Law360, New York (October 27, 2016, 10:00 AM EDT) —
Bruce W. Bowman Jr., managing shareholder of Godwin Bowman PC in Dallas, has successfully handled litigation on both the plaintiff and defendant sides for many years, primarily in business disputes. His work has been as diverse as recovering assets from trusts in prolonged trust and-bankruptcy litigation to defending trade secret allegations concerning oil field technology in state and federal courts.
He has also successfully defended directors, lawyers, accountants, financial advisers and other professionals in many areas of business. In addition to trying hundreds of cases to verdict, Bowman has handled numerous arbitrations, mediations and appeals through the Texas Supreme Court, federal appeals courts and to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Reflecting the excellence of his practice, Bowman is a 10-time recipient of Texas Super Lawyer honors from Thomson Reuters, has been rated AV-Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell, the highest peer rating for legal skills and ethics, and has achieved a 10.0 rating from AVVO, its highest attorney rating.
Bowman is board certified in Civil Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
Q: What skill was most important for you in becoming a rainmaker?
A: I believe the ability to generate trust and confidence are two of the most important skills that you must learn and impress upon those you meet. If people believe that you are someone who will work hard for them, and that you truly have legal ability, then they will have the confidence to put their trust in you.
To that end, it is important to develop both excellent legal skills and the communication skills that will enable you to convey what you do, the problems you’ve solved and how you handle situations. Whether you’re meeting prospects or clients in business or social settings, you are always being evaluated. You want to be perceived as someone with excellent legal abilities who can truly solve problems, as opposed to someone that may simply be fun to be with, but that they would never hire to take care of a serious matter. People like to hire friends, but they will only hire friends who are trusted problem solvers.
Q: How do you prepare a pitch for a potential new client?
A: Initially, I determine the audience. Exactly who will we be meeting with, what do they do and whatareas do they manage and control? Audiences are different and you are trying to “sell” your particular audience. Are you the best person to handle a matter? The answer is not the same for each audience. With that in mind, learn as much as you can about the business of the client and be adaptable. Because of the internet, information on both companies and individuals is fairly easy to obtain. Not only will this information help you in dealing with the client, but taking the time to learn about them, as opposed to just expressing your own benefits, can be very impressive.
Listening is crucial. Don’t simply monopolize the conversation to convince the client of your amazing attributes. You are there to convince the client to retain you to solve a problem. They need to be able to have a two-way conversation — not listen to a monologue. You can extol your benefits through examples of work you’ve done.
Trust is important as well. Make sure your prospect knows what you can and can’t do. Making this clear early in the process helps avoid situations where you may look foolish, and ultimately will help build trust.
Finally, utilize your firm resources. Demonstrate that you are a team and not a solo practitioner. Find the best person from your firm to help solve their particular problem, and take them with you. While potential clients may have one particular lawyer that they use as their interface, they will expect that lawyer to use their team to best solve their problems.
Q: Share an example of a time when landing a client was especially difficult, and how you handled it.
A: All pitches are difficult. As a trial lawyer, my experience has been that the client is determining if you can be entrusted with a particular case. You are being sized up to see how you match up against the other side. Like in sporting events the matchup, or perceived matchup, is critical to the client as they are making the hiring decision.
The keys in these situations are to do your homework and be able to demonstrate how and why you are the best choice.
Does this mean that I always get hired? No, I do not, and as I said, all presentations are hard — sometimes the outcome may have even already been predetermined. Still, even in those cases, if you succeed in making a favorable impression, you may end up being hired on a later project. While it is hard to make a presentation when you think it will do no good, you must always put forth your best effort, as you may get the call tomorrow.
Q: What should aspiring rainmakers focus on when beginning their law careers?
A: Meet as many people as you can, in many different surroundings. Clients want to give business to people that they like, trust and know will take care of them. This isn’t an overnight phenomenon. Instead, develop the trust of your contacts in you as a person, even if you’re not acting as a lawyer. When the need arises, their first thought will be to go to someone they know, who they trust and who has the skills to solve their problem.
Your legal skill is equally important. Work to develop your legal skills and be known, at least in the legal community, as an up-and-comer in your area. It also helps when existing clients notice your work as you assist senior partners. When you are noticed, clients are able to espouse your virtues both within and outside their company.
Resilience is crucial. You cannot simply go to lunch with someone and expect to get business as a result. Clients are constantly being called by lawyers to have lunches, breakfasts and get-togethers. They all know that each lawyer is trying to pitch themselves. That said, don’t be shy. Keep in contact with prospects. Even if your contact doesn’t hire you, they may recommend you to an acquaintance. Law is a people business. If more people know what type of work you do, how you perform services and solve problems, it will help you land clients.
Build your skills and use those of others. Develop business with other associates from your firm who can offer a different skill set. Today everyone is looking for a “specialist,” and while clients recognize that good trial lawyers can try more than one type of case, they also expect particular expertise in specific problem areas. Shaping your own skill set allows you to be known and will help you in promoting your reputation. Ultimately those skills are what will impress a prospective client.
Q: What’s the most challenging aspect of remaining a rainmaker?
A: Don’t get caught up in one single case, causing you to lose contact with other existing clients. It is a delicate balance to often be unavailable to a current client while keeping the relationship close enough where they will continue to go to you or others in your firm. While clients may expect their lawyers to be busy at times, they also want to be able to reach them and have them respond quickly. That call may portend a crisis, and when there is a crisis you need to be available to solve it.
Areas of law are constantly changing as different products and services are developed. These inevitably lead to problems and questions for clients. Times have changed. What is important to the client today? Focus on the areas where the client really needs help, and does not know what to do or how to do it.
Finally, meeting your clients’ younger officers and employees is critical. These people will, in the future if not currently, be in positions where they will make hiring decisions. When that happens they too will have friends and acquaintances with whom they want to share business. Will you be in that select group? You need to impress upon both your current contacts and future decision makers that you are the best person to solve their problems for a reasonable cost — both today and tomorrow.
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.