Meet The Rainmaker - Katheryne L. (Kathy) Zelenock
by Rachelle J. Canter, Ph.D.
Presented by the Women Rainmakers
September, 2005
Name: Katheryne L. (Kathy) Zelenock
Firm Name: Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, PLC
Practice Area: Capital Markets Lending and Commercial Real Estate
Nominated By: Brandy Mathie
Why did you return to the practice of law?
Like so many others in the dot-com industry, my company struggled with ideas that were before their time, as well as capital constraints. I didn't leave the practice of law because I didn't like the practice of law---the software company was an intriguing opportunity, but I always expected to return. It's been great to practice law again. I was able to resume former relationships, build new ones, keep much of my staff, and love my firm. Being an entrepreneur and raising venture capital honed a lot of skills that I use in my practice today.
Biggest influence on career/best career advice:
Be entrepreneurial. Don't be afraid to take risks and try new things. Look for opportunities to make a contribution. Invest in business relationships, whether with clients or colleagues---relationships take you places.
Percentage of time devoted to marketing:
Let's re-define that question: other than time I spend with my family, I'm probably always marketing in some respect----all of us are. It's just a matter of what message you're projecting at a particular time. Thoughtfulness in helping a friend address a problem, organizational abilities on behalf of a favorite charitable organization, or giving a presentation at a community event---these messages are part of your total marketing package.
Even after I've worked with a client for years, some percentage of the time that I spend with them is marketing time---learning about their new lines of business, sitting in on internal meetings where legal advice is not actively a part of the agenda, and so on. Sometimes we log this time as no-charge time, so that we can let the client know when we've spent non-billable time on their behalf---but at least as often, this is strictly an "off the clock" investment to cement relationship. I spend significantly more time on practice development activities than I log, whether it's relationship-building, mentoring, or administration.
Proudest accomplishment:
The recent successful launch of the Capital Markets Lending Group at Miller Canfield is one definite highlight. Our group closed several hundred commercial mortgage loans destined for securitization last year on behalf of large national lenders, and we're very busy building on those relationships this year. It's exciting to lead a growing practice group.
Knowing what you know now, if you were starting out as a lawyer today, what would you do differently?
I would have taken more business classes, particularly those oriented to the financial and management side. I sort of have an MBA from the "School of Hard Knocks"---but I wish I had more seriously considered acquiring some of that background in an academic setting.
Tell me about one surprisingly successful rainmaking strategy.
When we first began attending (and later sponsoring) lender-oriented conferences, we worried that attorneys would have a hard time being heard. As it turns out, our presence was viewed very favorably---clients appreciated that we would be interested in participating in their conferences, and their continuing education activities. Without question, one of my strongest marketing maxims is: Go where the clients are.
If you were mentoring a young woman lawyer, what advice would you give her regarding rainmaking?
I am mentoring several younger women attorneys right now, and at least two themes keep coming up: (i) pick your targets and get out there; and (ii) know your own strengths and weaknesses and act accordingly.
To the first point, thoroughly research your target clients and their current needs, and communicate your abilities to help them meet those needs. Continue to assess and hone your message as you receive feedback from your efforts---and then, get out there and try again. Practice makes perfect. I think a lot of women struggle with the need for repetition, because they feel personally rejected if the first effort is not well-received. The better way to look at an unsuccessful effort is to see it as a learning experience. Lawyers are such analytical people that they freeze before they do anything. Study it, but act! Hone your approach by making lots of approaches. Get out there. Do something. Don't wait to get it perfect.
To the second point, some people are great cocktail conversationalists; some people are better off writing articles. Some people are better at initiating relationships, and others are better at maintaining them. Almost everyone can find a marketing voice, but not everyone is cut out to relate to the most senior executive contact. Everyone can't do everything well in business development. Find your voice, and then make sure that you're in an organization that values your approach and contribution, whatever it may be.
It helps, too, if you can find support for your efforts both within and outside your own organization. The great thing about Women Rainmakers and other women's initiatives is that successful women can offer tremendous support to each other.
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Interview by Rachelle J. Canter, Ph.D.
LPM Women Rainmakers is a national forum enabling women to network and develop business opportunities. By understanding how to develop business, women can exert greater control over their careers and integrate their personal lives successfully with the practice of law. For more information on LPM Women Rainmakers, visit www.womenrainmakers.org .
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