It’s become cliché to say that the skills that differentiate rainmaking lawyers from other good lawyers aren’t usually legal skills or anything taught in law school. It’s through the way lawyers build human networks, relationships, and alliances with the right people that make them business superstars.
Above The Law quotes a legal recruiter named David Walden as saying:
“It used to be unheard of to have partners make 8, 10, 15, and some of them $20 million a year. That’s hardly the case anymore, with some partners taking home eight-figure salaries.”
Before Kirkland and Ellis, a large international white shoe firm, started a trend of compensating rainmakers a bit like pro athletes, the difference between a skilled, effective attorney and one who is also a rainmaker wasn’t as glaringly obvious. When I practiced law with a large firm, a lawyer with a great book of business might have made a couple of hundred thousand dollars more per year because of that book. It was already clear from the compensation that their ability to bring work into the firm made them more valuable than others, but the true value of great rainmakers wasn’t fully realized in many of their salaries. Today it is. It is through a platform that an attorney builds for themselves that they can generate millions and millions of dollars of extra revenue that might not otherwise have come to the firm as a byproduct of good legal work, at all.