Jorge Goldstein is not your typical rainmaker. He freezes at networking events, wonít approach people he doesnít know, and doesnít schmooze with strangers. How then has he become one of the top rainmakers in his firm and a leading lawyer in the biotech industry? What Jorge does is build his profile, hone his expertise, and stay ahead of the curve.
In this second installment of our rainmaker series, youíll hear from Jorge Goldstein, managing partner of D.C.ís Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox. A scientist-turned-lawyer, Jorge has parlayed his expertise into a booming biotech practice by focusing on marketing activities that fit his personal style. He does what comes naturally.
A summary of his key tips and excerpts from the interview follow:
Lessons on Business Development From Jorge Goldstein
|1.Never turn down an opportunity to speak. It helps get your name in front of a wide and diverse audience and it leads to new business referrals.
|2.Getting a client to send you work is just the tip of the iceberg. What ultimately matters is keeping clients happy so they send more work and refer other clients to you.
|3.Donít be afraid of being ahead of the curve. If you stay close to clients and know their industries well, youíll be the first one to spot and capitalize on the next big thing.
|4.Avoid lecturing or writing for other lawyers. Instead, focus on conferences and publications that cater to your clients.
|5.Discover as much as you can about past matters your firm has handled successfully and learn to tell war stories that speak to client needs.
|6.Pick ways of doing business development that fit your temperament.
|7. Find reasons to stay in touch with clients. If thereís a new legal development, make sure your clients hear about it from you. If you publish something, send them copies.
|8.Make regular client visits to ask how you and your firm are doing and to learn what you can do better. Address concerns immediately and thank clients for helping you improve.
|9.See marketing not as a task, but as part of the fabric of everything you do.
|10.Donít compromise your principles. Hone your legal and business judgements and then present yourself as an absolutely straight, honest, truth-telling counselor. Your reputation will grow and the clients will come.
SUGARCREST: Tell me about your background and how you got to where you are today.
GOLDSTEIN: I started off as a scientist. I received a bachelorís degree in Chemistry from RPI and then a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Harvard. I then went to MIT to do a year of post-doctorate work in biochemistry. At that point, I shifted into law and went to George Washington University Law School and began working as a student associate at a law firm.
SUGARCREST: Why did you choose to go to law school?
GOLDSTEIN: Because my temperament is not that of a scientist. I am more impatient. I need much quicker gratification. I also realized that I enjoyed interactions with people a lot more than sitting in a lab. I love science and the intellectual aspects of it, but I did not enjoy being a scientist and nobody bothered to tell me what scientists did until it was too late. By the time I realized what being a scientist meantóin academia especiallyóI was a scientist already.
The other thing that I learned about myself was that I liked teaching. I did a number of teaching assignments when I was at Harvard and even won some teaching prizes. I learned that I could get up in public and talk, and teach with a sense of humor. It made me realize that I wouldnít be satisfied with the career that had been laid out for me by all my mentors.
Then, fate intervened. I saw an advertisement in a magazine for one of the big firms in Washington. They were looking for a Ph.D. I made a completely blind call and the next thing I knew I was in Washington. They interviewed me, offered me a job and gave me the idea that maybe this would lead to some interesting career choicesóand it did. Eventually, I went to law school.
SUGARCREST: How did you come to your current firm?
GOLDSTEIN: Rob Sterne and Perry Saidman had started the firm. At the time, they did not have a chemical or biotech practice. They were electronic specialists. I was very conservative and turned down their first job offer in favor of a more established firm. Sterne actually came to my home and told me that Iíd be making the biggest mistake of my life if I didnít come with them. So he sold me on the firm and I came on to start the biotech practice.
SUGARCREST: Werenít you a fairly junior lawyer at the time?
GOLDSTEIN: I had four years of experience but I was very fortunate to be the right guy at the right time. It was the right combination of events in that I was starting in law in the late Ď70s with the right kind of degree at the time when the biotech revolution was starting. The mid-Ď70s saw the discovery of gene splicing and genetic engineering and biotechnology as we know it today.
The major players in the biotech industry were founded in the mid-Ď70s and there were not many lawyers that had a knowledge of science that was deep enough to be able to talk to the founders of these companies who were all scientists. So being young and recently graduated was not a hindrance.
In law, you tend to think of experience being very important but, at the time, too much experience almost counted against you. If you had a lot of experience, you probably didnít have experience in the latest science. Being young helped me to get in the door with a number of scientists and, having been a scientist, I already had a network.
