Lynn Shapiro Snyder joined the law firm Epstein Becker Green in 1979 as a first-year health Associate and has been at the firm now for 34 years. In the following interview, Lynn shares her thoughts on the importance of developing and nurturing professional relationships and the significant impact these relationships have made in the success of her law practice. In addition to her active practice, Lynn had been actively engaged in firm leadership and mentoring and is the founder of The Women Business Leaders of the U.S. Health Care Industry.
Q: How did you become a rainmaker?
A: I became a rainmaker by spending a certain amount of my time on developing strong personal relationships with people in the health care industry regardless of whether they were clients of the firm.
I grew up in a family-owned business where the customer was king and queen. We had a pharmacy and, later, a home medical equipment company. I was taught that you want to make the customers feel comfortable in your store, and you want them to come back. Most importantly, you want them to recommend your store to someone else. This was ingrained in me from the beginning. Whether it is for a pharmacy, the home medical equipment company, the 24 hour diner where I waited on tables or at Epstein Becker Green, the customer relationship is the same. You want their experience to be so positive that they will remember you because you want them to come back. Most of all, you want them to recommend you to someone else.
It can be a very surface relationship. It does not have to be a deep relationship. They don’t have to be invited to your family affairs. But there needs to be a relationship and not merely the provision of a service or the sale of the product.
Q: How do you stay a rainmaker?
A: Every interaction is a building block towards future rainmaking. I focus on the key three pieces: the legal content, the communication style and responsiveness, and the value from the billing side.
Private practice is different from in-house law, which is different from working for government. You are running a business, and that business requires you to attract people to come to it because they trust you. So, if you think about it from a perspective of trust, how do you get people to trust you? Consider being a nice person, genuine, a good lawyer, a good listener, someone with empathy. My philosophy is that every relationship matters, whether it is with the receptionist or the chairman of the board. You don’t know how you can be helpful to them or how they can be helpful to you. It is better to have some modicum of a relationship before the "ask." Business currency is in having the relationship before the "ask."
I just read this book, Monster Loyalty. What do we need to learn from Lady Gaga? It’s all about how to create “little monsters.” How do you create alignment with your customer? The concept is, if you just answer a legal question and send a bill, that is a lost opportunity.
If you don’t create a relationship with that person—and ask, “What’s bothering you? What’s going on with your company? How can I be helpful?”—then you are missing a lot of the fun of private practice. I have been blessed to have so many wonderful personal relationships with so many people who are either clients of the firm or just friends of the firm. You make a difference in their lives, and they make a difference in your life.
Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring rainmaker?
A: From the day you start at Epstein Becker Green, you have the internal clients that you have to generate, which is in wanting lawyers in the firm to use you for the legal services. Establishing those positive relationships becomes the training ground for how you translate that skill set into having people outside the firm want to use you.
When you first start out as a lawyer, you are nervous about wanting to make sure you are giving the correct legal advice. Once you have more command of the correct legal advice, then the question becomes, “Who is asking you for that advice?” It is a misconception that you have to wait until you are a partner before you should be considering all three components (legal expertise, communication style, and value). The reason why that is a misconception is because the engagement is about trust, first and foremost. Trust comes from personal relationships. Somebody could trust you even if you are an Associate. What they are trusting is that you, as the Associate, will get the project to the right lawyer in the firm and to have it addressed correctly. They may think, “Well, how can an Associate be able to do that?” But an Associate might be able to do that if he or she also has the trust of the potential client and understands that he or she can be that client's internal cheerleader at the firm.
Many of our health care and life sciences Associates have had industry experience before attending law school. I want to encourage them to think about their industry contacts. You have to ask for the work. It just doesn’t come in the door. You currently work for one of the best health law firms in the U.S., and you want to know how Epstein Becker Green could be a resource for their company. Do you want to ask your contact whether you can schedule a call with some Epstein Becker Green lawyers based upon your contact's potential needs? You have only a few seconds to establish your credibility.
I encourage our lawyers to be leaders and role models in the community. Not merely participants. It should be in an organization that you otherwise have a passion for. You can’t do it artificially. Alumni clubs are great resources. The easiest way to lead is to become a leader in something you have a passion about. Just give back, either in time or checks. You never know who you may meet. Giving back crosses industries. And then, people you meet are in a position to be one of your “little monsters.”
Q: Tell us a rainmaking tale.
A: Many years ago, I had a client in that had no general counsel. My relationship was with the Senior Vice President of Business Development. Let’s call him “John.” I can’t remember how I got them as a client, but I kept in touch with John even after the company was sold. John ended up at another company that was already using Epstein Becker Green. He then moved to a third company where he is now the CEO.
A few weeks ago, out of the blue, in the afternoon I get an email saying, “John would like to know if you are available for a 30-minute call today.” I hadn’t heard from him in over a year. My last contact with John was in 2012, and there had been no engagement. I’m in Boston helping my son come home from a summer camp. The question is, “What do you do next?” People don’t call their lawyers for good things; they call their lawyers because they are under stress.
I called John’s office—I didn’t use email but a phone call—to reconnect and to make sure that he was okay. John said something to the effect that:
We were sitting here, Lynn, and we have this issue and I said there’s only one health lawyer who could probably figure out what we should be doing here. I had my assistant reach out to you. And I said to my colleague here that I want you to know that Lynn and I go back all these years, and she doesn’t have to know the answer, but she’s probably the best person to figure out who do we go to for this answer.
John was not even sure Epstein Becker Green is the right firm for the subject. He knows that, from a trust standpoint, I will help him regardless of whether Epstein Becker Green is the right firm. I am known as a resource. I do not just answering legal questions. That is the reputation I have tried to create all of these years. I said to him, “It sounds very familiar to something Trish Wagner may be doing. She’s our privacy officer. And I have no clue whether she’s around or not. I’m up here in Boston with my son because I am a ‘mom’ today. I’ll get back to you." Later that day, I was able to confirm that Trish would be able to handle this new matter.
I am being responsive. I am addressing the matter when the client is addressing the matter—while the iron is hot. I am generating something that somebody came to me with that is not in my subject matter area. Also, I am collaborating and bringing in my partner who can address this matter. I am having Trish be part of the rainmaking, share in the credit, and take the lead because I also trust Trish. We are all salesmen for each other. Fifty percent of a larger pie is more valuable than one hundred percent of a smaller pie.
When did my relationship start with John? It started in the 1990s – early 2000. Our relationship is more than 10 years old. And John still came back. That’s a satisfied customer.
If you cultivate relationships, and years go by, then you have accumulated a cadre of “little monsters.” People need to know that it was not just anyone who happened to call me. We have a relationship. There is a story for each person. If you don’t create that story when you have the opportunity to interact, then that is a lost opportunity in the years to come.
Q. Why be in private practice?
A: Private practice is fun and so professionally rewarding, especially when you are a rainmaker. It is the ultimate compliment for someone to hire you for your legal and business acumen with respect to matters that are challenging them in some way. It is very rewarding for someone to put their trust in you regardless of whether you are the actual attorney at the firm who does the work. I believe the four main components to success in private practice are: (1) the quality of the work product that you produce for the client, (2) the responsiveness within which the client will get the work product, (3) the value that will come from the work product based on what you charge for that work product, and (4) the positive relationships you establish both inside and outside the law firm.