Nationally renowned trial lawyer and author Patricia Gillette moderated a hands-on program, called Making it (Ethically) Rain, recently at the New Jersey Law Center. The event, an offering of the association's educational arm, the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education and its Women in the Profession Section, focused on women lawyers interested in tips and strategies for pitching prospective clients and developing business.
“There’s no difference between the way men and women rainmakers develop business,” Gillette said in her opening remarks. But at the same time, she said, “Women have a special category to connect with people. That’s what we do. We connect, we build relationships…use those relationship skills to build your practice."
In addition to Gillette, the all-star panel included NJSBA Trustee Christine Amalfe of Gibbons, Tanya Holcomb of Honeywell International, Inc., Tamara L. Linde of PSEG, Inc. and Diana Manning of Bressler, Amery & Ross, who is also a trustee of the association. The group offered advice and feedback to the room of some 50 attendees who asked questions, took notes, participated in a workshop pitch scenario and listened to live feedback from the expert group.
Here are five takeaways from the morning session:
Engage. Gillette talked about the importance of “active listening.” We don’t listen anymore, she said, we’re always looking down at our phones. So really pay attention when someone is talking, and ask questions. You’ll make an impression and maybe even learn something new.
Take risks. Practice taking risks. “Once a day, try to do something a little outside your comfort zone,” Gillette said. Risk taking can yield real pay-offs. And on a related note, when presenting a client with options, give them three: a high-risk, a moderate-risk and a low-risk option. Give them advice on what you think is the best option, but be willing to do all three.
Get over the ‘p’ word. What word? Perfect. Often, women especially feel the pressure to be perfect, Gillette said. But that can impede your ability to be willing to take risks, and reap the rewards that come with it.
Think about your client’s interests. Your potential clients are busy too. They don’t necessarily want to go to a long dinner with you. But do show up to industry events, do offer to do a continuing legal education event. Those kinds of events are excellent places to meet potential clients.
Every person you meet is a potential client. Gillette urged attendees to build authentic relationships, but to also consider turning friends to potential clients and potential clients to friends. Men bring their personal and professional lives together all the time, she noted. For example, Gillette said, she doesn’t like to play golf, but she does love to cook. So instead of golfing, she hosts parties and cooks large meals and invites both friends and clients.