The Gillman Strategic Group helps lawyers live amazing lives and have great careers. We do this by educating lawyers on be(coming) happy rainmakers and helping them find their exact right, perfect-fit firm. 

This is good for lawyers, but some have asked me if our focus creates animosity with law firms. Does “siding” with lawyers mean law firms don’t want to take our calls?

The answer is no.

Almost all law firms I’ve ever connected with respect our vision and are happy to consider our candidates because they recognize the value of happy rainmakers to growing the firm. (Also, often, the exact right perfect fit firm for a lawyer is their current one – so the exploration of opportunities leads them right back to where they are.) 

But it’s more than that. What I’ve seen and learned through developing the 6-Pillars is that many law firms want to create an environment that encourages sustainable and enjoyable careers. They want to, but they don’t know how. 

Since happy rainmakers make strong firms, law firms can use 6-Pillars to Be(coming) a Happy Rainmaker to support their lawyers and build their firms. 

The growth of a law firm depends on attracting and retaining clients

Depending on who you ask, the legal market has grown 2-3% a year over the last decade. That’s about in line with GDP growth. 

Regardless of who you ask, law firms want to grow faster than 2-3%, so where will the growth come from? 

Growth comes from developing long-term relationships with clients. 

There is room for growth in the legal market because the nature of relationships changes. Lawyers and clients retire, clients outgrow their current firms, client companies cease to exist, and new prospects enter the market. No law firm can rest on its brand or past success because the market is always changing. 

For this reason, rainmakers who can attract new clients are crucial to law firm growth and profitability. This, in turn, has made finding, hiring, and integrating lateral partners an essential growth strategy at most firms. 

Once you have clients, you retain them by solving problems, deepening relationships, and adding value over time. Lawyers who take more responsibility for their careers and think of themselves as a firm within a firm will be more effective at retaining clients. They will be more proactive, invested, and loyal to the firm and its clients.

And turnover is expensive. So, developing and keeping the rainmakers you have will improve profitability. 

Lawyers move because they aren’t happy

Lawyers look for opportunities because they aren’t happy where they are. They feel unsupported, don’t like the culture, or aren’t fairly compensated (read more about why lawyers move here). 

ALM’s 2024 report, “Mental Health by the Numbers,” quantifies some of these issues. 

  • 76% of respondents say that morale is worse now than during the pandemic.  
  • Nearly 70% say that personal relationships have suffered as a result of being a part of the legal profession.
  • 55% feel depressed.

Other studies show that lawyers are significantly more prone to suicide and drug abuse. According to ALM,  79% feel their work environment contributes to their issues.

So why aren’t law firms making changes? 

The misguided reluctance in the legal market to fix the problem

Some firms are working to support their lawyers. I’ve talked to several partners and firm managers about the 6-Pillars and have been impressed with how they support their lawyers. These include Ken Falcon from Falcon Rappaport & Berkman LLP, Emily Stedman from Husch Blackwell, Aaron Straus from A.Y Strauss, Matt Schwartz from DLA Piper, and Chris Santomassimo from Outside General Counsel, among others.

Some Big-Law firms, recognizing the need for wellness, have started to give billable hour credit for mental health, brought in services, or made changes to support their lawyers. 

They are in the minority. There seems to be a reluctance by the “old guard” at some firms to improve firm culture because if they suffered, shouldn’t the next generation? 

That approach is flawed in two ways. 

First, it ignores law firm economics. Firms need rainmakers who can woo new clients. Even as the “old guard” resists change, they are recruiting new lateral partners who can bring in business—that’s expensive. 

Second, it assumes that the pathway to happiness is frivolous and based on adding cost by hiring psychologists, bringing in yoga instructors, or granting billable time credits. 

That’s where the 6-Pillars can help. 

The 6-Pillars in the Law Firm

Rather than hiring a fitness instructor, firms that implement policies and support a culture that aligns with the 6-Pillars will have happier rainmakers while improving profitability. 

Each of the pillars: 

  • Care for Yourself
  • Develop Business
  • Define Boundaries
  • Plan Intentionally
  • Learn Continuously
  • Design a Legacy

Aligns with the needs of the firm:

  • Care for Yourself leads to healthier, more productive lawyers.
  • Develop Business leads to more business for the firm.
  • Define Boundaries leads to more predictability and fewer emergencies.
  • Plan Intentionally keeps lawyers focused on what matters to their practice and the firm. 
  • Learn Continuously supports lawyers’ understanding of client needs and how to pivot their practice to what’s in demand. 
  • Design a Legacy leads to stronger cultures and internal support while removing the bottleneck at the top, and giving opportunities to the next generation. 

They are also long-term cultural shifts rather than short-term investments. There may be some additional costs, such as making time for networking, which may cost a billable hour here or there; it may require some billable hour credits, but the return from happy rainmakers bringing in happy (bill-paying) clients is significant. The new business benefit easily pays for these marginal cost increases. 

Bringing the 6-Pillars to your firm will also make it more attractive to lateral partners. They will feel more supported, and it will be easier to recruit the exact right perfect-fit partners to grow your firm.

Law firms and lawyers are aligned.

I initially developed my 6-Pillar model for lawyers, but I have also realized how vital these pillars are for firms. Strong, growing, productive law firms need strong, growing, productive lawyers. 

Developing lawyers into rainmakers and supporting the rainmakers you have takes a concerted effort and strategy. It isn’t done by hiring a yoga instructor, introducing a smoothie bar, or having lunchtime meditation but by creating the right culture. Creating such a culture may require a mindset shift, but focusing on the 6-Pillars benefits everyone.