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Rainmaker Q&A: Shapiro Lifschitz's Judah Lifschitz

A second-generation lawyer, Judah (Judd) Lifschitz is co-president of Shapiro Lifschitz and Schram PC in Washington, D.C., a firm that he helped establish 22 years ago. He’s a veteran trial attorney, having tried cases to verdict in virtually every type of adjudicative forum. Lifschitz has extensive knowledge of construction-related matters with particular experience in power industry construction claims. His trial experience includes winning one of the largest liquidated damages awards in the history of the construction industry. His transactional experience includes negotiating and drafting multibillion-dollar EPC contracts for new power plants and industrial facilities.

Lifschitz is an accomplished appellate advocate, having argued appeals in the Fourth, Fifth and Ninth U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals; District of Columbia U.S. Circuit Court; Federal Circuit; and in many state appellate courts as well.

Beyond the day-to-day practice, Lifschitz’s passion for furthering his knowledge and investment in the practice of law is demonstrated through having published several books and lectured extensively on construction and government contracts topics. He served on the faculty (construction law) of the Washington College of Law of American University, and also authored District of Columbia Construction Law (HLK Global Communications, 2007), a comprehensive reference book discussing the central issues arising in public and private construction in the District of Columbia.  He has served as a faculty member on various NITA courses.

Outside the practice of law, Lifschitz’s personal passion is for skillful and accomplished photography.

Q: How did you become a rainmaker?

A: Since the first day I began to practice law, I was focused on having clients. My first big break came when a large construction company purchased a client of mine. As a result of the sale, the buyer of the company retained me to protect his position against the seller. During the trial of this case, I took advantage of this opportunity and worked to build a strong relationship with the buyer. I was able to develop a strong professional bond with the buyer and after the trial was over, the buyer retained me as his lawyer. And I have continued to represent this client for over 30 years.

My father, a lawyer in private practice, taught me that the ultimate compliment for an attorney is having a client who puts his or her trust in you. Thus, from the outset of my career, I focused on achieving that goal. To do so, I worked hard to become the best lawyer I could be. And, at the same time, I sought out rainmaker mentors from whom I learned the two critical attributes of a rainmaker, which are legal competence and — more importantly — possessing and conveying a genuine concern for and dedication to the client. Following that mantra, working hard and being blessed with luck resulted in my developing a book of business early on in my career and sustaining it throughout my years in practice.

Q: How do you stay a rainmaker?

A: I dreamed of being a trial lawyer since childhood. With my father as a role model, I learned at an early age that, to be a great lawyer, it’s not sufficient just to be knowledgeable and competent. Great lawyers are perfectionists. They possess intense devotion to their clients and they are passionate about their work.

Also, I’m relationship-driven so I’m never looking for the one-time quick hit. I’m always looking for a mutually beneficial long-term relationship. This includes not only receiving business from clients but also assisting my clients in enhancing their business by leveraging my firm’s relationships in the industry. Recently, I was able to place a client in a position where they were able to secure $50 million in construction work. Another client is in line to get $100 million in construction work, in part due to my efforts as well as those of my firm.

Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring rainmaker?

A: When I talk to a young lawyer, I advise them to become the very best lawyer he or she can be. Secondly, I explain to them they are in a service industry and it’s critical as a rainmaker that they out-service the competition. At times, this can be a 24-7 endeavor and must always be done with a smile. I tell them to treat every client as if it’s your only client. Be thankful (genuinely) for every billable hour. And remember that billings are great, but collections are where it's at!

Q: Tell us a tale of landing a big client.

A: Years ago, we were selected to represent the state of New Jersey in an important case. We were competing against a large, nationally known law firm for the business. I made a strategic decision to go to the interview myself. During the interview, a representative from the state’s attorney general office asked me how my firm would be able to handle their business, pointing out the other firm had about 300 lawyers. I asked this individual if he wanted 300 lawyers working on his case. After the laughter died down, I emphasized that we had a very experienced litigation team and that I would personally be working on their case and would not delegate to a junior attorney. They chose my firm, and we went out to secure a significant victory for them.

(This article originally appeared in Law360.)