De Facto looks at the corner-office lawyer. The one with a better view to the outside, a bigger office and the rainmaker for the firm. He believes that the corner-office lawyer is a salesman first, and a lawyer next. De Facto pens what he has observed about this lawyer who sells his skills, the firm, its work product and most importantly, themselves.
Every time I walk past the corner offices in my law firm one question that strikes me is, 'What is it that this person does differently than the rest in the firm?' It is pretty obvious that people in the corner with bigger offices and better views are bringing in more money to the firm than others - often referred to as rainmakers. It is not necessary that they are the best legal minds, rather their technical legal skills are not as sophisticated as that other Joe who is sitting next door till midnight everyday, running transactions or litigation matters for the corner office biggie.
In my quest to find an answer to this important query I have interacted with most of these corner office sleeks. From my years of quick tête-à-têtes with them, I have found a few traits that are common amongst these successful individuals. Their ability to make you feel like you are the most important person in the world is not something everyone can do well, but these sleeks have mastered this art. Whether you are an intern or a first year attorney they will speak to you with a great level of attention and always slide in a compliment on the nature of project that you are working on or about something else. You could be doing the most boring work in the world, but for those thirty seconds you will feel like the assignment you have is an amazing one. The second trait prominent amongst these individuals is their ability to give this impression that they love their job. I have never heard a single complaint from these individuals about how they have to spend six hours this weekend on helping this client on a drag project. They are happy as hell and cheerful about everything that they are doing. There is no way I could tell you for sure if they are faking it or telling the truth, but I can vouch for one thing, they make everyone else feel that they love their job.
My father always told me that confidence can make you win half your battles, and this is another attitude I find common amongst these rainmakers. Every question they ask, the advice they give, every thought they respond to, has one thing in common - confidence. They are very sure of every word that leaves their tongue, and that is what I believe earns the trust of the person on the other side. Lot of us believe that it is important for you to show your client that you know everything in the world, these sleeks don't believe in that. They are honest about their lack of knowledge, but certain about their ability to find an answer to the question. I have very often heard them say, "That is a great question, I have not had a chance to think about that, but let me look into it and I will get back to you." Their lack of knowledge is also expressed with confidence, and they make you feel that the question you have asked is a unique question, a good one and needs some thinking.
If you still have not figured the point I am trying to drive home, here you go - the corner-office big shots are salesmen first and good lawyers next. They are selling their skills, firm, work product, and most importantly, themselves. The reason they bring in the big bucks to the firm is not because they are the best legal experts in their field, but because they are different than rest of the lawyers in the firm. They know how to sell their services. They are constantly marketing themselves as a product that the clients need. Many a time they are selling their reputation to you so that when you meet a potential client you will say, "let me introduce you to this colleague of mine who is a great lawyer and a wonderful guy."
If you really want that corner office, start selling yourself at home, in your neighborhood, to your colleagues and rest of the world will follow. Some lawyers are born with good salesman skills, but most of us have to work really hard for it. If you want to be a successful lawyer, don't just be that Joe who stays in office till 1:00 am every night - it will take you to that office next door, but not to the corner-office.