Rainmaker Q&A: Fox Rothschild’s Mark Morris

November 17, 2016 – In The News

Reprinted with permission from Law360. (c) 2016 Portfolio Media. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. All rights reserved.

Mark L. Morris is a partner at Fox Rothschild LLP in Philadelphia. He has more than 30 years of experience as a real estate practitioner with a practice that centers on significant transactional work, including office buildings, residential developments, industrial parks, and shopping malls and centers.

His practice also has a particular focus on representing clients in the hospitality industry. He takes a lead role in the sale, acquisition, development and management of full-service and limited-service hotels throughout the United States. He is skilled in the negotiation of franchise and management agreements and has worked closely with major franchise companies, such as Marriott, Choice and Hilton, in transitioning franchisees and resolving disputes.

Ranked as a leading real estate lawyer in Pennsylvania by Chambers USA, Morris served an extensive term as chairman of the real estate department at Fox Rothschild LLP and currently serves as co-chairman of the firm’s hospitality practice.

Q: What skill was most important for you in becoming a rainmaker?

A: Developing personal relationships and earning the trust and confidence of the people you work with. Being responsive and treating each client’s matter, no matter how big or small, as if it is the most important matter on your desk is what leads to that confidence and ultimately to more business.

Clients want to know that they can personally rely on you to get things done and done well. It is imperative to take the time to understand your clients’ businesses and their goals. In a way, a good lawyer becomes a client’s alter ego. Clients want a partnership and a rainmaker takes the time to cultivate the relationship, earn the trust and confidence of the decision makers, and get the job done.

Q: How do you prepare for a pitch for a potential client?

A: First thing is to find out as much as I can about the client. What is his or her business about? What issues is the client facing? How are we best positioned to handle the matter effectively? I drill down on these questions as far as I can to see what the real legal needs are.

Then, I work to assemble the best team possible to put together materials and a presentation for the client. When possible, I work to make sure that team is diverse (in race, gender and geography). Finally, I find out who we would be meeting with and any relevant background so that we can find a common ground and start building a positive business relationship.

Q: Share an example of a time when landing a client was especially difficult, and how you handled it.

A: I think the most important thing to note is that fostering a good relationship takes time. It normally takes more than one or two meetings to land a client. Over the years, some of my best clients have come from relationships that I cultivated for four or five years before getting any business. It is really about the soft sell and knowing that you’re playing a long game. You have to be proactive and persistent and focus on building business relationships early in your career.

Q: What should aspiring rainmakers focus on when beginning their law careers?

A: It is hard to be a rainmaker when you’re still learning the system. Focus first on mastering your practice so you can speak intelligently with potential clients about their needs. Focus on building your resume. Speak at conferences, write articles, join boards. Work hard to become knowledgeable and then find opportunities to become known as a knowledgeable person.

It’s important to start building relationships with people in your age range and in your industry. This way, you won’t be judged as too junior, and you are getting involved early with the next wave of business leaders. Make as many touch points as you can with your contacts — but make it personal. You are working to establish trust and confidence that will eventually lead to new business.

Q: What’s the most challenging aspect of remaining a rainmaker?

A: Being able to stay on top of — and know the ins and outs of — what is going on with each and every client and matter. I make it my personal goal to never have a client call with a question that I need to answer with, “Let me check and get back to you.” I want to be up to date on every aspect of a matter so that I continue to foster that client’s confidence.

This means being very organized and proactive. I regularly check in with other attorneys and team members working on my clients’ matters and make sure I am educated on where things stand. I don’t ever want to risk fudging my way through a meeting — I always want to be prepared.

Reprinted with permission from Law360. (c) 2016 Portfolio Media. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. All rights reserved.