Michael K. Hurst Rainmaker Q&A
Michael K. Hurst, a partner at Lynn Pinker Cox & Hurst LLP in Dallas, is a widely recognized trial lawyer in Texas, particularly in complex commercial, intellectual property and employment litigation in the financial, energy and other sectors. His courtroom experience has earned him some of the most high-profile verdicts in Texas and the U.S. on matters involving breach of contract, fraud, theft of trade secrets, partnership disputes, employment discrimination, and breach of fiduciary duty.
In 2015, Hurst was named the first male recipient of the Dallas Women Lawyers Association’s prestigious Louise B. Raggio award. In addition, he has been selected as one of the “Best Lawyers in America” in commercial litigation and labor and employment litigation.
He is consistently named one of the "Best Lawyers in Dallas" and was named outstanding mentor as well as outstanding young lawyer by both the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers and the Texas Young Lawyers Association. In 2012, Hurst was elected to the prestigious BTI Client Service All-Stars.
Q: What skill was most important for you in becoming a rainmaker?
A: The ability to build relationships. Many of those relationships need to be with people that do not look like you. Most of the people that hire me for the first time are folks I met through bar involvement, community service involvement, kids’ school activities or introductions from clients and friends.
I have found that I get hired by clients not just because they like me, but because of my demonstrated track record of achievement and hard work for clients in the past, and same for my bar and community work. Building and reinforcing those relationships can be a long process that requires a great deal of patience and perseverance. Of course, the more relationships you build, the more chances you have of developing business.
Q: How do you prepare a pitch for a potential new client?
A: Learning and knowing as much about the client’s business and their needs is critical. For instance, if the client is an oil and gas company, I want to know if they are upstream, downstream or midstream, and the formations where they normally work. If the client is in private equity or the like, I try to find out their business strategies and all I can about their principals and portfolio holdings.
Generally, there is a trove of information about most companies and people on the internet. I try to research prior litigation to determine what kinds of matters they have had in the past, and who has represented them. There is no substitute for asking the potential client questions in advance about their business, needs and strategy.
Q: Share an example of a time when landing a client was especially difficult, and how you handled it.
A: I and one of my partners were asked to make a pitch to a large and respected energy company for a large piece of litigation. We spent a great deal of time customizing a presentation brochure, touting our firm, our successes, our team, our experience, etc. We were competing against several large firms and a couple of the other top trial boutiques.
The bad news was after all of the effort and what I thought was a great team presentation we did not get hired on that matter. That matter actually turned out to be a nonevent. The good news is that we were called almost immediately thereafter for what turned out to be the first of several nice sized lawsuits for the company. You just never know.
Q: What should aspiring rainmakers focus on when beginning their law careers?
A: Build and maintain those relationships at the beginning. Some people will remember your outreach many years later when they are finally in a position to send business. To keep yourself relevant to these people, you need to be organized with some sort of calendaring system or other reminder to periodically reach out to these contacts to maintain the bridges you’ve built.
Q: What’s the most challenging aspect of remaining a rainmaker?
A: Never rest on laurels. There are a lot of good lawyers who are aggressively pursuing your clients and prospects. In the concept of primacy and recency, no matter how successful I have been for clients in the past, if the clients don’t think I’m still passionate for them and hungry for their business, I am at risk of the next cases going to someone else.
I generally am available for clients and prospects at any time, during vacation or otherwise, but the most difficulty I have staying in touch with clients is when I am in a lengthy trial. During that time, I remain focused on the pending battle at the courthouse and generally do not check my email except briefly at night and on the weekends. There’s no rest for the weary. It is important to circle back with clients and prospects after the conclusion of the trial to implicitly let them know how important they are.
The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or Portfolio Media Inc., or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.