Meet The Rainmaker - Margaret Kavaleris

by Rachelle J. Canter, Ph.D.
Presented by the Women Rainmakers
May, 2012
Name: Margaret Kavaleris
Firm Name: SNR Denton
Address: 1301 K Street, N.W. Suite 600,
East Tower, Washington, DC 20005-3364
Phone: (202)408-6448
Nominated by: Kara Baysinger
Pratice Area: Maggie heads SNR Denton’s Corporate practice and is a member of the Venture practice. She advises emerging growth companies at all stages of development with an emphasis on corporate finance, IP and governance. Maggie has had the good fortune to take dozens of companies public and to buy and sell hundreds of companies as part of the strategic growth and development of emerging industries and markets.

Most Successful/Favorite Rainmaking Tip
Seize opportunity! I meet people all the time who are incredibly successful advisors, entrepreneurs, executives. If there’s good chemistry, I follow up, not necessarily for business but to learn more about what they know. Seize opportunities to develop conversations, relationships, a strong network and powerful personal and business growth strategies. In the end, a rich personal and business life is all about people and relationships.
Biggest Influence on Career/Best Career Advice
Being in the perfect storm. I had the great luck to be in the right place at the right time. I graduated from law school in 1981 in the San Francisco Bay Area at the start of the microprocessing revolution, in a rich emerging technology environment and the boom of entrepreneurship. It really shaped my practice, my outlook, and my philosophy. The Silicon Valley approach has been replicated all over so I could take my practice nationally, and globally.
Percentage of time devoted to marketing
40% -- to individuals, institutions, clients, prospects, referral sources and networks. I do marketing in every aspect of my life. I don’t even take on a hobby that isn’t related to my practice. My hobby is women in leadership and women in technology, entrepreneurship and politics: I’ve chaired the Women’s Campaign Fund, am on the Astia Women Entrepreneur Board, and have served on the Harvard Women’s Leadership Board.
Proudest Accomplishment
I’ve helped to start, seed, and advise dozens of companies that have had tremendous success in the market. These entrepreneurs have changed the world. These companies created jobs, innovation, historic charitable giving, and wealth. I’m proud of my small part in their success.
Knowing what you know now, if you were starting out as a lawyer today, what would you do differently?
I would first get a science degree and an MBA, before getting a law degree. As an emerging growth lawyer you have to understand the science and technology, and you must know business.
Tell me about one rainmaking strategy or tactic that you initially thought would work, but it failed. Why did it fail?
Frequently when I make any kind of a calculated move just to get business, it’s rarely successful or only marginally successful. I’m more successful when I have a broader objective, like developing a relationship, learning a new technology, entering a new network. Even though lawyers are under so much revenue pressure these days, working 24/7, you need to pick things to pursue that meet multiple objectives, not just revenue generation.
Tell me about one rainmaking strategy or tactic that you initially thought would fail, but it was a great success. Why was it successful?
I agreed to informally counsel a software company in Chicago that was referred to me by Mark Hanson, then at Siebel. I ultimately invested in Initiate Systems, sat on the board for a couple of years, and we ultimately sold the Company in 2010 to IBM for a sweet multiple. The founders Ron and Jeff Galowich became great friends and mentors, and I got a 15 year client out of an exhaustive long distance phone client, and lots of trips to the Windy City!
What has been your greatest frustration about trying to get new business or new clients?
Prospects who don’t understand the difference between a trusted, strategic legal and business advisor and a strong deal lawyer, or the fact that you need both.
If you were mentoring a young woman lawyer, what advice would you give her regarding rainmaking?
Follow your heart. If you don’t like what you’re doing, you’ll never be successful at it. Passion is essential -- be sure you’re in the game you want to be in and pick your industry, specialty, and focus carefully.
Would you say you ever had a mentor that made a genuine difference in how your career turned out? If yes, please describe.
I had a great, great colleague and mentor, Al Knorp, when I was an associate in a smaller firm. Al is brilliant and very entrepreneurial, opportunistic, and very serious about being in the profession. He was a huge influence and was very generous of spirit, emotionally intelligent, and a great leader. We remain very close. He’s retired and is now an investor and we’ve done lots of companies and investments together. One of the things he taught me was the importance of attorney-client privilege in every day, every way, and in every communication, not just in litigation.

Al and I teamed up with another insane entrepreneur and mentor, Roger Sippl, who was the founder of Informix, the first company I took public. We were the same age, I was building my practice and he was building his relational database at the same time. I learned from him that it’s all about the business and that at the heart of every legal problem is a business problem. Every decision must be made with an eye toward growth: protecting the talent, the entrepreneurs and the innovation.
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?
We now have intense legal industry competition and the need to fully understand the client’s precise industry sector. If it is an energy company, you have to know how to do the deal, and you must know the energy business cold.
Words that best describe you?
Your luck is how you treat people. I have been damn lucky.
Anything else I haven’t asked you or you haven’t told me that would be of interest to our audience? Favorite Movies:
The Year of Living Dangerously and Pulp Fiction.
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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 Rainmakers, visit www.womenrainmakers.org.
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