Tuesday, November 22, 2016
RAINMAKER Q&A: MAYNARD COOPER'S MICHAEL MULVANEY
As originally published by Law360, New York, November 22, 2016
Michael D. Mulvaney is a shareholder at Maynard Cooper & Gale in Birmingham, Alabama. He has a national trial and class action practice, focusing on the defense of complex claims against the insurance and financial services industry.
He has served as lead national trial counsel in individual cases and class actions pending in Alabama, Alaska, New York, Connecticut, California, Texas, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, Mississippi, West Virginia, New Mexico, North Dakota, Kansas, Delaware, Minnesota, and Louisiana. He has been involved in the litigation of a broad range of cases and specializes in several areas, including insurance fraud, bad faith, coverage cases, and personal injury cases.
Q: What skill was most important for you in becoming a rainmaker?
A: Without question, the single most important skill in rainmaking is "relationship-making." Certainly, clients will not send work without results. Clients expect excellence, hard work and clear communication. It will be difficult to be a consistent rainmaker without providing a great product and results. But at the end of the day, clients send work because of relationship: A relationship that involves more than just a client-lawyer business relationship; a relationship that becomes being a part of the client's life outside work— their family, friends, their passions and interests, their struggles, concerns and their successes.
The relationship must ultimately involve trust, on two levels. One, the client trusts in the work you are hired to do and that it is your commitment and duty to protect them — both their individual and their corporate interests. Two, that they trust you as a friend and your genuine investment and concern for them — not just as a source of business.
Q: How do you prepare a pitch for a potential new client?
A: As with a pitch for any business, whether legal or not, information is critical and necessary to success. Before preparing to pitch any business, you must learn every detail possible about the people you will be pitching. Because this will be the first step to relationship-building, the more you know about the people the greater chance you have to make a connection that can begin the process of building a relationship beyond the work.
Beyond the people, gather as much information about the client’s needs, concerns, worries, goals, past frustration with their lawyers — all of it. Only if you understand what they most need and want can you pitch a vision for how you and your team are the best solution to get them where they want to be.
Q: Share an example of a time when landing a client was especially difficult, and how you handled it.
A: We were asked to be part of a request for proposal for a class action in New York. We were competing against New York and Washington, D.C., firms and we were a firm based in Birmingham, Alabama. Rather than just sending in the RFP, we made a trip to see the client in New York. We asked for just 15 minutes to visit. We were able to personalize our pitch and look the client in the eyes to explain why trusting us made sense and to look beyond the easy choice of firm from New York or D.C. The personal visit resulted in getting the work. It helped that we later won the case.
Q: What should aspiring rainmakers focus on when beginning their law careers?
A: Young lawyers often feel incredible pressure to develop or learn to develop business early on in an increasingly eat-what-you-kill, compensation-driven law firm system. This expectation is frustrating and unrealistic for many young lawyers who say "I don't have any contacts," or I did not grow up here," or "I am working all the time, how do I go develop business?"
I believe the best counsel is this: Bloom where you are planted. Don't worry about cold calls and elaborate business development. Early on, use the relationships you have in the cases you are on. Be excellent. Be trustworthy and dependable. Hard work and excellence makes rain for young lawyers. And when you can, don't email the client. Call them. Talk on the phone to them and find reasons to do so. Allow those times to develop a relationship beyond the work. Baby steps.
Q: What’s the most challenging aspect of remaining a rainmaker?
A: Two things: First, it is without question that the world has changed for lawyers in the last 10 to 15 years. Clients — whether on their own or as a push down from their chain of command — have become more sophisticated and in some ways detached consumers of legal services. The trend is to devalue legal services seeing lawyers as fungible, and searching for the best deal, without regard to firm loyalty or even past results. So the struggle to get and keep work is even more constant and difficult.
Second, it is always a new day. You may spend years developing a relationship with a client and earning their trust and work, then that client is gone or replaced: new day, new person — who may have existing relationships and loyalties. So we start all over. Start building relationships and trust from the ground up. But in many ways, that is also the most rewarding part. New clients. New challenges. New relationships to build.
The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or Portfolio Media Inc., or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.