One of my first big clients was Mass General Hospital. Itís the teaching hospital at Harvard Medical School and I knew buddies with whom I had gone to Harvard. When they were starting to think about biotechnology and started looking for the lawyers they should use, they thought of me. In their minds, I may have been an inexperienced lawyer who just graduated, but they knew that I knew my science.
Also, for many companies working with a junior lawyer at a new firm went right along with the risk-taking mindset of entrepreneurs. They were forming companies, going out on a limb and raising money. The risk-takers who were on the cutting edge of both business and science started sending me workóthatís how it all began.
SUGARCREST: How did your practice grow from there?
GOLDSTEIN: There was one individual at Mass General who had become a good friend and he became a focal source for me. He had lots of contacts in the academic world and in the technology transfer business of universities and research centers. Universities in the early-Ď80s started to recognize the possibility of exploiting their own intellectual property. At the time, my friend was a key player in that community. Once his colleagues started seeing that Mass General and others in academia were filing patents, they started asking him whom they should use to do similar work for their universities. He became a key source of referrals for me.
In many ways I was very lucky. I was riding this wave and the wave kept getting bigger. As the market started expanding, new companies formed and universities started spinning off projects. There was a great deal of hunger for lawyers with scientific expertise in biochemistry and molecular biology. And there werenít that many lawyers who understood molecular biology. At the time, there were only four or five lawyers in the whole country that understood molecular biology and could talk science with these scientists. It was just the right combination of relationships and timing.
SUGARCREST: What has been your strategy for growing your practice?
GOLDSTEIN: My strategy over the years has always been to make sure that my name and the name of the law firm are in front of the widest and most diverse audience possible. I never turn down an invitation to go anywhere to speak. I have spoken before meetings of hundreds of people in Buenos Aires, and I have spoken in front of four sleepy CEOs in Montgomery County at breakfast. It doesnít matteróI will take any opportunity to get up and say something.
Name recognition and referrals have been the main source of growing the practice. I donít believe, however, that itís all name recognition and giving lectures. There obviously needs to be a great deal of hard work and substance behind it. Getting a client to send you work is just the tip of the iceberg. What ultimately matters is maintaining the clients and keeping the clients happy so that they send more work and refer other clients to you. Itís almost easier to bring them in than to keep them happy and growing.
It also requires a very active practice of growing the right kind of associatesóthose that are highly scientifically trained, are top of the line lawyers and share our basic philosophies on how to represent clients properly. Itís a combination of both external emphases and internal emphases. I donít think you could grow a practice to the level where we are now without both.
SUGARCREST: Tell me how youíve done that. How have you ensured and maintained the institutionalization of your clients? Thatís a huge challenge for a law firm.
GOLDSTEIN: Itís a huge challenge and I think itís the secret of our success. We have a very strong institutional identity. We instill that identity and that concept as a firm. It transcends the individual performance from the beginning. The law firm itself takes on its own identity. We talk about things like, "These are not your clients and these are not my clientsóthey are the law firmís clients." And, if one of our partners becomes too possessive with his or her clients, I take them to lunch and have a long talk.
We also make this clear to clients. Regardless of how the client comes to the firm, we explain to the client from day one that while I will be their lawyer and I will be there for them, I will not necessarily do their work. I may do their really extraordinary work, but a mid-level partner will do the day-to-day and two or three associates will be on their team. I will supervise the team. The client is quickly brought into the concept that there are individual lawyers in the firm that they will look to, but it isnít any one single lawyer. At a minimum, there will always be a team of two.
We also have a long-standing compensation plan within the partnership that fosters the sharing of client origination. If I bring in a client, a mid-level partner may, if management responsibilities are handed over to him or her, share in the origination credit from the start. We work to grow the client together and we both benefit.
Our compensation plan rewards not only origination and billings, but also management, associate training and other subjective things. People who donít necessarily bring in clients can still benefit from new clients. And I as the originator benefit because thereís always a residual amount of origination that accrues to me. It makes sense for me to go out there and get new ones. It helps grow the partnership.
We recognize that not everybody should or can go out there and bring in clients. So, weíve fostered both a very strong culture of institutionalization of clients and a strong financial incentive for everyone who plays a role in growing and servicing our clients.
