Law360 Rainmaker Q&A: Irwin Kishner
Irwin A. Kishner is a partner at Herrick Feinstein LLP in New York and chairman of the firm’s executive committee. His practice focuses on a range of sophisticated corporate concerns, including merger and acquisition transactions, financings, capital markets transactions, corporate governance and restructuring, intellectual property, and executive employment matters.
He has handled numerous mergers and acquisitions, both hostile and friendly, on behalf of acquirers, targets and investment banks.
Kishner is also one of the country’s top sports lawyers. His roster of clients includes teams, leagues, owners, investors, broadcasters, media companies, hospitality providers, lenders and other industry participants. His experience includes representation of the New York Yankees in their joint venture effort with Manchester City to create Major League Soccer's New York City Football Club (NYCFC) and the formation of two of the country’s largest regional sports networks (YES and SNY).
Q: What skill was most important for you in becoming a rainmaker?
A: My tenacity. I continue to work extremely hard on being an excellent lawyer, being proactive and delivering exceptional value to my clients. I wake up every day with an intrinsic drive to anticipate my clients’ needs and protect their interests. They rest well at night knowing their problems are my problems, and I’ll go to great lengths to make sure their interests are well served.
Q: How do you prepare to pitch for a potential new client?
A: I try to gain an advantage through extensive preparation, because I know I’m most likely up against a number of very talented lawyers — that’s just the nature of the market today. So to get an edge, I immerse myself in the potential client’s business, and their legal challenges, so that I’m able to demonstrate why I can provide exceptional counsel and value to them. I think that dedication resonates with the people I meet. They know I am going to prepare just as hard, and work just as hard, if they ultimately choose me as their lawyer.
Q: Share an example of a time when landing a client was especially difficult and how you handled it.
A: We are way past the days when legal work landed on your desk without much effort, so landing a client is always difficult. But I can say we had to fight very hard to get a big stadium development deal from a major sports client. We were up against five elite law firms, all of whom would have done a phenomenal job on the matter. Some lawyers dislike that level of competition, and consequently they wouldn’t put their best foot forward. But I enjoy it. It was definitely an uphill climb, but we knew if we kept communicating our value proposition to the client, we would win the business.
Q: What should aspiring rainmakers focus on when beginning their law career?
A: First and foremost you have to be an excellent lawyer. You must work extremely hard to learn the craft, and immerse yourself fully in your clients and their challenges. You also have to turn out an A+ product at all times. Every piece of work you hand over is like a final exam, and you only get one opportunity to perform. Unfortunately, all of this can’t be done on a nine-to-five basis. So if you’re an aspiring rainmaker, you have to do a gut check, and figure out if you’re willing to sustain this level of commitment for a very long time.
Q: What’s the most challenging aspect of remaining a rainmaker?
A: After the great recession, the legal market became a Darwinian exercise of sorts. Everyone now has to fight for their lunch, every single day. So the challenge is to not rest on the success of your last matter. If you wake up feeling complacent, you’re headed in the wrong direction. To remain a rainmaker, you must continually find ways to innovate — to do things better, faster or more efficiently than your competition, and provide value at every turn.