10 Tips for Developing Associates into Rainmakers

Debra L. Bruce, JD, PCC.

10 Tips for Developing Associates into Rainmakers

Today most law firms, large and small, expect partners to bring in business. In determining whether an associate makes partner, the firm usually considers whether the associate has the capability to bring in business.

Some firms don’t do a very good job of communicating this expectation to their young lawyers, however. In fact, some partners may actively discourage associates from spending time on business development activities, if that takes any time away from doing billable legal work. The firm then unrealistically expects a new partner to support himself with his own business like turning on a water faucet.

While firms that think longer-range may not begrudge the time an associate spends on client development, they don’t all have a policy for reimbursing associates for business development expenses. Young lawyers still trying to pay off student loans are expected to pay for any marketing lunches or other outside activities, bar association and section dues, and community association dues. Asking associates to lay out their cash to benefit the firm they are not yet members of can have a significant tempering effect on their efforts. Finally, some savvy law firms actively support mid-level and senior associate efforts to develop clients by providing time and financial resources, but very few provide real guidance to young lawyers about how to market themselves.

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