Before I begin, I want to share that I’m still looking to coach lawyers in two more law firms this year. If your firm is considering a client development coaching program for 2017, reach out to me.
I received an email this week from a lawyer I am coaching. He said:
Cordell, I know it’s important for me to have a 2017 Business Plan, but I’m stuck. I’m not sure where to start and I want to make sure my plan will help guide me.
I shared with him this blog that I posted in 2012. If you’re also stuck, I hope it will help you.
I have always learned from seeing what other lawyers were doing and then adapting the best I saw to my own situation. I believe most lawyers learn the same way.
This month I have received several requests from law firms and lawyers asking for workshop materials and plan templates I have created for lawyers.
If you or lawyers in your firm are still stuck on how to create your 2012 Business or Personal Performance Plan I hope you will find the workshop materials, plan templates, articles and workshop slides valuable.
I created detailed guides for contractors on each of the topics above and gave them away. Then, I was asked to make presentations.
Sounds like a lot of work. How did I find the time?
I never found it. I made the time. Usually from 6:00 AM to 9:00 AM on Saturdays and Sundays. I chose that time because, if Nancy wasn’t working at the hospital, she was either working out or…easing into her day, and our daughter was still asleep.
Recently, I participated in a program which included a panel of three in-house lawyers. They shared many valuable things to the lawyers who attended. One point they stressed was the importance of understanding their industry and their business.
I often say:
If you market to everyone you market to no one.
Over the years I have known many fine litigators who have told me they did not want to become “pigeon holed” into one area.
I started along the same path when I was trying to attract commercial litigation. The best moves I made were narrowing my focus and marketing efforts to construction contractors and later to the transportation construction industry.
Narrowing my focus to an industry enabled me to understand the problems and opportunities and changes contractors were dealing with, know the influencers personally, get opportunities to write in industry publications and to speak at industry events.
I was hired to help on construction projects, in part because I had studied and understood how they were designed and built.
Other professional services firms focus on industries. Large law firms are organized by practice groups based on the work they do and not on based on what the clients for whom they are working do. That is backward.
In my old firm I was asked to try and “cross sell” our labor and employment lawyers and environmental lawyers. Clearly this makes sense because the construction industry has lots of legal work in both those areas.
There was only one slight problem: None of our labor and employment or environmental lawyers understood the construction industry, much less established a reputation in the industry. They had neither written articles nor spoken at industry meetings. They had not even read construction industry publications.
How could I cross-sell their services other than on blind faith in my judgment? I often thought about what we could have accomplished if one or more lawyers in those groups had focused on the construction industry.
What do you know about your clients’ industry and their business? Find ways to continually learn more and you will become a more valued lawyer.
Years ago, our daughter Jill and I exchanged a one word description of each other. I felt great when she described me as “Encourager.” I described her as “Determined.” Among many examples of Jill’s determination is her Jui-Jitsu efforts.
I’ve coached and encouraged many, many lawyers over the last 12 years, and I mentored and encouraged many when I was practicing law.
I’ve witnessed lawyers with great potential and determination become incredibly successful. I’ve learned that I can’t motivate the unmotivated. But, I’ve been most confused by lawyers who have identified what they want in their career and life and have great potential and motivation to achieve it and then don’t go for it.
THE conflict is this: A powerful desire to achieve success is often thwarted by an even stronger fear of it.
The second line suggested the problem was more prevalent in women than men, but that was changing.
That debilitating fear of being successful, which some regarded in the 1970’s as particularly prevalent among career-minded women, increasingly appears to be an abiding problem for members of both sexes.
Two quotes also caught my attention. The first by Benjamin Franklin:
The second by George Bernard Shaw:
In my coaching and mentoring, I’ve discovered that some who fear success do so because a more senior lawyer has defined what success means. Other lawyers fear success in their career because it might take away from their family.
Some lawyers don’t want the additional responsibility. I understand. In my career what kept me up at night more than any other thing was worrying whether the lawyers I had assigned important work for important clients were doing it well.
It’s 2017. More baby boomer lawyers will retire this year.
Is your firm working to create your next generation of rainmakers? As you might imagine, I strongly believe a coaching program helps.
I like to tell people that if client development coaching had been available when I was a young lawyer I would have saved so much time just by getting feedback. I would have been far more focused and accountable.
As you may know, when I coach a group of lawyers in a firm, we meet in person for one-on-one coaching and group coaching sessions several times a year.
Recently a firm marketing director asked me what we cover in those group meetings. I invite you and your firm to “steal my stuff.” That is why I put an active link to my presentation materials. Here is the list of most requested topics:
What makes client development in 2017 different and more challenging than 10 years ago – the economy (it’s still a client’s market), clients (they are no longer local and no longer loyal) and the tools available (blogging and social media have made it easier to become visible to a target market.) We usually cover these subjects in the kick-off session.
Are you considering starting a client development coaching program in 2017?
Several years ago, I spoke and moderated a panel of Virginia lawyers I coached at the Virginia Bar Association Summer Meeting. The title of our program was Helping Lawyers Create and Expand Client Relationships in a Challenging Market.
Whenever I do a program on helping lawyers create and expand client relationships, I always encounter what I call the old school lawyers who believe lawyers either have client development skills or not. Many of those lawyers tell me that they never had client development coaching, so why should the younger lawyers in their firm.
