2019 LMASW Region Conference Recap: Best Practices in Business Development – Rainmakers’ Secrets

LMA Southwest chats with 2019 LMA Southwest Region Conference presenter Author and Consultant Deborah Farone to discuss her presentation, "Best Practices in Business Development - Rainmakers' Secrets" 

What inspired you to speak on this topic?

I was delighted to join the regional conference to share some of the best practices in business development.  I think by hearing these examples, and discussing them in a public forum, it gives marketers a chance to see if they can execute them on their own home turf.   I also know it always helped me to be able to share with partners at my own firm what other folks were doing at other firms or even in other industries.  Lawyers tend to pay attention to precedent, so perhaps that is why this best practice works. 

What are the top three things you hope the attendees took form your presentation?

  1. I hope they’ll remember what Jeff Klein at Weil Gotshal & Manges has said about marketing being like muscle.  Becoming a business generator takes both a strategy and tactics, but most of all, it takes practice.  It’s like going to the gym and lifting weights.  Only with practice will you gain strength.  I work with firms on their strategic plans and practice plans, but unless the lawyers actually get out into the world, the best of plans will not have impact.  
  2. Writing a book like "Best Practices in Law Firm Business Development and Marketing" was challenging.  It involved interviewing more than 60 law firm leaders, futurists, innovators, CMOs and academics. Still, I think creating and launching a law firm website is a lot harder.  Marketers need to give themselves credit for the wonderful work that they do. 

  3. Strategy is vital and it’s important to set strategy before looking at tactics.  With all of the innovative tools and skills at our fingertips, it’s important to take a step back and think about why we are doing something and if it really is moving the ball in the right direction. 

You have been surrounds by and coached some of the best rainmakers in the industry. With any skill, there's intentionality behind developing it. How did you help them get there?

You need to encourage partners where you see talent. Marketers have a great opportunity to become in-house coaches, and to work one-on-one with partners to help them create their own plans.  We also have an ability to help guide them by providing course correction when things go wrong, and encouragement when things go right. As we are in the center of so much of the firm’s work, we have a lot of experience and resources to offer those who are in need.  

The LMA Southwest Region is launching its LMANext Program aimed at providing mentorship and professional development to new legal marketers. Following your dynamic presentation, is there any advice you wish to share with them?

Treat everyone well, regardless of if you perceive them as being above or below you in the food chain.  Not only does the adage prove true about “some day you may be reporting to them,” but you are helping to create a profession, one that you hope has high standards and talent.  If you can’t take someone who needs advice out to lunch, at least offer to spend time with them on the phone to provide guidance.  I’ve spent lots of Saturday mornings, in my kitchen, talking on the phone to junior folks who want to make their way in law firm marketing. 

One of the presentations we heard during the conference was on building our executive presence. As a former c-suite executive at some of the most revered firms in the country and a strategic adviser, how did you build this presence and gain trust to coach your attorneys to become rainmakers?

As far as I am concerned, I am still building presence.  I think much of it comes from spending time doing the work that you are doing. We are involved in a generation where we want immediate promotion and accolades, but it doesn’t work that way.  You have to work at something.  A skill, for example, like public speaking, is one you have to do over and over again.  You have to watch others and see who you admire and why.  By spending the time to do something, and investing your interest, you naturally approve. 

In order to develop rainmakers you have to understand that each lawyer is an individual, with their own strengths, weaknesses and fears.  You work with them carefully, and listen to what makes their practice works.  You ask lots of questions to see how they’ve managed to get clients in the past, and what they dream their future practice should look like.  Like anything else, the relationship you have as a consultant with your client, takes time and is built on trust. 

What's one piece of advice you share with your mentees that you wish every legal marketer knew and applied?

Your reputation has a value to it.  Perfect your craft, be a good person, and help others.  There are really no shortcuts. 

What is one thing you didn't share during your presentation that everyone should know about this topic?

I used to keep a sign on my wall when I first started in legal marketing.  It was something I cut out of the newspaper. It said, “Opportunity doesn’t knock.”   I think that idea, that you need to create your opportunities increate your future, are important.  By sharpening your own skills, networking and engaging in new experiences, you open up a world of possibilities.  

Finally, what's next for you?

I am spending a lot of times with clients in New York, California and Texas and helping them with everything from strategic planning to developing coaching and training programs.  I am also very busy speaking a law firm retreats.


Deborah Farone is the author of “Best Practices in Law Firm Business Development & Marketing,” which was published by PLI Press in 2019. In addition, she operates her own consulting practice, helping law firms and other professional service organizations with their strategic marketing needs.   In March of 2019, she joined with Brad Karp, Chairman of Paul Weiss, in chairing PLI’s live and webcast program “All Stars in Business Development.”

Ms. Farone has had the unique opportunity to play a role in developing the best practices in professional services marketing by working with the most respected and most demanding professionals in the world.

Over the past two decades, Ms. Farone has carved out a new niche by distinguishing herself as the chief marketing officer of two of the country’s most prestigious law firms, Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.

Ms. Farone is a past President of the Legal Marketing Association’s New York Chapter and past Chair of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York’s marketing communications committee. She is a charter member of the Luxury Marketing Council and a member of the National Investor Relations Institute, Elevate and the Council of Protocol Executives. Ms. Farone has served as a Sponsor Vice Chair for The New York Public Library’s Spring Luncheon.

She was recently honored with LMA’s Legacy Award, in recognition of making “a distinguishable mark on the chapter and the profession.” In addition, she was an honoree at the YWCA’s Women Leader Luncheon and serves as a member of the organization’s Academy of Women Leaders.

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