At a presentation to lawyers and marketing people this week at the LMA Triad City Group, I was talking about best practices. I didn’t just suggest tips for those activities that work best IMHO, or planning action items around them, but pointing out that in my experience the biggest obstacle to lawyer business development is the implementation phase. So, I suggested that they engage a coach (or as some refer to the role as a nag).

A lawyer from the host firm approached me after my talk and mentioned that, as a member of the marketing committee, implementation was their firm’s biggest problem. So, I suggested he get a coach to help. And I told him that the coach doesn’t need to be an outside consultant.

The coach could be another lawyer within the firm. Ideally, someone who has been there and done that. Or the coach could be a colleague who wants to succeed as much as you do, and will agree to be your coach, and you theirs. In the case of solos, you could find another non-competing solo or a friend in a small firm to serve in that role.

The idea is to meet on a set day and time weekly, or at least bi-weekly to share ideas, and for each to report on actions completed since the last meeting. Personally, once a month is too infrequent and results in losing momentum.

On point is today’s meditation from 365 Marketing Mediations: Daily Lessons for Marketing & Communications Professionals by Larry Smith and Richard Levick which consists of just four words:

"Discussions are not actions."

Indeed. Discussions about developing business, and developing action plans are not the crucial actions that count. So, get a coaching program launched in your firm to ensure your business development plans are actually implemented.

What I especially like about Seth Godin is his pithy posts which plant plenty of powerful (p)ideas in my pons (part of brainstem). Okay, I didn’t do that well on that one, but heck it’s only Tuesday. The point is that his recent brief post about “The Buddy System” got me thinking about a modified coaching program.

He suggests that you get another person to write your business plan or resume for you. Not a close friend but a “friend of a friend” who will listen to your story, ask questions and then write up what they hear you saying you want (1) to accomplish and (2) convey about yourself in your marketplace. Preferably that person will have the similar need and you can reciprocate. He calls the friend a “document-buddy.” I might call them a “reciprocal coach.”

A good business coach helps prepare your plan, your bio, action ideas, etc. In addition, he or she will kick you in the butt (errr, nag you in a friendly way) to get you out there implementing the ideas you have agreed upon. However, Godin’s system may just help young lawyers who aren’t in a position to hire their own coach. The buddy system could be considered an affordable coaching arrangement whereby two lawyers could assist each other – at least in the document preparation stage – if not in the nagging role as well.

It’s an idea worth considering. 

In my almost twenty-five years as a legal marketer, the biggest drawback to success in developing business has been the failure by lawyers to follow through on the strategies they develop. I’ve seen lawyers make stellar efforts in planning effective goals and objectives, only then to fail for the lack of implementation.

That’s where a coach comes in. You can use my search engine to the right and type in “coach” or “coaching” and see a slew of posts on the topic; and how a coach can help you develop business faster and more effectively. But, a coach can’t do it alone.

Last week, Ann Daly had a post on her blog identifying four factors that result in coaching failures.  As you can see, the reasons she mentions ain’t the coach’s fault. They include:

  • Squeezing in coaching calls and not focusing because of other distractions;
  • Expecting unrealistic results from the coach;
  • Failing to follow through with agreed-upon action items; and
  • Agreeing to new ideas and approaches, but hanging on to “broken habits of thinking.”

If you are not committed to avoiding these pitfalls, you’re not ready to hire a coach.

In a word, YES. Your coach could be a fellow lawyer in your firm, or another solo (who in turn you could coach), or it could be someone else. Basically, the purpose is to engage a friendly, experienced person to offer ideas and remind you (some might refer to it as nagging) to do the things you said you would do. But, if you are serious about developing business, you’d be well-advised to get a coach.

Ed Poll of LawBiz Management Company has an article in LawyersUSA (subscription required) in which he succinctly explains what a coach (vs. mentor or consultant) really does:

“Coaching is not an episodic engagement – that’s consulting. And a coach is not a senior mentor who, while cruising at 35,000 feet, offers career advice to a junior one. Rather, coaching is the development of a career-long team approach to identifying problems and overcoming them. A good coach operates at ground level to provide life and practice-enhancing guidance, identifying roadblocks as they are encountered and working to remove them. A coach provides both accountability and support by holding the lawyer accountable and candidly focusing on solutions and deadlines.”

I’ve found over the years that lawyers, being analytical and all, can really get into planning their marketing goals and objectives, but often fail miserably when it comes to actually implementing their “plan.” Occasionally, there may even be a good reason, but generally they turn out to be excuses for failing to execute their strategies that would grow their practice.

As Poll also points out, in another article on coaching that “Coaches do not have all the answers, but they provide an on-going sounding board for your problems, questions, and ideas.”

So, do you still think that a coach wouldn’t be able to help you grow your practice?

