How do you become a rainmaker? I found out the answer.
I spent the last few weeks interviewing women at law firms for a big Miami Herald article I wrote on women in law. I asked lawyers why more women aren't making it to the top at big firms-- a status known as equity partner. Being an equity partner means you have ownership in the firm and a say in how it's managed. That's a prestigious and important role for men and women.
The response to my question of why only 16 percent of partners at the country's big firms are women was that not enough women are rainmakers.
Rainmaking is a skill. It requires making strong relationships with the right people and being bold enough to ask them for business. To be a rainmaker on a scale big enough to convince law firms to make you a firm owner, you must pull in huge dollar volumes of business.
What I repeatedly heard was that rainmaking is a HUGE time commitment. First, it takes time to learn the skills from someone willing to teach you. Then, it could take travel, attending social events, inviting key players on golf outings or to sports events at nights and on weekends. This is all on top of being good at your day job -- in this case, practicing law.
As I probe further, I uncovered numbers from studies that show most male law partners have stay at home wives. Most female law partners have spouses who work. Most female partners who have climbed and reached equity partner status either don't have kids or they have spouses who work VERY flexible jobs and do most of the caregiving at home.
So in the end, reaching the top takes learning rainmaking skills and having time to put them into practice while still mastering your day job. It makes me wonder whether enough women are willing to devote the HUGE amount of time it takes to make significant change in the stats. Plenty of men aren't willing to make the time commitment! But even as more women have gone into the practice of law, the number of those at the top hasn't changed in two decades.
Are women being excluded or are they choosing not to become rainmakers? Is rainmaking on a grand scale too time consuming for women trying to do it all?