Why is it important for law firms to provide client development coaching for senior associates and junior partners now?
There are several reasons. Here are two:
Developing business now is more challenging than it was 25 years ago.
Today, perhaps more than ever before the competition for good clients is greater, client have greater expectations, and the time available for business development has decreased.
When I was a young partner, most lawyers developed business by doing excellent work and waiting for the phone to ring. Most clients in those days were both local and loyal. It’s way more complicated now. Through consolidation and mergers, clients that were locally owned are now part of national and international companies. So, it is more difficult to become visible to those clients.
Coaching helps lawyers transition from associate to partner.
Many senior associates and junior partners are in the transition stage of their career, moving from being solely service providers to being responsible for developing and building client relationships.
For many, that is a daunting task. They do not know where to start. As a result, they do not start, or they give up quickly when some of their efforts do not work. To the extent there is any effort at all, it is unstructured, unfocused and ultimately unsuccessful. Many lawyers procrastinate, are undisciplined, have no written plan and ultimately little or no execution.
When I was actively practicing law, I spent time helping our junior lawyers with business development, but that time was very limited. Frankly, I did not have time to analyze why some things worked for me, while others did not. Now that I am no longer busy practicing law, I have time to analyze what worked for me and why it worked.
Before I left my old law firm, I went to the leaders and told them I had peaked in my own business development efforts and offered to take 15 brand new partners and work with them on their client development. I bragged I could help the group double the collective business volume in two years.
They actually accomplished that goal in one year. I enjoyed working with our pilot group so much that I decided to leave my law firm so I could work with lawyers in other firms. I have been coaching lawyers now for the last 10 years.
If you have someone in your firm who will take the time to coach and work with your senior associates and junior partners, I think you will see both a benefit to the lawyers coached and a benefit to your firm.
Here are some thoughts on what you might do. The person who volunteers to coach should be like a fitness coach. In other words, he or she will help the participants be accountable to themselves and to the “team.” I love a quote I read several years ago in a book by Jack Canfield. The quote was from a 1998 Fast Company magazine article: WANNA BE A PLAYER? GET A COACH!
Executive coaches are not for the meek. They are for people who value unambiguous feedback. If coaches have one thing in common, it’s that they are ruthlessly results-oriented. Executive coaching isn’t therapy. It’s product development, with you as the product.
Put simply, the most important factor in the success of any coaching program is the burning desire of the participants to get better at client development and their willingness and openness to being coached. So, the first thing you must do is select the right people.
The second thing I suggest is to create both an individual effort and a team dynamic. Participants will learn what activities will provide the greatest benefit to them and then will have regularly scheduled sessions with the coach to report on activities and learn more. I have been amazed by the group dynamic. No one in the group wants to let the rest of the team down and they feed off of each other’s ideas.
In an effective coaching program, young lawyers will:
- Develop a Business Plan
- Determine both group and individual goals that will challenge, energize and stretch them
- Determine what activities to undertake to meet their goals
- Spend non-billable time more strategically and wisely
- Learn how to write articles, or blog posts and give presentations that will enhance their reputation and increase their chances of getting hired.
- Become more focused and strategic with their contacts
- Become more client focused
- Be held accountable
I wonder how many of you play golf or tennis. If you play golf or tennis, do you take lessons? If working with a professional helps you develop your game, I bet the same principles will help you become a more successful lawyer.
If you are a regular reader, you know that at Noon Eastern Today, I will be conducting a Webinar: Develop a Niche Practice and Differentiate Yourself Webinar. Participants will learn why they should consider developing a niche practice, how to pick the right niche practice and then how to market it. You can still join us if you contact email@example.com
If you are unable to join us today, think about starting a coaching group. Do you have a group of 6 lawyers who would like to participate in a 12 Month Client Development Coaching Program? If so, we can start now in October, or start in January. Contact Joyce firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s get started. Our first session will cover how to prepare an effective business plan.