Fifty shades of rainmaker

Posted on July 24th, 2012 by Chrissie Lightfoot

Lawyers who can’t bring in clients had better think about another career as the evolving, cut-throat world of 21st century business law won’t carry any passengers, I reckon…



The usually suave, confidant, handsome lawyer cradled his pounding head with shaking hands as he sat nervously, elbows jarring agonisingly into his knees. Rocking gently on the sofa in the spacious corner office he eventually looked up. Fixing his gaze on the heaving buxom breasts of the senior partner he found comfort, solace and courage for a fleeting moment. Gradually he raised his chin and began slowly to lower his hands, stroking his prominent cheek bones and chiseled jaw before soothing his aching legs with feverish palms in a circular deep massage motion.

But then he caught a glimpse of the pulsating vein in her forehead throbbing aggressively. The blood drained from his tanned face turning it ashen as he stared into the senior partner’s cold, steel blue, motionless eyes and with a twisted and pained expression spluttered: ‘I’m fifty shades of ****ed up.’

This is not a scene from Madame Bovary, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, or the ubiquitous erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey, which every desperate housewife and her pampered pouting pooch is currently yapping on about. However, this scene could be a scenario played out in the crumbling towers of the next Dewey & LeBoeuf.

Such is the media frenzy buzzing around the fall-out of Fifty Shades that Angela Gorton, an employment lawyer at Lupton Fawcett LLP, Leeds (UK), was moved to write a briefing on the legal queries in relation to ‘the acceptable face of porn in the office.’

Rainmaking and sex

Those having succumbed to dipping a quivering finger into Fifty Shades will recall that the story revolves around the sexual life of a naive 20-something virgin (yeah, right). She becomes entwined in an unusual arrangement with an erotically experienced billionaire who has devilishly dominant/submissive tendencies; that’s putting it politely.

I confess, with regret, I’ve read Fifty Shades of Grey. It was utterly dull — romantically, sexually and erotically. I’ve text-messaged saucier seductive sensual prose to my lover. Frankly, I’d rather paw over an annual subscription of Viz before being subjected to more of the Fifty Shades trilogy. And yet, the author did manage – albeit apparently inadvertently — to spark the synapses of my professional rainmaker lawyer grey matter. I was stimulated into thinking about the legal profession and began to draw analogies between rainmaking and sex. Sad, but true.

Why and how we approach the two activities are pretty much the same. It’s all about confidence, seduction, performance, delivery and follow-on. Whether you’re a poor rainmaker, an extraordinary rainmaker, or any of the fifty shades in between, will depend on your thoughts, feelings and actions.

Poor rainmaking is like unfulfilling sex – at least for one of the parties involved. Don’t really care what the other person thinks or feels; haven’t got a clue what you’re doing; no real effort or interest. The whole experience is over in a jiffy. And it’s all about pure self-interest.

Good rainmaking is pretty much like good sex. It’s not the tools that matter, it’s what you do with them that counts – a bit like identifying a good bottle of champagne not by the size of the bottle, but by the size of the cork. That is: focus, quality and application.

Relationship broker prowess

Great rainmaking – like great sex – involves spending lots of time exploring, researching and thinking about what you could do next to delight. And by being attentive whilst adventuring and pleasuring and doing lots of giving, giving and giving some more. Extraordinary rainmaking involves continual mind focus, continual nurturing, continual stimulation, continual discovery, continual delivery, continual follow on, continual improvement, continual innovation, continual research and development. The outcome inevitably is that both parties, client and lawyer, are more than satisfied.

In the highly competitive, digital, technological, data driven and client-centric global legal world, where it is quickly becoming apparent there will only be three kinds of lawyer – 1) unemployed 2) support worker to machine systems (low paid) and 3) super lawyer (highly paid ‘relationship broker’ with business savvy and rainmaking prowess) – it’s a no-brainer that the businesses of law searching for entry, growth and exit will wish to capture, harness, restrain, unlock and unleash (yes, pun intended) the talent of fifty shades of rainmaker and implement that lawyer’s sexy business model.

