Jason Honeyman in Law360's Rainmaker Q&A Series
(as published in Law360
Jason M. Honeyman is a shareholder at Wolf Greenfield & Sacks PC in Boston. He has practiced exclusively in the intellectual property space for over 30 years, providing strategic, business-focused counseling to clients ranging from startups to industry-leading companies and top-tier academic institutions. He develops strong and lasting client relationships, with several mainstay clients now in their second and even third decade with Wolf Greenfield.
Honeyman has a broad intellectual property practice, and represents clients in a range of diverse industries within the mechanical/electromechanical field, including medical devices, consumer products, sports equipment, apparel and footwear, textiles, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, labware, food and beverage, injection molding machinery, optical fibers, water treatment, industrial equipment and systems, clean technology, soldier systems, and laboratory and diagnostic equipment. He represents industry leaders such as Burton Snowboards (sports equipment), C.R. Bard (medical devices), Husky Injection Molding (equipment manufacturer) and SharkNinja (Shark and Ninja appliances, formerly Euro-Pro).
Honeyman regularly speaks to industry and client groups on a variety of intellectual property issues. His recent invited speaking engagements include a series of webinars for MassMedic, and a symposium (which he co-chaired) on the America Invents Act at Suffolk University Law School. Honeyman was an invited participant to the inaugural meeting of the Medical Device Technology Partnership at the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Q: What skill was most important for you in becoming a rainmaker?
A: I’ve learned to put myself in the shoes of my clients in order to understand what their needs are — keeping in mind that some of their needs are apparent to them, and some they may not have thought of yet. Many questions that clients have aren’t about the legal side of things in isolation, but about business and strategy and the marketplace, all knit together.
Particularly at the senior management level, legal situations require a lot of discussion, just like other business decisions. Clients want to work with someone they feel they can have a back-and-forth exchange with as they work through problems. For example, I have one particular client who knew his company was facing a big event in the next few years. It was important for him to be able to talk freely with me about different possible options for his company. Because he could comfortably ask questions about not only the legal aspects, but overall strategy, he was able to better plan for the future of his business. The legal work doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it’s critical to be able to help the client put it in the context of their business.
Q: How do you prepare a pitch for a potential new client?
A: I first try and figure out what the takeaways are that I want the potential client to have. For example, I might want them to know that our attorneys are smart, experienced, creative and tough. Then I look for examples and experiences I can share that will show — rather than tell — them that we have those characteristics. It’s important for them to know who we are and how we differentiate ourselves from others.
Just as importantly, I want to know as much as I can about their business, marketplace and competition. To that end, I’ll look at what the potential client has been doing and what their competitors are doing, and try to understand whether they’re well situated or if there are gaps that need to be filled. Then I can explain how we’d be able to help.
Q: Share an example of a time when landing a client was especially difficult, and how you handled it.
A: I rarely make cold calls or emails. But in this one particular instance, I learned by complete coincidence that a large company was looking for outside IP counsel. So I figured out who the president of the company was, and I sent him a cold email explaining my longstanding work for another client in his area. I told him that I was regularly in his neck of the woods and would love to sit down and tell him about what we do and how we could help him. He delegated the task to his newly hired IP counsel, who proceeded to stiff-arm me for about three years until he finally accepted an invitation to attend one of our client seminars.
Once he had a chance to spend more time with us, and to learn more about who we are as a firm, he hired us and we began a long and fruitful client relationship that continues today. If you asked him, he’d tell you that my persistence paid off. Relationships take time to build, and you can’t get discouraged when you don’t land a client immediately.
Q: What should aspiring rainmakers focus on when beginning their law careers?
A: It’s really important for young attorneys to invest their time in making contacts and expanding their network as early in their careers as possible. In the IP space, it’s sometimes hard to land clients when you’re a junior attorney, because so much is at stake and decisions are made at a high level. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start developing and nurturing relationships, whether it’s through your school alumni group or a relevant trade group.
Over time, your contacts will rise to decision-making positions and look to you and your firm for assistance. Networking is a skill that can be tough at first, but like anything else, it gets easier the more you do it. One great way to stay in touch is to send contacts news articles or other pieces of information that might be relevant to them. People appreciate being informed about timely topics of interest, whether it involves law or their particular industry. Staying current in relevant fields provides junior attorneys with an “excuse” to reach out to potential clients and contacts and maintain relationships.
Q: What’s the most challenging aspect of remaining a rainmaker?
A: The hardest part is juggling the demands of being not just a rainmaker, but also a busy attorney focused on client service. Your current clients are your top priority, so first and foremost, you need to be meeting their needs before you go out looking for the next new client. As your career develops, finding the time to seek out new business is the biggest challenge. It’s not easy, but it helps to be creative in looking for opportunities that mix business development with other things. If you’re already planning to go to a hockey game, go with a prospective client. If you’re already going to attend an industry event, see if a client wants to join you. Be efficient with your time, and always be looking for ways to fit in rainmaking activities. It’s critical to your career, so you really have to make time for it.