Friday, October 21, 2016
RAINMAKER Q&A: MAYNARD COOPER'S STEPHEN STALLCUP
As originally published by Law360 on October 20, 2016.
Stephen W. Stallcup is a shareholder and member of the real estate and commercial lending practices at Maynard Cooper & Gale in Birmingham, Alabama.
Stallcup’s practice is national in scope and includes representation of buyers, sellers, developers, landlords and tenants in all types of real estate matters, including acquisition, development, financing and leasing matters and banks in all kinds of commercial loan facilities. Stallcup has handled real estate, lease, and financing matters from California to Pennsylvania and from Montana to Florida and most states in between.
Stallcup has received multiple recognitions for his work as an attorney from multiple industry award lists including Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business and The Best Lawyers in America.
Q: What skill was most important for you in becoming a rainmaker?
A: In an effort to answer this question, I looked at the list of business that I had played a key role in bringing to the firm. It’s hard to find a common theme. Three of them were from young people with whom I became good friends or mentored while they were at the firm and before they accepted in-house positions. Another developer hired us after my wife and I had spent years becoming best friends with and supporters of his now 84-year-old mother.
Three other opportunities were referred to me by clients who I had helped through difficult circumstances, referrers who had come to trust me. Ultimately, I think the common thread is a person that I genuinely cared for. Our 84-year-old friend is a career counselor who uses Biblical principles, rather than medicine, to help people with problems. Learning her strategies for helping others that are in emotional distress has been a subtle but important part of several projects over the years.
Q: How do you prepare a pitch for a potential new client?
A: Most of my time is spent getting to know the opportunity and the decision maker. From all my discussions with friends in other firms around the country, our firm is very unique in how well it incentivizes team play, so I have a vast resource at my disposal in trying to get to know the potential new client. The pitch is the easy part. We focus on telling our story. People love stories, and we have a very good one to tell.
Q: Share an example of a time when landing a client was especially difficult, and how you handled it.
A: You may not like this answer, but I cannot recall pushing too hard to land some business. There are too many opportunities out there, and we can’t represent everybody. On the other hand, I have genuinely cared for certain people over the years without any expectation of career benefits, and years later they opened a door for me through circumstances that I would have never imagined.
One day, I had lunch with a friend who I had gotten to know both personally and as he had worked for a client. I went to that lunch to brainstorm with him about potential job opportunities in various fields because he was unemployed and the real estate market was virtually dead. In less than six months after that lunch, he landed a job at an international bank and hired me to help sell their portfolio of foreclosed properties across the country. The point is, you really never know who can turn into your next big client.
Q: What should aspiring rainmakers focus on when beginning their law careers?
A: At the beginning, I think lawyers should focus primarily on skills and integrity. Rainmaking requires a platform of skill and integrity. Young people in law firms should take the opportunity to work for as many different lawyers as they can and observe how they work issues, difficulties and people.
At the same time, they should crystallize their commitment to do what is right, even if it is the painful thing to do. Every person is currently a product of who they have been becoming, and every person will be what they are becoming today. They should align themselves with teams that are struggling to do things the right way. I can assure each one of them: In the practice of law, their resolve will be tested and their response will matter greatly to their career and their family.
Q: What’s the most challenging aspect of remaining a rainmaker?
A: I am always shocked at the painfulness of certain important situations for our team and clients. Big firm life is not for everyone, and the process of building the right team often involves situations that are painful for me and a teammate for whom I care about a great deal. Similarly, fighting to do things the right way sometimes requires difficult conversations with a client.
One of my two biggest clients over the years has said on several occasions that he keeps coming back to me because I have been frank with him when opportunities were less black and white and more gray. He was talking about my advice to consider taking a very different approach to opportunities that were legal and presumably profitable but raised ethical questions or reputational concerns. Cody Willard, of Fox Business Network, advises clients that it’s often the hardest stock trade to make that is the right trade, and that often applies to doing what it takes to develop a rewarding legal career. Despite all of that, we’re still having a ton of fun in what we do.