The Dewey saga illustrates that the days when law firms could rely on hiring a select handful of rainmakers, usually at partner and/or senior associate level, are over. Today, law firms want all their lawyer recruits to be rainmakers. Accordingly, gone too are the days of winning over clients in a three phase process at different stages of your legal career as grinder, binder or finder (The National Law Journal, 11 July, 2012), whether in the guise of loser, cruiser or dynamo within ‘the firm’.

Big bad partner meets dragon

Prima donnas occupying the big corner office the likes of the Big Bad Partner, who are, by their own admission, continually perpetuating their ‘never ending circle of self-loathing and megalomania’ by being the ‘scourge of every admin, secretary, paralegal, trainee, assistant and associate,’ regularly growling ‘get back to work for god’s sake. My PEP’s sagging’ (twitter @bigbadpartner), have had their day too.

These are potentially the halcyon days wherein law as a people business promulgating work that ‘can only (truly) be done by lawyers’ (The Times, 5 July, 2012), particular in non-commoditised market sectors, cries out for every lawyer involved in the execution and delivery of legal advice to become Fifty Shades of Rainmaker Lawyer servicing the plethora of existing and latent domineering clients.

Being a shade of rainmaker lawyer will be the only option for the expectant highly paid lawyer and ambitious business of law where innovative new entrants and investors the likes of Ajaz Ahmed (founder of Legal365) and James Caan (Dragons’ Den celebrity entrepreneur, investor in Knights) with their sexy entrepreneurial approaches respectively profess ‘this (legal) market is too big and too valuable to ignore’ (#LawTechCampLondon, 29 June, 2012) and ‘let’s get closer, rather than having one night stands’ (The Times, 5 July, 2012) in reference to client relationships.

Such is the increasing desire for law firms to recruit rainmaker lawyers that Sarah Kaye, chief executive of London-based recruitment agency SK Partners, has cut a niche in successfully placing fifty shades of rainmaker lawyer. Ms Kaye maintains that despite the continuing harsh economic climate, ‘there’s a lot of activity in the market at the moment for lawyers with rainmaking skills. But ensuring the right match of firm to rainmaker-lawyer and vice versa requires careful consideration and due diligence by all those involved’.

She continues: ‘Generally what rainmaker-lawyers will be seeking – and what excites them — is a real opportunity to work within a well-managed and supportive firm willing to invest in them, where there is an inherent culture of cross selling between the partners, and not just a firm that only wants them for what they can bring to the table in terms of clients and numbers. A genuine rainmaker-lawyer is a very worthwhile investment because these lawyers are well connected, they have excellent people skills, are switched on and know exactly what to do to develop business.’

Survival and growth

What do legal sector businesses need to do to attract the fifty shades of rainmaker lawyer? Ms Kaye comments: ‘It’s not enough to sell the firm and offer the lawyers a remuneration package based on what they can bring and introduce. Law firms need to demonstrate their commitment to the investment by specifically identifying how they will support the lawyer once that person is on board. Then everyone wins.’

Survival and growth in the 21st century for the businesses of law will depend on the right mix, positioning, handling and nurturing of rainmaker-lawyers. Similarly, how rainmaker-lawyers apply their rainmaking escapades will determine their individual, team and firm’s success in growing and potentially raising capital.

Maya Angelou, a celebrated poet and novelist hailed as a global renaissance woman, believes ‘there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.’ I can empathise. Can you? Perhaps your rainmaker story is yet to unfold. Perhaps it’s already over. During the journey the pain is real. The joy is real too.

In their chosen career paths and professional relationships with colleagues and clients, extraordinary rainmaker-lawyers have a knack for achieving the delicate blended role of leader and follower, master and servant, being disruptive while also sustaining, being both dominant and submissive.

Successful law firms and businesses of law will embrace the fifty shades of rainmaker-lawyer and tomorrow’s lawyer will be at the very least, one shade of rainmaker. It is time to take steps to pre-empt the possibility of the day arriving when you may genuinely gasp ‘I’m fifty shades of ****ed up’; begin by asking yourself: ‘What shade of rainmaker lawyer am I?’

Chrissie Lightfoot


The Entrepreneur Lawyer, CEO EntrepreneurLawyer Limited.

Author of The Naked Lawyer: RIP to XXX – How To Market, Brand & Sell YOU!


(AKA Fifty Shades of Rainmaker)

A version of this article originally appeared in The Global Legal Post 24 July 2012.

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