Meet The Rainmaker - Joan B. Tucker Fife

by Rachelle J. Canter, Ph.D.
Presented by the Women Rainmakers
February, 2011
Name: Joan B. Tucker Fife
Firm Name: Winston & Strawn LLP
Position: Partner
Practice area: Joan is a partner and the head of the firm’s San Francisco labor and employment group, as well as a member of its Executive Committee. She specializes in wage and hour class action defense work for employers.
Address: 101 California Street San Francisco, CA
Phone: (415) 591-1513
Nominated by: Sara Holtz

Favorite Rainmaking Tip
“If you’re good at forming relationships, go form some!”
Best Career Advice
Three best pieces of advice:
(1) It’s not a race.
(2) Talk to judges like you are meeting them for the first time at a cocktail party (i.e., be nice and normal).
(3) Quickly acknowledge your own mistakes, and quickly give others credit.
Percentage of time devoted to marketing
About 10 percent of my day – every time I talk to a client it’s about maintaining and building the relationship.
Proudest Accomplishment
Being able to maintain balance life most of the time. How? Lots of laughter, lots of exercise, lots of mindfulness, and recognizing that small steps turn into large accomplishments over time.
Knowing what you know now, if you were starting out as a lawyer today, what would you do differently?
Build in more breaks in the day, and break the work up into smaller pieces.
Tell me about one rainmaking strategy or tactic that you initially thought would work, but it failed. Why did it fail?
Going to Bar meetings, giving speeches to other lawyers, and doing anything in large groups. These failed because, at the core, developing business is developing a relationship with one person who is in a position to eventually send you work.
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 did a pitch for a case over the phone once. I didn’t think the pitch would work because I wasn’t there in person with my big team, glossy brochures, and power point. However, the pitch did work and I got the case because the prospect and I very quickly got into a substantive discussion of the case, without the distractions of other people, glossy materials, or anything else.
What has been your greatest frustration about trying to get new business or new clients?
It really takes a lot of time and energy, and wouldn’t it be wonderful and easy if it didn’t!
If you were mentoring a young woman lawyer, what advice would you give her regarding rainmaking?
If you are good at forming relationships with people, and gaining their trust, you can be excellent at rainmaking. There’s a perception that women are better at forming relationships than men – if that is true for you, you have a leg up.
Would you say you ever had a mentor that made a genuine difference in how your career turned out? If yes, please describe.
Sara Holtz helped me clear the fog of the “too much to do” to-do list on business development – instead of thinking I needed to do speeches, articles, mass mailings, interviews, bar meetings, club memberships (while discovering a cure for cancer), she helped me identify the few skills I’m good at (and therefore comfortable doing), and focusing solely on utilizing those skills. Plus Sara helped convince me that it was okay to ask for business (and for favors), and that this can help form a relationship.
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?
They wear much fancier shoes and they have to use those fancy shoes to hit the ground much faster running! They are expected to know a lot at the beginning. There is much more access to research, but there is also an expectation that they have instant answers. They have a lot of pressure to be perfect across all aspects of their lives. When I started, I think there was more room to learn and make mistakes.
Words that best describe you?
Practical, straightforward, like to laugh, a “golden retriever.”
Anything else?
Women (and men) tend to want to have a big group of people around them when they pitch business. They want to have every base covered, but it’s very, very hard to form a relationship with a big group of people around the table. One-on-one conversations help you form relationships – save the big team for a later conversation after you’ve formed the initial relationship.
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
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