We also instill these concepts in our associates. As the associates become more senior, our partners hand off management of clients to them. They may spend a few years being the main point person for this client. When they become equity partners, they may be given some percentage of the origination for that client, which by then may be a million-dollar client. They may walk into partnership with a big chunk of origination. It has kept the system growing and it has made people feel that theyíre being compensated fairly for the work of growing the client.
Our system encourages the rainmakers to bring clients in. It also encourages those who may not be rainmakers to grow practices. Itís what we call "multiplier effects" and we look at multipliers in our compensation every year. At our compensation meeting, we look at who are the multipliers and they get well compensated.
So I consider rainmaking to be but only one part of growing a practice. If a lawyer brings in clients but does not institutionalize them quickly the practice will not grow.
SUGARCREST: How have you dealt with the ups and downs in the economy over the years?
GOLDSTEIN: Weíve had very few down times, especially in the biotech area. In twenty years plus of practice, I only remember one year where there didnít seem to be enough work to go around. And in the biotech industry there really hasnít been any sort of downturn. In fact, there is nothing but opportunities for growth every time I look. The key for me has been to always stay ahead of the curve.
Over the years, I have always tried to address topics that are on the cutting edge of the practice. In the early-80s, I started talking about how to properly use microbial depositories because the Supreme Court had just declared microbes patentable. Very few people were talking about it. A few years later, I started talking about patenting animals and plants.
At first, people looked at me like I had four heads. Then, I started talking about the scope of biotechnology patents and how courts would deal with the early broad patents being issued by the PTO. Then I started on patenting bioinformatics. Again, I was one of the firsts talking about these things. There were all these problems that I could see coming down the pike and I realized that nobody was talking about them. I wrote some pretty "out there" papers.
SUGARCREST: How do you figure out whatís coming next?
GOLDSTEIN: I start seeing things in my practice. Clients start to worry about things. For example, Iíve noticed over the last few years a whole new generation of technologies dealing with drug discovery. And I know the pharmaceutical industry has outsourced drug discovery over the last twenty years. Pharmaceutical companies are becoming more focused on drug development, licensing and marketing, but the basic research to discover new drugs is being left to a whole new generation of drug discovery companies.
I read a lot about the industry, so I know the industry very well. Thatís another piece. To see whatís coming, you have to know the industry in which youíre dealing. Because of my industry knowledge, I see things maybe a little sooner than other people see them.
In the last few years, Iíve been talking about patenting research tools such as drug discovery tools and drug screening software. Iím always trying to figure out what the next thing is or what it could be.
When the mainstream starts talking about something, I usually try to be on to something else. I pick my topics carefully and I pick the sources where I lecture and publish just as carefully.
SUGARCREST: How do you pick where you lecture and publish?
GOLDSTEIN: I generally avoid lecturing or writing for lawyers, legal associations, the AIPLA and the ABA. I focus on magazines that cater to scientists, directors of research, vice presidents for research and development, and CEOs. And I try to get invited to speak at conferences where my audience will be those same people and I will be the only lawyer. Iíve now started lecturing in Latin America because I see that in some countries where technology is developing, the patent laws have changed and Iím one of the few American lawyers that are there.
SUGARCREST: How do you market yourself and the firm?
GOLDSTEIN: The way I like to market is to sell myself as an expert. I like to get in front of an audience and demonstrate my knowledge of a topic, not only theoretically, but also through examples from my clients. For example, recently I gave a talk to a pharmaceutical and biotech conference in Atlanta about the use of interference procedures to invalidate patents. About half of my talk had slides called "Examples from the Authorsí Practice."
I tell war stories: A client came to us worried because a competitor just issued a patent and hereís what we did for them. I donít name names, I donít give too-detailed examples, but in most of my talks what I do is I present a theoretical framework and then talk about how Iíve applied this theoretical framework to real clients. What I think gives me an edge is the ability to say: " If you are ever confronted with this particular problem, Iíve done it ten times, I know how to solve your problem."
Iím not your typical rainmaker-type. If you put me in a big room full of potential clients, I freeze. I think to myself: thereís no way I can do this. While someone like my partner, Rob Sterne, would walk out with tons of business cards, several phone calls to make and numerous e-mail addresses, I will probably get stuck with one guy talking all night. In spite of my ability to get up and talk and be gregarious, Iím not that aggressive. Iím not comfortable going over to someone I donít know. I just donít do that. What I do is make myself, and then present myself, as an expert in whatever field I happen to be talking about.
