REVIEW OF RAINMAKERVT
Started in 2010 by two legal business development specialists, Mike O'Horo and attorney Craig Levinson, RainmakerVT promises to teach you a better system for growing your law practice using interactive virtual simulations you can view in the privacy of your office or home without fear of public failures or mistakes. To evaluate RainmakerVT for this issue of SmallLaw, I received a complimentary subscription.
The RainmakerVT Promise
You can learn more about the people behind RainmakerVT and their basic philosophy in a free video without signing up for the service. In the video, the founders explain their premise that most lawyers hate business development (sales and marketing), partly because law schools don't teach it, and partly because selling is antithetical to the core personality of most lawyers. Levinson describes how, as a practicing lawyer, the anxiety and stress of a task he hated and hadn't mastered became paralyzing — until he discovered a better way.
I could definitely identify with those statements. Since I started my solo practice, I have loved working with my clients, but the process of finding those same clients not so much. RainmakerVT claims to show you how to build a client base without the ickiness of the stereotypical sales pitch.
While many tools that promise to help you grow your practice exist, ranging from books to high priced seminars to SEO specialists and business coaches, RainmakerVT is the only one I'm aware of that uses the web both to train you and for you to practice your new skills.
What You Will Learn
RainmakerVT divides its courses into three main sections: (1) Getting Found, (2) Getting Chosen, and (3) Toolbox (the latter being a sort of catchall that focuses on everything from contacts to events to pricing). A training features page summarizes what you learn in each of these sections.
The simple division of business development efforts into getting found and getting hired helped clarify my own thinking on where I really needed to focus my efforts.
Getting Found is divided into three courses: (1) What Do You Want to be Known For?, (2) Thought Leadership, and (3) Your Message. Getting Hired consists of just one course — the Decision Process.
Courses are further divided into individual lessons. Most courses only have one or two unique lessons, but the simulation lessons are available in three modes: (1) an initial learning mode during which a coach guides you, (2) a "lean" practice mode with which you can get a quick refresher before a real-life situation, and (3) a final ready mode during which you must answer all the questions from the simulation correctly within a set time limit.
Toolbox courses encompass contacts and referrals, events, earning the right to advance, optimize a speaking engagement, what do you want to be known for, door openers, associating yourself with issues that drive demand, using publicity to penetrate markets, and expanding your network from your desk. View the full list of the courses.
On a technical note, all the courses require Adobe Flash so if you were planning to learn on your iPad from the comfort of your couch think again (unless you use a remote control app to display your computer on your iPad or the iSwifter app, which plays Flash videos). On a Mac or PC, RainmakerVT works well. On my fast connection all the videos played smoothly. Note: As of March 27, 2014, the iSwifter browser mentioned above is no longer available. Click here to order Photon from iTunes.
How RainmakerVT Works
Each course starts with a video segment featuring a coach who sets up the premise or scenario of the lesson. The coach will then ask a series of questions about how you would choose to proceed. For each question, you can choose from a set of five or six answers — kind of like a role-playing video game. If you don't choose the best answer, the coach explains why your choice was wrong in a nonjudgmental way. You get to choose again until you get it right.
Many of the lessons include an animated virtual simulation that plays out what happens when you choose the right answer and sets up the next decision. Some of the lessons have a timed test at the end. Others just make you click a button that records and tracks your progress, giving you "credit" for the lesson.
RainmakerVT also has a report card system and an overview window you can use to keep track of which courses and lessons you have completed and which you have yet to finish. You can easily track how many lessons remain in a course. The system is designed so that you can repeat any lesson at any time to refresh your skills or to practice before a networking event or client meeting. Through reinforcement, your skills should increase over time and you should feel more confident and make better decisions.
A Sample Lesson on Networking
I found the coaching and the simulations really useful. For example, I learned how to get the most out of a networking event. You start by identifying your goal for the evening, which is to meet a prospective client. The first question is whom should you approach when you enter the networking event — the person you know standing alone, the group of two in conversation, the group of four in conversation, the stranger standing alone, or the group standing at the conference table?
I've been in this situation dozens of times, and have always felt awkward and uncomfortable. Through the simulation I not only learned the best group to approach, but the right way to involve myself in the conversation, draw the others out, and find someone who might have a problem I could solve. (If you're curious, the group of four is the easiest to join and the most likely to have someone who may need your services.)
The simulation also continually reminded me to focus on my set goal for the networking event, and gently steered me away from any conversational choices that might distract from that goal or that might be coming on too strong. The simulation leads all the way through making a tentative appointment with the prospective client and confirming with a secretary to the actual meeting. I found all the lessons helped me clarify my thinking and focus on developing good habits. I'll definitely be better prepared the next time I attend a networking event or have a meeting with a prospective client.
Learning From Your Mistakes
The most helpful part of RainmakerVT for me was the clear information explaining why a choice was wrong. Learning from your mistakes is an effective method, but it's even better when those mistakes happen in private and with no consequences. My favorite way to go through the lessons was to purposely try to make at least three wrong choices so I could hear the explanations of why they were wrong.
I'll admit that I was embarrassed a time or two to find out the answer I thought was the least likely to be right was actually correct. For example, in the lesson on learning to leverage speaking engagements, I felt certain serving on a panel where you are the moderator was the worst choice for leveraging the opportunity. The coach not only explained why moderating could be the best option, but also how to manage it to make it the best option.
RainmakerVT's Cost and Value
RainmakerVT is definitely worth a try, especially if you struggle with business development. There are several low-cost and low-risk options available. You can get an excellent sense of how RainmakerVT works and the kind of advice it provides by trying the free lesson on networking events.
If you have a long weekend to devote to learning business development, you can use RainmakerVT for three days for $1 (reduced from $29 when I tested the service). This might be sufficient for many solos and small firm lawyers. It's enough time to complete all the courses at least once. Just make sure to cancel before the end of the free trial or your membership automatically converts into a monthly plan. Monthly and annual plans are available for $49 and $499 respectively.
RainmakerVT claims to have another eight lessons in development. Without new content, it's hard for me to see the utility of paying for more than a few months of access — enough time to review all the lessons several times and put your new skills into practice. I also find RainmakerVT's claim to have over 35 lessons a bit misleading. As I described above, many separate lessons cover the same material, just in the practice or ready modes.
If you're not a business lawyer, you may get less out of the system. All the examples and scenarios I went through are geared towards business lawyers. Lawyers in other fields will still get useful general practice building tips. But there were a few best answers that I wasn't sure how I would apply to my own estate planning practice.
RainmakerVT is an intriguing option for lawyers trying to grow their business but who need a little help. The information in the lessons is practical and useful. You get to "practice" in the privacy and comfort of your own office (or home) without public scrutiny or negative consequences.
Lawyers who haven't quite mastered networking events, converting leads to clients, or developing a business plan will find a range of useful information presented in an approachable format. Business lawyers will get the most use out of the training, as most of the examples are geared towards them. The nearly free three-day $1 all access plan provides an excellent and inexpensive way to see if the RainmakerVT system can work for you.
RainmakerVT: A– (4.3/5.0)
Chandra Lewnau is an estate planning and business attorney in Seattle. Chandra first became interested in the estate planning field as a student attorney at University of Texas' Elderlaw Clinic. After being admitted to the Texas bar in 1999, Chandra worked for a small law firm where she gained experience in a wide range of transactional and litigation practice areas, including will contests, fiduciary litigation, and other matters. She developed the document automation system used byLawyer's Aid Service to create customized corporate and LLC record books, and loves to work with complex Microsoft Word documents.