Finding Your Best Role in the Law Firm

by Matt Sherman and John Remsen, Jr.

Most of us are familiar with the traditional “finder/minder/grinder” model attributed to professional services firms. The “finder” goes out and gets new clients; the “minder” gives them great service and builds the relationship once the client is in the door; and the “grinder” works hard putting out a quality work product.

Of course, it’s difficult to be effective in all three roles. Certain personality types tend to enjoy the challenge of the hunt, while others prefer the comfort of the back office.

My friend and colleague, Matt Sherman, offers a slightly different take on this traditional model and identifies four different roles that lawyers might play in the firm. He says they aren’t scientifically developed — just based on his personal experience — and I like what he has to say.

Matt maintains that, although there are numerous other models that exist, these are the roles that lawyers can play in the law firm environment. They are:

The Rainmaker: The person who truly can work a room and always seems to come out with work or at least three or four key contacts that will lead to work. They typically aren’t great at sweating the details of a contract or a matter, but definitely see the “big picture.” They often benefit from a strong #2 who will sweat the details and make sure client work gets executed. Rainmakers make it look easy, but these folks work their butts off. They can suffer from letting things “slip through the cracks” so it is very important to pair them with a strong #2 (who often fits the Client Builder model).

The Client Builder: This person often does not initiate the relationship, but for some reason “clicks” with the client and sees an opportunity to substantially grow the relationship. Often, this relationship will be the attorney’s primary — and sometimes — only client. The attorney will work hard to deepen the relationship and expand it to new areas. They will know the client’s business almost as well as the client. They will develop and nurture a loyal team to serve the client, but that loyalty can demand lots of commitment. These relationships often double or triple in billings and the strength of the relationship can weather various client “storms” and/or law firm screw ups.

The Trusted Advisor: These folks tend to manage 3-5 key client relationships and always seem to do a good job for the client. Internally, they are not afraid to ruffle a few feathers to get their clients served properly. They often have a relatively fluid team that serves each client, but usually there are one or two key team members who cross over several relationships. They are trusted by the client because of their judgment and experience. They are not afraid to question a client’s idea. They understand their clients’ businesses and provide sound counsel to their clients.

The Technical Expert: You often find these folks among tax practices or patent practices (as an example). These are attorneys who have deep, deep knowledge and experience in an area of critical importance to clients — sometimes entire industries. They are in demand because of that experience and their ability to deliver a high level of value to the client for the investment. They usually get top dollar and should not be discounting their fees. These folks are often lone wolves. This person is often considered a grinder, but does a little marketing (articles, speeches, networking, etc.) to build a strong referral network.

Unfortunately, most law firms trot out only the Rainmaker model to illustrate what every attorney can become — IF they could run faster, IF they could leap tall buildings in a single bound and IF they were more powerful than a locomotive.

Which one are you?

Why not take a personality profile tests to find out? Here are a few to consider:

Caliper Profile
It’s been around for 35 years and has been administered to over one million professionals and executives, and over 25,000 companies. Altman Weil conducted a study using this instrument a few years ago to conclude that, generally speaking, lawyers hate change, hate risk and love autonomy. For information, go to

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
Developed in the early 1950s, the MBTI instrument identifies 16 distinctive personality types and has been widely used by organizational consultants to help people work together, make better career decisions and enhance communication and understanding. For information, go to

The Predictive Index
It’s fast, inexpensive and can identify your behavioral strengths in less than ten minutes. It was developed over 50 years ago and has been used by over 7,000 companies with great results. For information, call Vic Coppola at 561.276.9990.

If you want to be a happy and productive lawyer, we suggest that you discover the unique characteristics of your personality.

Then “go with the grain” to find your optimal role in the your firm.

By doing this, you will add value to your law firm and enjoy a more productive and fulfilling legal career.

Life is too short to try to be something you’re not.

About the Authors

Matt Sherman is Director of Marketing and Business Development at Welsh & Katz in Chicago. Before that, he was Marketing Manager for the Chicago office of Baker & McKenzie, one of the world’s largest law firms. He can be reached at 312.655.1500 or

John Remsen, Jr. is President of TheRemsenGroup, a marketing consulting firm that works exclusively with law firms to help them attract and retain the clients they want. He can be reached at 404.885.9100 or