I also donít think that itís ever worked for me to say up front that Sterne Kessler is a great firm (which it is). I connect with potential clients through a direct personal, not institutional, interaction. Once that initial connection has happened and they have some trust in me, then I can bring in the law firm. In marketing, I think the edge that needs to be pushed is a personal edge.
I have recently started writing and preparing lectures with some of the younger lawyers in the firm, to train them in my kind of marketing. In giving them advice, itís hard for me to say, "Hereís a set of things that you need to do." What I end up saying is, "Here are things that have worked for me." I have lectured a lot; I have published a lot. When I talk to potential clients, I listen to them carefully. I try to figure out what their problems are and I address their problems.
But, I know that a lot of marketing success depends very much on who is doing the marketing. Itís a combination of knowing your topics, having the right personality, knowing how to listen, and having the right smarts. Some of these things are easier to teach than others. And some people get it more easily than others do.
SUGARCREST: How do you stay in regular contact with the people in your network?
GOLDSTEIN: Since I became managing partner of the firm, I have developed a much more systematic approach. Actually, I now keep in touch with many clients of the law firm beyond the ones with which I have relations. I think itís a good idea to have somebody in parallelóespecially a managing partnerógo talk to the head of the legal department of other peopleís clients. Itís another way in which we institutionalize the client as a client of the law firm. I visit our clients as the managing partner and I ask them how weíre doing and what we can we do better. We do this systematically. We make at least two or three trips per year and visit four or five clients per trip.
On my own, I use a very classic technique. Whenever I publish something, I send copies to our clients. If thereís some development in the law, I make sure that my clients or clients of the practice get an announcement about it.
SUGARCREST: A lot of lawyers are uncomfortable with business development. How have you overcome that discomfort?
GOLDSTEIN: Who says Iíve overcome it? I just will myself to do it. But I have also picked ways of doing business development that fit with my temperament. As I said before, I donít do handshaking and cold approaches. Iíve never overcome it entirely, and therefore I take approaches that are different. I stand in front of five hundred people and lecture or I write a paper or two and publish it. That is really the extent of my active marketing.
SUGARCREST: And, as a result, the clients come to you?
GOLDSTEIN: They come to me. In the last twenty years, Iíve developed a huge network of clients, friends, and colleagues who refer people to me. Itís exponential and itís come from providing good service and trust. When a client contact moves on or a venture capitalist sits on a new board, they send work to me. So, I do very little active marketing other than what Iíve always done: publish, write, and lecture.
SUGARCREST: Where do you find the time to market?
GOLDSTEIN: I market all the timeóthatís what I do. I market and I manage. I practice a lot less law than I used to, and I regret it to some extent. I love practicing law, getting involved in high level strategy discussions, and having a good hearing in front of a tough judge every now and then. But, a lot of what I do now is keep the firm growing. I donít have specific times in which I market; I market all the time.
SUGARCREST: What advice would you give to lawyer starting to develop a practice today?
GOLDSTEIN: Thatís a good question because Iím not sure that I have changed my approach that much over the years. Iíve always been a very straight talker and that has always served me in good stead. I approach potential clients with a sense that if I get them, I get them. If I donít get them, I donít get them. Thereís plenty out there. Iím not going to compromise my views, how I practice, or what I charge.
If clients donít like to hear some of the things that I may tell them, and they go somewhere else, they go somewhere else. Earlier in our practice, the need to grow the practice sometimes meant that I had to compromise. As the years have gone by, Iíve become firmer in my views. And I think most people, in order to trust you, need to know that you will always tell the truthóthat youíre not going to bend your legal opinions depending on what they want to hear.
It takes a few years for clients to calibrate you and get a sense for your judgement. At the beginning of a relationship, clients donít quite know whether your judgment is right or not. But once they figure out that your judgment is right most of the time, theyíll be with you for the duration. What I would say to lawyers who are starting to develop practices is donít compromise your principles. Hone your legal and business judgements and then present yourself as an absolutely straight, honest, truth-telling counselor. Your reputation will grow and the clients will come.
Felice Wagner, a former practicing attorney, is CEO of Sugarcrest Development Group, Inc., a D.C. firm that gives seminars and training programs throughout the country on business development and client loyalty. She can be reached at (202) 462-7046 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to see how you measure up as a rainmaker? Take the Rainmaker Reality Check today!