Meet The Rainmaker - Stephanie A. Scharf, J.D., Ph.D.
by Rachelle J. Canter, Ph.D.
Presented by the Women Rainmakers
December, 2004
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.
Business Philosophy:
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 before.
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 needs.
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
(312) 923-2884
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Interview by Rachelle J. Canter, Ph.D.
LPM Women Rainmakers is a national forum enabling women to network and develop business opportunities. By understanding how to develop business, women can exert greater control over their careers and integrate their personal lives successfully with the practice of law. For more information on LPM Women Rainmakers, visit www.womenrainmakers.org .
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