Business Development Leadership

The personality attributes of top rainmakers

What does it take to be a great business developer? What does it take to attract clients? In law firms I find there is often this image floating around of the rainmaker as a smooth talking, assertive and maybe even aggressive promoter. In my personal experience the great rainmakers are quite different from this. As I write this post I have one rainmaker in mind. He is the consummate professional. He is a quiet, soft spoken man of a few words. He has a sharp business mind that his clients appreciate. Although mentorship may not be his favorite thing he has become very good at it, and he delegates a great deal of work to his team, not because he enjoys supervising but because it is good for the lawyers under him and opens up room in his practice for more work to flow in.

To all you lawyers reading this post let me tell you, you just might have what it takes to be a good if not excellent rainmaker. Last year a Harvard Business Review’s blog by Steve W. Martin listed the top characteristics of the best salespeople and they read like a description of the many lawyers I have the pleasure of working with:

Modesty: Top sales people score medium to high for modesty and humility and are team players. I have worked with so many lawyers who have told me they didn’t go to law school to become a salesperson, and that they hate promoting themselves. Well here is the surprising news – that sentiment is shared by some of the best sales people out there.

Conscientiousness: Top sales people are highly conscientious about their work and are strongly motivated by duty and responsibility. Again, doesn’t this sound like most of the lawyers you know?

Achievement Orientation: Top sales people are very goal oriented and track their performance against their goals. The legal profession is full of modest and conscientious professionals but far fewer are achievement oriented. I have seen how the drive for accuracy and perfection, coupled with an aversion to risk can override the focus on achieving outcomes. The good news is that by developing a process for goal setting and progress tracking in your legal practice you acquire the benefits of this ‘achievement orientation”.

Reader take note: I point out these traits because it is helpful to remember that the myth of the rainmaker often obscures the reality about what it takes to be a trusted professional and have the capacity to bring in business for yourself and your colleagues. In many cases I find that simply working to develop new habits such as setting goals and tracking performance can get you from mediocre performance to good in a short period of time. The key is that the values of hard work, discipline, humility and duty are assets as much for business development as they are for your legal practice.

About the author

Allison Wolf

I am the founder of AWAL and one of the most senior coaches for lawyers in North America. I have helped countless clients over the past fifteen years, develop thriving legal practices and before that served as director of marketing for award-winning law firms. My specialty is uncovering the thinking traps and gaps holding clients back and helping them acquire the mindsets, skills, and habits for growing successful and rewarding legal careers. After a career in legal marketing and business development with law firms in Beijing, New York, and Vancouver, I was trained as a coach in 2004 at Royal Roads University and now coach clients from across North America. You can reach me at or learn more about my coaching practice from the coaching section of the Attorney With A Life Website.