to opening or closing, is based on individual effort even though it might appear that one person is doing it. If you don’t have an excellent team of lawyers and staff , you’re not going to be able to bring in the business. Clients are pretty sophisticated and they realize this. They’re looking at the big picture.” And while Rao will concede that a trial attorney must project confidence, she reiterates: “This is not a Rambo operation.”
Because she handles complex patent litigations for top technology companies, Rao’s background in science has served her well. She studied physics at Randolph Macon Woman’s College in Virginia. “Even then I was conscious that I’d pursue a legal career,” says the New York University law school graduate. “I imagined that it would be challenging to be a lawyer who understood science and had to explain it to those who didn’t, persuading them to adopt a particular point of view.” She was right: “The real challenge is to break down the science into a format and sound bites that ordinary jurors can understand.” There is no secret to rainmaking, say Rao. “It takes good work, a good team, some time, and a lot of patience. It must become a habit. Just like you might read the paper every day, you also must do some business development.”
RICKY A. RAVEN
Thompson & Knight LLP
Location: Houston, TX
Years Practicing: 26
Practice Area: Civil Litigation, Toxic Tort, Products Liability, Personal Injury, and White Collar Criminal Defense
FOR RAINMAKER RICKY RAVEN, GOLF HAS PROVED A POTENT TOOL IN BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT. While some minorities report being closed out of the country club networking scene, Raven describes the sport as the blessing of his career. “Where else do you have a client’s undivided attention for four hours,” asks Raven, a litigating partner in Thompson & Knight’s Houston office. “You can really get to know someone on the golf course; it’s a great facilitator. You talk about families and business concerns. You find out what’s on their mind and what their goals and aspirations are. If you’re paying close attention, you can use that information to meet their needs.”
Raven concedes that there are financial barriers — golfing and club memberships cost thousands of dollars a year—but the longtime golfer says the advantages have been well worth the investment. “The best investment I have ever made in terms of meeting and making friends. “Practice of law is service-oriented. If you’re in this business, job one is to meet the needs of clients and anticipate the needs of potential clients,” says the Houston native. “You must be an active partner with clients 24/7. They need to see exactly how they’re benefiting from the services you provide.” Will Raven ever rethink his rainmaking MO? “My way has proved very effective. For the most part, real rainmakers are doing business with friends and people they know. Many young lawyers miss that piece. Long-term working relationships are about a lot more than just getting paid. They are relationships where the value you provide far outweighs any perceived costs.”
EKWAN E. RHOW
Bird, Marella, Boxer, Wolpert, Nessim, Drooks & Lincenberg, P.C.
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Years Practicing: 18
Practice Area: Civil Litigation
“THINGS HAVE NEVER BEEN MORE COMPETITIVE,” says Ekwan Rhow, a partner at Bird Marella, a boutique firm with 35 lawyers specializing exclusively in trial work and business litigation. “In areas where boutiques did not face competition from larger firms they do now—in terms of work and rates. Partners at larger firms are facing increased pressure to generate business.” Still, Rhow says, boutique firms prevail for a variety of reasons: They focus on one area of practice. In Bird Marella’s case, trial work and complex litigation. As such, they are perceived as having superiority in that area. In addition, boutique firms can ultimately off er better service and competitive rates. Finally, because the partners at boutique firms often have individualized relationships with the GCs of the companies they represent, the client relationships are stronger.
Rhow says, “Our corporate clients are looking for superior lawyering, responsiveness, an understanding of clients’ business goals and timely execution. Boutiques are often better at achieving that.” For Rhow, a lot of business development is organic: “Most of my clients are headed up by GCs that I have personally worked with and known for many years. These relationships are built on great work, friendship, and trust on a one-to-one basis. New work also comes from word-of-mouth referrals.” A Korean American who does not speak Korean, Rhow took on a handful of cases for Korean companies several years ago, and due to good reviews, Korean clients now make up 25 percent of his practice. “Despite the competition, I find the cases are getting bigger and more challenging.”
LI-HSIEN (LILY) RIN-LAURES, MD
Gerstein & Borun LLP
Location: Chicago, IL
Years Practicing: 21
Practice Area: Intellectual Property
RAINMAKING PARTNER LI-HSIEN (LILY) RIN-LAURES, M.D., STARTED COLLEGE AT 13 and completed medical school by age 21, but opted to attend Harvard Law School instead of practicing medicine. Looking back, she says, “As a young lawyer, having a medical degree generated some respect, but it didn’t guarantee success.” Like all lawyers, says Rin-Laures, she needs satisfied clients. Most of her clients come from the biopharmaceutical industry. “My approach is uncomplicated,” she says. “I don’t sell myself. I try to connect with people by listening carefully to what they have to say, and by considering their unspoken and spoken needs and goals. This way I can get a big-picture perspective and make them happy.”
The turning point in Rin-Laures’ career came when she re-entered private practice after having served as general counsel in a publicly held biotechnology company. “It gave me confidence and an understanding of what in-house people do. I reported to the CEO and sat with the management team and made decisions about the future of the company. All of that improved my ability to give advice.” Her insider perspective, technical expertise, and industry knowledge acquired from managing patent portfolios for different FDA-approved drugs allow her to off er clients creative solutions. Today, says Rin-Laures, her strength continues to lie in showing clients how she can help solve their problems and use IP to achieve their business goals. Looking forward, she is proud to see junior attorneys replicating what she has done in terms of forming long lasting, trusting relationships with clients.
