Varnum hosts networking, learning opportunity for women attorneys


by Cynthia Price

Wiktionary and several other online sources define “rainmaker” as “an executive or lawyer with exceptional ability to attract clients, use political connections, increase profits, etc.”

April Sawhill of Varnum, lawyer coach Elizabeth Jolliffe, and the American Bar Association (ABA) Women Rainmakers Committee think that ability can be taught, and they would like to see more women acquire the skills needed to join the rainmaker ranks.

The two women will co-facilitate a session called “Building a Buzz and How to Do It” at Varnum’s offices (333 Bridge Street NW, 17th floor) on April 17 from 7-9 a.m.
Grand Rapids is one of only 29 cities nationally to host the free workshop, a follow-up to the fall session “Understanding and Articulating Your Personal Brand.” For Michigan audiences, that workshop took place only in Bloomfield Hills, where there will also be a “Building a Buzz” workshop to serve the metro Detroit area on
April 19.

Jolliffe, a former attorney whose coaching business is Your Benchmark Coach (at, is on the board of the ABA Women Rainmakers Committee. The committee, she says, recognized that much of the national membership would be unable to participate in an annual meeting or conference, no matter where it is held, so they decided to develop programs and training manuals for facilitators to encourage local attendance.

There are, of course, many benefits of workshops held closer to home than the shorter travel distance. For example, participants can take advantage of meeting like-minded female attorneys they are likely to meet again. As Jolliffe puts it, “The advantage is in people both learning the substance and getting the benefit of networking with other women in their area — learning from each other.”

The workshop will cover such topics as public relations, pitching to media, using social media, and publishing articles. Sawhill comments, “Attending will be beneficial no matter whether you’re a solo practitioner or at a large law firm.”

“Women already have the essential skills that they need to be wonderful rainmakers,” says Jolliffe. “But for those who may be less likely to inherit a book of business, acquiring more expertise, learning how to utilize a niche or advancing their client development process, figuring out how do we really start to ‘play the game,’ I think will make this very attractive to female attorneys in Grand Rapids.”

Adds Sawhill, “Another way to look at it is, this program is really going to encourage female attorneys to be their own entrepreneurs. Right now there’s a lot of buzz about being entrepreneurial, and the workshop will help women take control of their careers and move them forward.”

To register for the Grand Rapids session, visit