Now is a good time to consider gearing up your business development efforts. One way to do that is to hire a coach. And a post over on Jamie Field – Enlightened Rainmaking mentions six reasons for doing so:

  1. Even superstars have coaches, certainly all pro golfers do, as well as CEOs and other top producers (as I have mentioned before);
  2. good coaches provide valuable feedback and help keep you on the right track;
  3. coaches help strategize and develop action plans for you;
  4. keep you on target by ensuring focus and avoiding distractions;
  5. hold you accountable, (or what I like to refer to as friendly nagging);
  6. be both a cheerleader and booster, as needed.

Actually, there is a seventh reason for hiring a coach:

         7. I could use a few more good clients (oops, sorry about that).

There are many good coaches out there, and the most critical factors to take into consider in hiring a coach include:

  • what is their experience in dealing with lawyers,
  • do they understand your area (s) of practice,
  • what do the references say about their services, and
  • most importantly, is the chemistry right between you.

Some lawyers prefer that their coach meet with them in person, while others find that coaching sessions by telephone work just fine. Each lawyer should determine what would work best for them.

The important thing is that a coach can help you focus, plan and provide valuable support in your business development efforts. Give it some thought.

Recently, I had the privilege of being interviewed about coaching and other business development topics by Cole Silver for his Expert Audio Series.  It was a lot of fun.  So, for those who care to listen to the golden vocal cords of yours truly, give it a go. (aw, come on, I know you’ve just been dying to hear me sound off on my various (mis)guided theories on all things marketing and business development.)

So, if you have 29 minutes to waste ………. errrrr, invest over lunch or your morning coffee, check out my coaching interview with Cole.  Some of what we talked about included:

  • Why coaching works
  • How it overcomes lawyers’ reluctance to develop business
  • How to select a coach
  • What coaching process entails
  • Why client visits and feedback programs work, and can lead to immediate business
  • How selling really works

What the heck.  You may actually get something out of it.  Give it a shot.

I’ve had a series of posts (here, here and here) on the issue of how law schools have failed to prepare their graduates for the real world of practicing law. How sad. But I don’t see very many institutions of “higher” learning changing how they prepare lawyers for the practice of law any time soon. So what is the solution? Coaching!

Ed Poll of Lawbiz Blog has an article in this month’s Law Practice Today  entitled “Coaches Teach What Law Schools Don’t” which is right on point. I wanted to share a couple of Ed’s comments:

“Law school does not teach lawyers how to effectively interact with clients; law school does not teach lawyers how to efficiently manage their practices; law school does not teach lawyers how to become good rainmakers or make money. CLE programs generally do not offer or approve programs in these skills. Lawyers learn them, if at all, from the ‘School of Hard Knocks.’”

Coaches can help overcome those shortcomings, and law schools, as I have said before, should be embarrassed for not having done so. Ed concludes by recognizing that coaches don’t have all the answers:

“…Rather, it is that they provide an on-going sounding board for your problems, questions, and ideas. Coaching provides instant support and feedback through regular meetings that often can be conducted by phone. I believe you must look at coaching through the eyes of "investment" … investment in yourself. You should engage a coach from the point you decide you want to be successful.”

Well said. If you want to read about other things you should look for in a coach, take a look at some advice from one of my earlier posts by ….

Continue Reading Coaching Can Help Achieve What Law Schools Failed to Teach

All lawyers know that law schools did not prepare them for the practical side of practicing law. That is especially true when it comes to developing business in order to sustain a law practice. This has been a pet peeve of mine for years, and I have commented on that in several posts on my Legal Marketing Blog. Coaching is one way to overcome the lack of formal schooling in marketing.

Even for more experienced attorneys, coaching can assist in taking their practice to the next level. This point was made in a 2005 Harvard Business Review article entitled "What an Executive Coach Can Do for You," where it was stated:

 

"Coaching was once viewed by many as a tool to help correct underperformance, today it is becoming more widely used in supporting top producers."

 

What can a coach do to help you develop and build your practice? Simply put, a coach can:

 

  • Help provide focus and direction (and redirection when needed),
  • Help to plan an approach or strategy,
  • Reinforce and bolster your marketing ideas,
  • Be a source of new ideas or approaches,
  • Keep you on track and motivated, and
  • Most importantly, can be a friendly nag to see that your business development efforts pay off.

So, if you want to grow your business development skills, consider hiring a coach (with whom you can develop a rapport) in order to produce more legal business for you and your firm.

 

The benefits to you in using a coach will include:

  • A focus on the business development skills you enjoy and are best at
  • Spotlight on realistic objectives,
  • Help overcome any unwanted habits,
  • Motivate and hold you accountable,
  • Regularly scheduled (weekly or monthly) telephone conferences to encourage and provide a course of action, and
  • Provide for new and different strategies and techniques.

To learn more about my views on coaching, click on the Expert Audio Series button on the Home page to listen to my interview with Cole Silver; and take a look at some of my posts on the subject, for example:

 

Call (336) 833-5450 today for more details about the coaching program, or email: TKane@KaneConsultingInc.com.

 

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