RICHARD CRAIG SMITH
Fulbright & Jaworski LLP
Location: Washington, DC
Years Practicing: 25
Practice Area: Global White Collar Crime and Government Investigations
“SITTING BEHIND YOUR DESK WILL NOT MAKE IT RAIN,” SAYS RICHARD SMITH. As the head of Fulbright & Jaworski’s white collar crime and government investigations teams, Smith spends a lot of time travelling the country and overseas conducting investigations. At the same time, he provides legal advice and counsel to the NFL Players Association (NFLPA). Additionally, he litigates complex cases, defending corporate America in federal court before numerous federal agencies, such as the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and United States Attorney’s offices throughout the country. Smith describes his business development technique as a multi-tiered strategy. First, he captures the low-hanging fruit, the people to whom he has immediate access. In other words, he markets himself to his partners to ensure that they know his expertise, and to determine areas in which they can collaborate.
Secondly, he markets his group’s strengths to current firm clients. He participates in various panels, seminars, and training for the ABA and other entities nationally; he also writes and is published often. “I’m a firm believer that you reap what you sow,” says Smith. “I’m willing to do the hard work in pursuit of new business.” For example, says Smith, his group will do a seminar or training on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) or compliance for a client free of charge, but in return they will ask the client to invite all of their assistant general counsel globally. This way, he adds, he can service a current client while simultaneously gaining exposure with prospective clients. But primarily, he credits his rainmaking status to producing an excellent product, being available for his clients, and an unyielding drive to be the very best.
Office Managing Partner, Sedgwick LLP
Location: Chicago, IL
Years Practicing: 27
Practice Area: Insurance
AS MANAGING PARTNER OF SEDGWICK’S CHICAGO OFFICE, rainmaking insurance litigator Cathy Sugayan feels responsible to both bring in business and pass on her wisdom to the younger attorneys. In order to succeed in business development, she tells them, they must first become the kind of excellent lawyer who goes the extra mile, shows a vested interest in each case, and always presents a polished work product. And as their expertise develops, they need to get out there and let people know. “You can’t be afraid to market yourself. Talk about what you do, listen to clients to learn about their legal and business challenges, and find ways you can help them. You’ll be surprised how they start calling for help.”
Early in her career, Sugayan spent time in London where her colleagues and clients were white men for whom business development mainly meant pubs and sports. “I’m half-Filipino, 5’2″ and, while I enjoy sports, I do not memorize stats. Spending time in these business settings was intimidating in the beginning,” she recalls. “At first I did my work and kept my head down. Eventually I’d sip a brandy and even tried smoking a cigar once. Those times taught me the importance of bridging gaps and building relationships in every situation.” Today, Sugayan is gratified to see more women and minorities in business development, and happy that some traditions never change. “I still enjoy a nice meal and a good drink with clients. It’s a very pleasant way to find commonalities and learn about people.”
ASHLEY L. TAYLOR, JR
Troutman Sanders LLP
Location: Richmond, VA
Years Practicing: 19
Practice Area: Regulatory Compliance and Government Litigation
ASHLEY TAYLOR IS GROUP LEADER OF REGULATORY COMPLIANCE AND GOVERNMENT LITIGATION at Troutman Sanders. Taylor worked hard on developing an accurate description of his practice, because he wanted clients and new lawyers joining his team to understand the group is not comprised of your typical corporate compliance lawyers or traditional litigators. “We exclusively represent clients in a highly regulated industry who are dealing with compliance issues or investigations, and litigation is one of the tools we use. That’s what makes us special.” Prior to Troutman, Taylor spent four years as deputy attorney general in Virginia where he led four divisions of lawyers worked on national investigations, including the national tobacco settlement. During his tenure in public service, Taylor says, he came to realize that clients needed guidance on compliance issues from someone who understood the regulator’s perspective. His future practice area was taking shape.
During his first six months with the firm, Taylor was very busy but soon realized that simply being busy and building a practice was not the same thing. “That’s when I began building a practice in earnest. When you serve your clients as a Sherpa during difficult times, they tend to stay with you over the long haul.” Looking back, Taylor attributes much of his success to timing. “State regulations had increased, and multistate enforcement actions increased, and I was a commercial litigator with four years of political experience as Virginia deputy attorney general who completely understood the regulatory landscape. I was standing with the right combination of skills and experience, but I had the good sense not to move.”
Winston & Strawn LLP
Location: Chicago, IL
Years Practicing: 22
Practice Area: Labor & Employment
“ALMOST AS LONG AS I CAN REMEMBER, I WAS TOLD I WOULD BE A LAWYER,” says Joseph Torres, a labor and employment partner at Winston & Strawn, Chicago. His father immigrated to the United States from Mexico and lived in a boxcar before going to work at the steel mills. Torres’ parents understood tough times and wanted better for their son. When he was just five, his mother decided Torres would be a lawyer. Torres’ future rainmaker status was less certain. He didn’t wake up one morning and think: “Today I will be a rainmaker.” For him, business development was part of a gradual evolution. “I’ve been at Winston my whole career, and through the years I’ve built my brand internally. Luckily along the way, I had wonderful mentors who were very generous about giving me opportunities. Thanks to their support I began to get clients, which led to a book of business. Over time it comes together, and when it happens it’s both exciting and a little scary.”
Still, Torres takes nothing for granted. Even though he is regularly asked to take the lead on cases, he refuses to become complacent. “I’m always thinking of other skills I might develop. What you’re doing today may not be what you’re doing in 10 years. It’s also very important to keep up with the changing ways lawyers can best serve clients. “The legal market is fiercely competitive. You can’t assume your clients will be there tomorrow or that new clients are coming around the bend.”