It is widely acknowledged that in law as in other businesses, the best rainmakers are also relationship builders. They connect with people. They seek out friends old and new and ask: How is your business? What problem can I help you solve? What can I do to help you succeed? What can I do for you personally? They listen and they act.
And the best do so out of genuine interest and care, and not simply as a business development technique. These are attorneys who first wanted to become lawyers so that they could help people, and they are still motivated by that desire.
An attorney called his firm librarian for help. He was meeting a client for lunch tomorrow, but this was not a request for the typical go-to-lunch business research package. The client he was meeting was a former general counsel, now unemployed following a corporate reorganization. He wanted to help her. The GC needed to conduct some legal research. Could the firm provide resources?
The librarian called her vendors. Yes, those same vendors about whom librarians and partners complain so loudly (see other posts on this site…). Those vendors, or their reps at least, also are willing to help. It perhaps matters little whether such help is provided in the name of relationship building, or “giving back to the community” or some other ulterior business development motive. Free passwords were promptly and cheerfully supplied, and the good will was palpable.
Following lunch, the attorney brought his client back to the office and introduced her to his library staff. The GC as it so happened, rather than working on a project for her own benefit, wanted to use her time and legal skills to help another friend solve a problem.
Reference librarians are not only expert researchers familiar with a wide variety of resources, but of course they love to help. The firm librarians provided the GC with a supply vendor pens and other goodies, discussed online and print resources relevant to her project, and assisted her with signing on to use the online research sites. They even fielded a few follow-up research questions over the next several days.
A lot of goodwill was deposited in several accounts. The GC, attorney and firm librarians, and even the vendors contributed, and relationships were strengthened all around.
So what happens next? It would be wonderful if the general counsel’s help led to a positive resolution for her friend. It would also be very good news if the GC should land a new job, and even nicer if that new position allowed her to send business once again to the firm attorney and perhaps even to one of the online vendors. I can’t tell you how the story ends. In fact, I hope this story is ongoing, as each person involved continues to provide help to others and grow stronger relationships.
Attorneys, like legal vendors, often get a bad rap. Their good deeds may go unsung. But the bottom line remains this: Smart attorneys will look for ways to help their clients during difficult times. Really smart attorneys may even introduce them to the library.