Originally published on Law360, October 19, 2016
Melanie S. Joo is a partner at The Scali Law Firm in Los Angeles. She is an experienced legal and business advisor who focuses her practice primarily in two areas: Korean companies entering the U.S. market and automotive companies and dealers.
Joo, who speaks Korean and has worked extensively with Korean-based clients, advises Korean companies on all aspects of doing business in the U.S., including market entry, corporate formation, cross-border transactions, intellectual property, trade, taxation, immigration, licensing, advertising, and distribution. Joo's background provides her with unique perspectives that help Korean companies seamlessly transition and compete in the U.S. market.
Q: What skill was most important for you in becoming a rainmaker?
A: Listening is the most important skill for me in becoming a rainmaker. It is common to talk about ourselves by focusing on what we do and what we have to offer as lawyers, but listening to what clients need, want and worry about at night is the best way to build relationships.
I have found that clients appreciate the opportunity to share conversation, focus on priorities and put together a game plan. Becoming familiar with the business practices, culture and problems of a potential or existing client may not yield an immediate result, but constitute significant steps towards achieving the role of where you become the first phone call in an emergency.
Q: How do you prepare a pitch for a potential new client?
A: I prepare for a pitch by doing background research on the potential new client and recent industry trends. The research consists of corporate news, headlines, current events, business model and litigation trends. The homework has proved invaluable on multiple occasions, but there is no substitute for staying on your toes (a shot of espresso always helps!)
Q: Share an example of a time when landing a client was especially difficult, and how you handled it.
A: Navigating the corporate ranks of a foreign parent was especially difficult because of cultural differences, language barriers and internal hierarchies. In this case, the recognition and respect of the foreign parent was essential to landing the client. In order to get the attention of key corporate executives, I delivered a simple bulleted message that looked like a report card. Rather than a protracted and confusing meeting, the report card shaped the discussion into a focused dialogue of risks, exposure and recommendations.
Q: What should aspiring rainmakers focus on when beginning their law careers?
A: Repeated and regular contact with clients is most important in developing long-lasting relationships with clients. Don’t be afraid to reach out to clients by picking up the phone, scheduling a lunch visit, forwarding helpful articles, inviting clients to social events or to speak on a panel with you, etc.
Especially early on in law careers, it’s easy to feel discouragement because one does not have the experience of reaching out to clients and fielding different results before success. The fostering of a solid relationship with clients begins with developing confidence, trust and helping clients to identify risks and exposure before they become a headache. In order to do this, repeated and regular contact with clients is essential.
Q: What’s the most challenging aspect of remaining a rainmaker?
A: Healthy growth so that there are no compromises in work quality is the most challenging aspect of remaining a rainmaker. With a successful and growing practice, the delegation and management of work is difficult because so many hands are in motion at once. Finding and maintaining the right team is critical to keeping clients happy.