Meet The Rainmaker - Paula Litt
by Rachelle J. Canter, Ph.D.
Name: Paula Litt
Firm Name: Schopf & Weiss LLP
Practice area: Business Litigation
Address: One South Wacker Drive 28th Floor Chicago, IL 60606
Nominated by: Sara Holtz
Paula is a business litigator specializing in representing corporate policyholders in insurance coverage disputes, negotiation, and litigation. She is a co-founder of the Chicago business litigation boutique, Schopf & Weiss LLP, which celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2012.
Most Successful/Favorite Rainmaking Tip
There is no one-size-fits-all tip or shortcut. Play to your strengths, figure out what you are comfortable with and what works for your practice area. Don’t try to be who you are not or develop business through an approach that is not comfortable for you. If you don’t golf, you really do not need to take it up.
Biggest Influence on Career/Best Career Advice
It was a question my partner Bill Schopf asked me when I was a young associate: “Paula, what are you going to do to bring in business?” At such an early point in my career it had not crossed my mind that I was or could be responsible for bringing in business. The earlier an attorney starts thinking about developing business the more likely they are to succeed. Young lawyers are more attuned to this today.
Percentage of time devoted to marketing
It ranges from 0 to 100%. At some level, everything I do is marketing – from the quality of the work to being available and responsive when clients call. Marketing is not just a matter of communicating skills or expertise. It is equally important to convey commitment to solving client’s problems.
Building this law firm from the ground up. When I was asked to join in starting this firm it was not obvious (at least not to me) that I would contribute in any significant way to building a first-rate law firm that is flourishing after 25 years. Shaping a firm has been an incredible experience. I would not have had a comparable opportunity had I remained in a big firm.
Knowing what you know now, if you were starting out as a lawyer today, what would you do differently?
Make sure that the people on your team not only have excellent skills, but also are committed to client service. Nothing less will do.
Tell me about one rainmaking strategy or tactic that you initially thought would work, but it failed. Why did it fail?
We were asked to provide a CLE program to a former client that we had not worked for recently. We thought it would be an opportunity to reignite the relationship. Although the client was very appreciative, nothing has come of it. Nevertheless, I would do it again because providing continuing legal education is something we should do as responsible members of the legal community. But I would go into it eyes open. Sometimes providing free services for potential clients is just that and nothing more.
Tell me about one rainmaking strategy or tactic that you initially thought would fail, but it was a great success. Why was it successful?
As a Chicago-based firm, a primary source of business for us has been law firms that do not have a Chicago presence. Several years back I was visiting a friend at a New York firm and asked her to introduce me to her litigation partners. I met at least 10 different partners that day, each for just a few minutes. I thought it was a long shot that any one of them would ever remember me, let alone have business to refer. But one of the partners I met needed a Chicago firm to handle a matter right then. He referred the case to me and we won. That led to a very significant referral years later.
Lesson learned? You have to make contact with people in a position to send you business – whether because of your expertise or your location. It may be that only 1 in 10 of those contacts bears fruit. But once you get an opportunity, you have to make the most of it.
The distinction between this and the CLE described above is that the CLE was for lawyers who needed CLE – but they did not particularly need to hire us. Not everyone needs business litigators in Chicago. The trick is trying to figure out who does, and getting in front of them.
What has been your greatest frustration about trying to get new business or new clients?
Less today than a few years ago, but there is still a tendency for some in-house lawyers to assume that the bigger firm is the better firm. We are fortunate to have clients who are sophisticated consumers of legal services and who appreciate the quality of legal services, commitment and responsiveness that they get when they hire us. Our firm slogan is “Bigger is good, smarter is better.”
If you were mentoring a young woman lawyer, what advice would you give her regarding rainmaking?
Don’t wait to be asked – or to inherit your business from someone else. You have to develop business for yourself. No one is going to do it for you. Pay attention to how the successful rainmakers around you do it, pick the methods that suit you, and ignore the rest.
Would you say you ever had a mentor that made a genuine difference in how your career turned out? If yes, please describe.
Bill Schopf made a huge difference in how my career developed, not only because he is an excellent lawyer to work with and learn from, but also by giving me opportunities to develop my skills, confidence and business.
Think about when you started out as a lawyer. Now think about the new female lawyers just starting out. What is different now compared to when you started?
Compared to when I started, there are more women in important and visible roles in law firms, on the bench and as GCs. That is good for women litigators in particular, and for women in general.
There is still room for improvement. I had a complex multi-party insurance coverage case ten years ago, and out of more than 25 lawyers, only two were women. I am handling a similar case today, and there are still only two experienced women involved in the case.
Words that best describe you?
(according to my 17 year old daughter’s college application essay) talkative, confident, passionate. I have also been described as driven, demanding, and stylish.
The Women Rainmakers’ Roundtable run by Sara Holtz of Clientfocus has been hugely important in providing not only training in business development techniques, but also the support and encouragement of other women lawyers who have helped me reach my goals and who have celebrated my success.
Interview by Rachelle J. Canter, Ph.D.
ABA 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
Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.
This information or any portion thereof may not be
copied or disseminated in any form or by any means
or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system
without the express written consent of the
American Bar Association.