In case you are wondering, the reason Want an Example of a Really Good Business Plan is Number 1 is that I recommend each lawyer I coach use it as a starting point for preparing his or her business plan. You could do the same for your 2017 business plan.
Suppose for the moment that we will be working together in 2017. Suppose we will have a one hour coaching session every other month. The first thing we would work on would be your 2017 Business Plan. To help you get started, here’s an exercise.
Title: Establish Your Goals
Duration: 30 Minutes
Instructions: Begin by brainstorming potential goals. Think about what you want to achieve, clients you want to serve, the type of work you want to do more of, what you want to experience, what you want to learn. After you have completed your list, think about and write down why each draft goal is important to you and when you answer, think about and write down why your answer is important to you.
In other words seek to determine what is motivating you to achieve the draft goal. From your list, determine which goal is your major definite purpose/most important goal. Based on understanding why achieving other draft goals is important, decide on which of the others should be part of your plan.
Title: Develop Your Action Steps
Duration: 15 minutes
Instructions: For each goal determine the actions you will need and want to take to achieve the goal. Additionally for each goal, determine what action step you will take in the next week.
Title: Begin Work on Your Plan
Duration: 15 minutes
Instructions: Determine how much time you plan to commit to non-billable activities over the next year. Then determine how much of that time you will spend on your professional development, firm activities, pro bono services and client development. For each category, prepare a draft list of action items you could do in the allocated time.
I think of this often, because I have met many lawyers who quit learning because they “know it all.” It is like they go on cruise control with their careers. More importantly, I have met many lawyers who quit learning because they think they “know it all,” when if the truth be known, they don’t.
Since we are on the subject of basketball, I read a very interesting story about Kobe Bryant. What Mozart and Kobe Bryant Can Teach Us About Deliberate Practice. (I guess it is also about Mozart, but…). Kobe Bryant clearly knows all there is to know about shooting jump shots. But, read the part where Robert, a trainer for Team USA, describes his first experience with Kobe and reveals one of the reasons the superstar has become so successful. You will find that Kobe practiced very deliberately with the clear goal of making 800 jump shots before finishing.
Jeff Pollock is a successful litigator in Fox Rothschild’s Princeton office. If you look at his bio, you will see he has received many honors for his legal skills and work. He is a prime example of a lawyer who is continuing to learn even after he arguably knows it all. I asked Jeff to share with you thoughts on continual learning.
Because there were few trials at my first firm, I started reading everything I could on trial practice and appellate advocacy (Thomas Mauet on Trial Techniques; McElhaney’s Trial Notebook; Tererence MacCarthy’s books and Cassettes on Cross-Examination; Francis Wellman’s Art of Cross-Examination, etc.)
I also attended the NITA Trial Training Course and then the Advanced NITA Trial Training Course.
I attended Brian Garner’s programs on Legal writing because they not only help with writing, but also with framing the issue—which is the heart of great appellate advocacy.
I also reached out at Inns of Court meetings and at ABA Litigation dinners to Judges I had appeared before and explained that I wanted to really improve my trial practice and appellate advocacy skills. I asked them to let me know when they had trials, so that I could just sit in the back and observe.
Twenty years ago I began collecting any law review/journal or bar publication articles on trial practice, selecting a jury, voir dire, openings, closing, cross-examination. In particular I am constantly looking for articles and explanations about the theory and policy behind the rules of evidence.
For each major appeal or trial, I talk to anyone who will listen about the matter to get their take on the issue, on the other side’s argument, and on what would be decisive to them.
I do mock trials and appellate “murder boards” for each major case. After presenting the case, I shut up because I want the people in the room to talk openly about what I just offered as the argument. It is critical that I not defend my approach as otherwise there will not be a real discussion.
Some lawyers ask me why I am constantly reading books and articles. When I practiced law, I had “healthy paranoia” which drove me to strive to become a better lawyer.
In my current work with lawyers, the answer can be found in chapter 3 of You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned,” where Swen Nator mentions the context of Coach Wooden continually learning. He writes that Coach Wooden said:
“The purpose of self-improvement is, of course, to help students improve. [The coach] must continually be exploring for ways to improve himself in order that he may improve others . . .”
Watch Bill Walton explain how Coach Wooden was the master teacher.
I love helping lawyers improve and that provides me with a great incentive to improve myself. I gave up practicing law so I could spend more time doing it.
Over the years, I received handwritten notes and emails from lawyers I’ve coached who have become incredibly successful. I feel each of those lawyer would have been successful had they never met me. But maybe, just maybe I helped them achieve their success more easily.
I hope you have found something you can implement from my posts this year. If so let me know what you are “deliberately practicing.”
Melissa isn’t the only lawyer I coach who finds a way to work their passion outside of law into their practice.
As you will see below, there’s a lot of potential reading and watching if you click on the links. Think about it when you have the bowl game that no one including you cares about on your television screen.
How to Use Hobbies for Client Development
Two lawyers I coached, one in DC the other in Los Angeles, used Trapeze to entertain their women clients.
A lawyer I coached from Houston, created a pick up basketball league and a tennis league. He also entertains clients at Houston Rockets basketball games.