Meet The Rainmaker - Stephanie A. Scharf, J.D., Ph.D.
by Rachelle J. Canter, Ph.D.
Name: Stephanie A. Scharf, J.D., Ph.D.
Firm Name: Jenner & Block LLP
Practice Area: Product liability and mass tort defense;
class action defense; complex commercial litigation.
Nominated By: Elizabeth K. Bransdorfer
In addition to a thriving litigation practice, Stephanie
Scharf is currently President of the National Association of
Women Lawyers ("NAWL"), an ABA-affiliated voluntary national
organization of women lawyers from all practice areas.
Please describe your non-traditional
career path to law: In addition to your J.D., you have an M.A. in
Communications & a Ph.D. in Behavioral Sciences. What led you to
the practice of law?
My career path is a good example of the importance of role models.
I grew up in a small town in New Jersey and it did not enter
my head that I could be a lawyer. But one of my aunts was a
professor at Tufts and a role model, so I started down an academic
path, which is how I ended up with a doctorate in psychology/behavioral
sciences. After a couple of years of University teaching and
research, I realized that I preferred work that was not so cloistered.
By then, it was the early 1980s, more women were entering the
law and I did as well. It has been a great fit for me.
Knowing what you know now, if you were
starting out as a lawyer today, what would you do differently?
I would immediately get involved in external activities and
professional relationships, such as Bar groups. I did not become
involved in those activities the first nine years of my practice
and changed course after I joined Jenner & Block, where bar
and pro bono work are strongly supported. A good part of your
development depends on those networks and relationships. For
that reason, one of the program modules we have developed at
NAWL is called, "Not What You Learned in Law School" - addressing
the skills, information and networks that are so essential to
careers but are not taught in the case books. It is also a lot
of fun to meet and work with lawyers from around the country
who share your interests.
Do the best work you can do; be generous; and be brave enough
to pursue a good idea even if it is different from what went
Percentage of time devoted to marketing:
Varies enormously from year to year, month to month, but the
ideal is to do it consistently, at least one hour a week.
Favorite Rainmaking tip:
Develop relationships. Good relationships will lead to business.
Focus on giving not getting, on helping people, not just getting
things from people. I realize that is easy advice to give, often
hard to do, but to me it is the ideal to strive for.
Tell me about one rainmaking strategy
or tactic that you initially thought would work, but it failed.
Why did it fail?
I initially thought that telling people about my qualifications
and experience was a good rainmaking strategy. It failed because
it was "all about me." I came to realize that a client or prospective
client assumes you are qualified or you would not be in the
room. Rainmaking should be about the client and the client's
In mentoring young woman lawyers, what
advice would you give regarding rainmaking?
Young women lawyers should concentrate on practicing the skills
needed for rainmaking. Don't wait for someone to do it for you
because that likely will not happen or will not happen often
enough to sustain you. Rainmaking is a process. Be patient with
the process, be flexible enough to recognize opportunities,
and when something does not work out, no need to beat yourself
up about it, just look for the next chance. It will come.
Ms. Scharf can be reached at:
Jenner & Block LLP
One IBM Plaza
Chicago, IL 60611