Business Development Leadership Marketing

Tim Leishman’s Sustaining Practice Styles

I attended a great LMA Vancouver lunch hour seminar today presented by Tim Leishman from Kerma Partners.  (Kerma Partners came into existence in late 2006 and has already developed into an alternative to Hildebrandt in the professional services consulting arena.) 

Leishman first penned an article on lawyer practices styles in 1998, and the ideas he set out provide a helpful tool for thinking about and understanding the contributions lawyers make to the success of a law firm.

Leishman sets out four categories of contribution that lawyers make to their firms:  Rainmaker, Point Person, Hired Gun, Brain Surgeon.  In very short form here’s how he describes each of these types of lawyers:

Rainmakers are interested in connections.  They are into meeting new people.  They are initiative takers.  They are high intensity networkers.  They approach business development from the standpoint of “how can I help this person?” Or, “how can I make it easy for them?”

Point Persons are the client managers par excellence.  They are most interested in loyalty.  They approach their client service from the standpoint of how can I make this person look good?  They are natural team players and consensus builders.

The Hired Guns are motivated by credentials.  They like to focus on publishing, presenting and building their profile and reputation.  They help strengthen the firm’s reputation for expertise.

Brain surgeons are those lawyers whose insight, and intellectual prowess, put them in a category all to themselves.  They are highly knowledgeable in key niche areas of law and are known for their outstanding legal abilities. 

Leishman’s point is that firms would be best to work to lawyers strengths rather then trying to get them to improve in their weak areas.  Trying to get a Brain Surgeon become an effective practice group leader is likely an exercise in futility!  Leishman sets out two priorities for law firms:

First, lawyers should be guided to develop in accordance with their relative strengths and talents.

Second, firms should learn to identify the natural abilities and talents that are associated with certain practice styles and learn from lawyers with those abilities so that those abilities can be developed in others.

Once you know your strength you can then maximize the intensity you are putting into it, and get the most out of it.

Attendees at the seminar also offered some of their own thought provoking questions and comments.  One person commented that the difficulty for many firms is that they have a number of lawyers who fall into neither of the above categories.  In these cases, coaching can help to support the lawyer in discovering and developing their strengths. 

Another point raised was that there is a lot to be gained for firms in having practice group leaders learn to manage their groups by leveraging the strengths of their group members in each of these areas.  Rainmakers, Point Persons, Brain Surgeons and Hired Guns when brought together as a team can bring about some powerful results for a firm.  The challenge is that there are currently few practice group leaders given the time, training, and support from the firm to effectively manage, or learn to manage their groups in a way that maximizes the strengths of the members.

I encourage you to take a moment to read Leishman’s article.  It’s a valuable tool for thinking about lawyer marketing and business development strengths and maximizing our investments in them.

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.