Seminar with WBAI Focuses on Creating Successful Law Firm Business Developers
How can women become rainmakers at law firms? These and other questions were covered April 5th at the CLE presentation, "How to Get the Business: A Continued Conversation with Givers and Getters,"
Swanson, Martin & Bell, LLP teamed up once again with the Women's Bar Association of Illinois to host and continue the conversation started at the sold-out 2015 gathering. Through moderated questions and answers, two panels of in-house counsel (Business Givers) and law firm attorneys (Business Getters) provided suggestions on how women lawyers can excel at business development and advance their careers.
Each Giver’s employer has a different process for selecting outside counsel. Some use a formal request for proposal process, while others must only be vetted by the general counsel. However, all said they would be unlikely to hire a new attorney without a trusted recommendation or introduction.
Attorneys that can demonstrate practical value, taking projects off a Giver’s plate, are most needed. One panelist said she is willing to pay an attorney more money if she knows an assignment will be handled well. Another emphasized the importance of getting practical answers from outside counsel on how to solve problems. A third talked about the need for outside lawyers to know her business and industry, how they might stand out amid competition. All panelists spoke of the importance of promoting women, both individually and to their employer.
Business Giver panelists included:
- Kate Boege, Executive Vice President, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary, Wintrust Financial Corporation
- Patricia Charles, General Counsel, Marmon Energy Services Company
- Sara Kagay, Associate General Counsel, Securities and Employment, Brunswick Corporation
- Kelly Sullivan, Chief Risk Officer, Associate Vice President and Associate General Counsel, Rush University Medical Center
- Kay Schichtel, Partner, Swanson, Martin & Bell, LLP (moderator)
Doing great legal work, the panel emphasized, is the most important element of business development. Additionally, they referenced the value of listening to a client's needs, learning the client's business, and being authentic in one’s interactions.
They also agreed that one size does not fit all for pitching business. Some potential clients may enjoy tickets to a sporting event, while another may have no interest. One panelist hosted a family-friendly gathering on a weekend, so that she and her clients could spend time with their children while interacting with each other. Another panelist spoke of having a “personal board of directors,” individuals who can offer her a range of perspectives and business development advice, when requested.
When asking for business, panelists like to let clients or potential clients know they are available to help or solve problems.
Business Getter panelists included:
- Kendra Mosley Ayuk, Attorney, Mosley Ayuk Law Firm, LLC
- Maja Eaton, Partner, Sidley Austin
- George Fitzpatrick, Partner, Swanson, Martin & Bell, LLP
- Adria Mossing, WBAI President and Attorney, Mossing & Navarre, LLC
- Maria Vathis, Of Counsel, Bryan Cave (moderator)