By Aarash Darroodi, Esq.
A FEW MONTHS AGO, I WAS A FEATURED SPEAKER AT a large legal conference in Las Vegas. I particularly looked forward to this conference with much anticipation because it was the first in-person since the pandemic caused a mass diaspora of legal professionals. I spoke in front of a group of 100 of my general counsel peers on the modernization of the general counsel role. Afterwards, a lawyer who I didn’t recognize came up to me and introduced himself as a trademark attorney out of a law firm in Chicago. He expressed how much he enjoyed my presentation and politely asked for my email address so that he could contact me to share more about his trademark experience and services. Seeing that he took the initiative to connect with me on a human level, I gave him my email address.
Several weeks passed and I received an email from him. The email said something to this effect:
“Dear Aarash, Such a pleasure meeting you in Vegas. Again, really enjoyed your presentation. Just to reiterate, I wanted to let you know that I have 15 years of experience in trademarks and would love to be able to help you with your trademark needs. If you ever needed anything, please let me know. Thank you.”
When you break down this interaction between us, you see that the lawyer really took the initiative to connect with me directly at the conference, got my email address, and followed up with a nice email reiterating that he was ready, willing, and able to help my company and I with our trademark needs.
He was successful in landing me as a client, right? Wrong.
He completely missed a tremendous opportunity to land our globally, renowned brand as a part of his client roster. Let’s take a look at why this lawyer missed and, more importantly, what he could have done differently.
My goal is to teach you how to become a “Rainstar.” A Rainstar is a lawyer working within a law firm who possesses the skills and strategies to generate significant business for their firm. To become a Rainstar and be successful in business development is an art. Luckily, you have me as a sitting general counsel to teach you how to become a Rainstar.
If you are of the mindset that you will simply graduate, pass the bar, get hired by a great firm, and then you’re set for life, then I have a bit of a wake-up call for you. That’s not the way today’s law firms work. As I always say, “the practice of law is a profession, but the running of law practice is a business.” If you don’t look at yourself as a businessperson operating within a business then you will simply find yourself floating aimlessly in the endless sea of mediocrity or, even worse, you may actually burn-out under the immense pressure of billable-hour mandates and leave the profession altogether. That’s not what you want. And that’s certainly not what I want for you.
To be a Rainstar, you must first and foremost understand that you are not the only lawyer out there trying to solicit business from a particular client. I say this lovingly, it’s nothing personal, it’s just that I don’t know who you are. Unless you’ve got a reputation that precedes you whereby perhaps you’re on CNN as a regular legal correspondent, have done multiple cameos on top legal TV shows, and your name is associated with being the legal advisor to famous names like Bill Gates, Johnny Depp, or Elon Musk, then you are simply one of hundreds of thousands of other lawyers within law firms globally. A prospective client simply doesn’t know who you are, so the natural tendency is to revert to working with attorneys they are familiar with, whether they’re actually good or bad, so as to avoid the unfamiliar and potentially risky proposition of working with a brand new lawyer.
Now that you’ve accepted your rather humble position within the lawyer notoriety spectrum, let’s get tactical and employ strategies to rise above the rest of the competition. It starts with “CIA Profiling” your potential client. This process involves getting a molecular understanding of the potential client’s products, plans, and philosophy. The first place to start is the company’s website. I can’t think of too many companies that don’t employ the internet as a way of increasing visibility for their organization, so take advantage of this free information. If they’re a public company, then get your hands on their last five annual reports and other SEC filings. If they’re a private company, then scour the internet to find any and all press releases, executive interviews, or news articles written about the company. If you really want to get tactical, find people on the inside of the company who will be willing to help you learn more about their company.
After going through this CIA Profiling exercise, what you will find is that you’ve actually begun piecing together a fairly thorough understanding of your potential client’s products, plans, and philosophy. You know what they sell and where. You know where they currently are as an organization and where they intend on going. And you know their company mission statement, which forms the philosophical basis of their organization. Now, you’re ready to craft that first email to that prospective client.
Before drafting that email, a Rainstar knows fully well that their prospective client operates in a very busy world. On any given day, in-house counsel are not only rendering legal advice and hedging against legal risk, but they are also navigating the complexities of corporations having dozens of various global business units. Add to this the fact that in-house counsel also have to manage their personal lives, many times involving kids, mortgage, health care, expenses, insurance payments, etc. They’re just very, very busy people to say the least.
As such, to cut through all this noise and ultimately get the attention of in-house counsel, your communication has to help the potential client to either “survive” or “thrive.” Two very basic innate needs of any in-house lawyer working for a company. With this in mind, before you click send on that email to a client prospect, ask yourself, “Will this email help the client prospect survive in their role?” or “Will this email help the client prospect thrive in their role?” If the answer is no, then STOP! Do not proceed. You are going to completely waste your time and the prospect’s time if the content of your email is not going to help them survive or thrive. If the answer is yes, then you will have completely out-strategized tens of thousands of lawyers striving to land that client.
Getting back to the Chicago trademark attorney I met in Vegas, had the gentleman followed the tactics and strategies that I’ve taught you here, he would have learned that my organization is growing rapidly in Asia, particularly China. This would have completely changed the content of his solicitation email to me, whereby it would have been far more effective if the email read something to this effect:
“Dear Aarash, I love what you guys are doing with your latest branding and marketing campaigns. Now, I did notice that you are growing significantly in Asia, primarily China. Just wanted to let you know that China is in fact a “first to file” jurisdiction, which means that if you don’t file first it will be quite difficult to have a trademark squatter’s registration overturned.
After doing some in-depth research on your current product set on your website, I did identify just a few gaps in registrations. We typically charge $xxx for foreign trademark filings plus trademark office filing fees, but as getting your business and working with you personally is so valuable to myself and the firm, we’d like to offer you a xx% discount off these fees. Now, I know your company’s mission statement is that “Artists are angels and you give them wings to fly,” as such I want to make sure I support this by getting ahead of this potential issue. Your success is important to me and avoiding the recent uptick in trademark squatting in China is something to really keep an eye on. Please let me know how I can be of assistance. Thank you.”
Wow! What a difference. I would immediately hire him. Why? Well, first off, he took the time to learn about our company, including our mission statement. That shows care and attention to detail. Then he went a step further to scour the internet to read any press releases or interviews and he was able to identify Asia as a growing market for us. That shows initiative and diligence. And by saying that my success is important to him and that he can help me avoid the headache of dealing with trademark squatters, he’s appealed directly to my innate desire to survive and thrive in my role.
Now, that is a business-minded lawyer within a law firm executing business development the way it should be done. That is a Rainstar.
AARASH DARROODI is the general counsel, executive vice president and corporate secretary at Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. He is also the creator of the professional course “How to Build a Rain Machine” at RainstarAcademy.com.