In his book, “The Opportunity Maker,” author Ari Kaplan spells out the secrets that all law students and budding attorneys should learn and explore to enrich their professional lives and forge inspired careers. Kaplan sets forth numerous strategies for empowering law students and young lawyers with valuable creative networking and business techniques. The book outlines a wide array of ways to connect with people and establish life-long professional relationships, and gives masterful insights on the importance of self-promotion in attracting legal business. Kaplan’s book is an essential tool for any law student or young lawyer entering the legal field; it unfolds the vast opportunities that are available to them if they use their resources.
Kaplan refers to business development as a science. He maintains that the common trait among highly successful people is that in most cases, they started early and were committed to success. He says that self-promotion is part of “the art of lawyering.” Rainmakers and extremely successful lawyers master this art of self-promotion, and their concern is with the journey rather than the destination. Kaplan refers to “rainmaking” as highly defined client development; repeatedly generating business with ease and confidence. Lawyers who generate their own work have a job “as long as they want and control their own future.”
One example of this rainmaking ability cited in Kaplan’s book is 32-year old partner Gabe Galanda of Seattle’s Williams Kastner. Galanda has “over a million dollars’ worth of business from clients that include publicly traded companies, banks, apparel retailers, insurance firms and twelve tribal governments. A descendant of the Nomlaki and Concow Tribes and enrolled member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes in the Pacific Northwest, he has solidified himself as an authority on Indian Law, published scores of articles and is a leader in local, regional and national bar associations. The University of Arizona Rogers College of Law alumnus has spent the eight years since his graduation on the critically important journey toward securing his future…” Kaplan adds, “Galanda is not successful by accident. He was interested in Indian Law in law school. Upon graduation, he fueled his interest by associating with others in the field, writing about related topics, and seeking out speaking opportunities. He did not set out to be a rainmaker; he set out to enjoy the practice by doing what he wanted instead of what someone determined that he should do. That is the art of rainmaking.”
Starting early, says Kaplan, is key. Get the jump on career success while still in law school. Kaplan says to learn who you are and what you can offer most, and sharpen your business talent now instead of waiting to “make” partner at a firm. Build relationships, not just for the sake of getting a job, but to create a network that will sustain and bolster your career as it develops. Kaplan suggests many ways that law students can promote themselves. “Contact people for informational interviews, guidance on a law review article or assistance with a pro-bono case. These types of inquiries are non-invasive, completely work-related and foster continued dialogue. They are ideal for making connections.” Kaplan says to create a plan and pursue it relentlessly with great passion and enthusiasm.
In essence, Kaplan advises an individual to “become a great lawyer.” Make presentations; get visible. He urges law students to get involved in something—activities, associations—as it “forces you to meet people and practice relationship–building tools.” Start by creating a contact list of friends and colleagues. Inform them when you publish, speak and achieve professional milestones. Send articles to them, whether they’re written by you or not. Have lunch with someone new once a month, then increase it as the friendship progresses. Offer your services to lawyers who are well established. Get out of the classroom and learn from mentors. Get to know one area of the law really well. Kaplan reminds us that rainmakers are bold, visionary, decisive and start early.
Kaplan stresses the importance of internships in his book. They can be a great stepping stone to a career. Relationships formed during an internship can not only lead to a job during the pivotal time after graduation, but also lead to business development activities at a later stage in your career. Kaplan says it’s important to keep in touch with internship coordinators and colleagues as closely as you would with former employers. Kaplan quotes Matthew Swaya, the Vice President and Assistant General Councel of Litigation & Employment for Starbucks in Seattle, “Go work for the government, judge or U.S. Attorney’s office while in law school because there is nothing more valuable than seeing real work issues…Practical experience gives you a framework for the rest of your life.” This practical experience that you gain from an internship is invaluable, and builds a foundation of relationships with people with bright careers ahead of them.
Writing is another way to get noticed early on, says Kaplan. He recommends budding barristers to experiment with all types of writing and focus on a range of topics until they find one that they’re passionate about. Starting in law school will give you the opportunity to explore. Writing articles will connect you to organizations, individuals and experts who will become major influences in your future endeavors. Kaplan states, “You can write about the law, but if your idea is about scuba diving, modern art or heli-skiing, the benefits are the same. And, in the process, you become more interesting, which is exactly what Warren Jackson noted is critical in growing as a professional.”
Blogging is a great entry-way to writing, Kaplan advises. As Lex Blog’s Kevin O’Keefe says in the book, “Blogs are like little doorways or windows to insight…It is a living and breathing resume that allows you to network with students, professors, and lawyers.” Blogging can be the easiest way to get published and the potential readership is broader than any publication to which a student might have access. It can provide a law student a way in which to demonstrate his or her knowledge. Travis Hodgkins, 3L at the University California’s Hastings College of the Law states, “Once I started writing for the blog and started receiving such positive feedback from readers, I was hooked.”
Kaplan outlines other ways to broadcast yourself. He suggests sending out press releases about organizations you’re involved with. Study the media and participate in projects that are newsworthy. Stay in touch with journalists and reporters in their preferred area of expertise.
They will quote you, and that is a great way to be considered an expert on the topic at hand. Kaplan says in his book to assemble panels. Approach professionals and ask them to share their experience and perspective. Start with a mentor or someone who’s served on your personal advisory board. Host the panel group and it might earn mention in the local newspaper or television station. Kaplan councels you to be your own public relations firm.
I’ve highlighted only a few of the myriad ways put forth in Ari Kaplan’s book in which a law student or fledgling lawyer can boost his or her standing in the community. He encourages you to incorporate a new routine that forges “organic relationship-building and regular self-evaluation.” Start early and you’ll be way ahead of the crowd at commencement time. Kaplan advocates, “Explore, learn and experiment. Meet, discuss and share.” His book admonishes one to achieve success by taking an interest in others, pursuing knowledge and experience and taking calculated risks. It’s an easy read and chock full of valuable information that will only enhance one’s abilities to broaden career objectives. His message seems to be, “Start small and think big!” As he implies, the choice to take action is yours.