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Fledgling lawyers are subjected to many tests before, during and after law school, from the LSAT to mid-terms and finals to the Bar exam. None of these trials and tribulations, however, test one of the most crucial talents to becoming a successful lawyer on Bay Street and beyond: rainmaking skills.
Rainmakers are the lawyers who excel at selling the firm’s services, schmoozing at networking events and swaying new clients. But how can a law firm determine if a potential associate or partner possess these prized attributes? Are these skills innate or can they be learned? If they can be taught, how do you identify the areas that require work?
Enter Dr. Larry Richard. A lawyer-psychologist and director of Hildebrandt International’s Leadership and Organization Practice, he’s pioneered the use of psychological testing to identify and develop future law firm rainmakers. As America’s leading expert on lawyers’ personalities, Dr. Richard has tested over 25,000 lawyers and published leading papers.
In an interview with The Lawyers Weekly, Dr. Richard quips that his informal study of lawyers began at age two. He grew up surrounded by lawyers — his father, grandfather, uncle and cousins were all members of the Bar. Formally, however, his fascination with lawyers’ personalities was spurred by his doctoral research in the late 80s. In 1993, his thesis was published — a nationwide study of over 3,000 American lawyers employing the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The grand conclusion?
“The vast majority of people who go into law have very similar personalities to each other and very different personalities from the public,” Dr. Richard says. Lawyers tend to skew toward the thinking-judging type and tend to be logical, organized and systematic.
Myers-Briggs has only four basic scales, which can be combined into 16 types, Dr. Richard states. While it’s sufficient to separate lawyers’ personality traits from those of the general public, it doesn’t slice fine enough to set apart lawyers who have the vital traits to become law firm rainmakers.
To find the traits that flag future rainmakers, Dr. Richard resorted to the Caliper Profile, a multiple choice personality test, which has 18 base traits instead of Myers-Briggs’ limiting four basic types.
Of course, many lawyers are skeptical about the value and accuracy of such testing altogether. Not surprising: Lawyers tend to score extremely high for the trait known as “skepticism” on the Caliper Profile — on average in the 90th percentile.
“Testing makes lawyers very anxious. Lawyers have an aversion to anything touchy feely, but the science behind it wins them over,” Dr. Richard claims. He adds, “the test is ‘rooted in statistics’... All of this works because people are creatures of habits. We tend to behave habitually in certain ways. All the test does is capture those habits and give them convenient labels that help us make generalizations.”
But what if someone deliberately tried to game the test? Couldn’t test takers circle the responses that appear to distinguish rainmakers, rather than the one’s that describe their true views?
The Caliper Profile is hard to foil since it’s a forced-choice test, Dr. Richard rebuts. “Test takers are presented with multiple alternatives, which are either all equally difficult or equally attractive... If you go through the items and it’s obvious which one is right then it won’t differentiate... when push comes to shove the test forces you to reveal your preference”.
Fear that test results will be used as a perfunctory means to screen job candidates is another source of opposition to profiling.
But Dr. Richard cautions against using the test as a substitute for in-depth interviews and background checks. Although the Caliper Profile was originally designed as a selection tool, Dr. Richard recommends employing the test only after a final pool of preferred candidates is narrowed down, to see if the perceptions gleaned during the interviews are confirmed by the test. He claims the test can be “more reliable than an interview” since the questions are always identical, allowing employers to make “apple-to-apple” comparisons among candidates.
At Hildebrandt, however, the Caliper Profile is used primarily to help identify, develop and coach law firm rainmakers, not as a selection tool.
So what makes rainmakers rise above the rest? Rainmakers possess five key traits, according to Dr. Richard:
First, they have ego drive. “They like to persuade people,” Dr. Richard says. They achieve ego gratification by convincing others to adopt their position or buy their product or services.
Second, they score high on empathy. Rainmakers can see other people’s perspective on an issue. “They’re good at understanding how the buyer is thinking,” Dr. Richard says.
Third, they demonstrate resilience. Rainmakers don’t get defensive or hurt when they’re rejected. Rather they view rejection as a challenge.
Fourth, they tend to be service minded. Rainmakers are natural salespeople, with a desire to help others.
Fifth, they possess conscientiousness. Rainmakers are disciplined and methodical in their approach to selling. To illustrate this point, Dr. Richard says that when a rainmaker sets out to attract clients, they will commit to contacting a certain number of clients each day. They won’t be deterred if only a handful of contacts produce leads or work. “They are disciplined about doing it, even if it can be unpleasant.”
So what if a lawyers doesn’t score highly on any one of these attributes? Should they be barred from social functions and cooped up in the office drafting documents?
“We’re all dealt a certain hand of cards,” Dr. Richard replies. “Depending on how strong or weak these traits are, they can facilitate or inhibit your abilities at rainmaking.”
While someone who scores low on some of the personality traits may not be a good candidate for sales training, others are amenable to feedback and coaching.
“You can’t change your personality, but you can manage it,” Dr. Richard explains. “You can learn to suppress traits which don’t work for you.”
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You might be a rainmaker if...you score highly on the following personality traits:
1. Ego drive
4. Service minded