Client Development Coaching

Does your law firm have a client development coaching program? In my experience only a handful of firms are investing in helping young lawyers develop those skills.

If your firm thinks it is valuable for your younger lawyers to attract, retain and expand relationships with clients, here are some client development skills you might consider teaching them.

Junior Associates:

  1. Dress for Success
  2. Business Etiquette
  3. How to Network
  4. How to Remember Names
  5. Active Listening Skills
  6. Systematic Ways to Keep in Contact
  7. What Clients Want and Expect
  8. Taking Control of Your Career
  9. How to Set Goals and Prepare a Development Plan
  10. Using Non-Billable Time Wisely

Senior Associates:

  1. Client Development Principles and Practical Tips
  2. Building Profile:
    (a) Your Website Bio;
    (b) Writing Articles that Will Generate Business:
    (c) Presentations the Will Generate Business;
    (d) Joining Organizations and Associations;
    (e) How to Follow Up After an Event
  3. Building Relationships with Clients:
    (a) How Clients Select;
    (b) What Clients Want;
    (c) Learning the Voice of the Client;
    (d) Thinking Like a Client;
    (e) How to ask questions;
    (f) Client Service;
    (g) Building Trust;
    (h) Building Rapport;
    (i) Personality Traits;
    (j) Following Up After Completing Project
  4. RFPs and Client Pitches
  5.  Client Interviews

New Partners:

  1. Coaching Program-Group and Individual: (a) Setting a Group Goal; (b) Developing Action Items to Achieve the Group Goal; (c) Accountability
  2. How to Prepare a Business Development Plan: (a) Setting Business Development Goals; (b) Developing Action Items to Achieve the Goals; (c) Making Client Development Part of Habits
  3. StrengthsFinder and How Each Can Best Use Time
  4. Becoming the “Go to” Lawyer
  5. Delegating and Building the Team
  6. Cross Serving
  7. Client Visits
  8. Selling Skills
  9. Becoming a Trusted Advisor
  10. Client Development Mistakes to Avoid
  11. Dealing with Difficult Clients

 

Does your firm have anyone helping to develop the next generation of rainmakers?

Our firm didn’t have anyone, so I started coaching our new partners. I loved that work so much that I gave up my big partnership draw, left my law firm and started coaching lawyers full-time.

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Over more than 12 years, I’ve figured out what I’ve done to  help the lawyers with whom I have worked:

  1. Identifying what is the lawyer’s definition of success
  2. Planning and goal setting to achieve the success
  3. Figuring out each lawyer’s major strengths and offering ideas and best practices on how to use those strengths
  4. Answering questions and providing feedback and suggestions
  5. Accountability: Pushing each member and the group to attain group and individual goals.
  6. Overcoming challenges.
  7. Role playing and experiential learning
  8. Presentation/communication/writing articles and blogs skills
  9. Understanding how clients select lawyers and how to be considered and selected
  10. Networking, developing relationships and converting those relationships into business
  11. Understanding what clients want and how to give it to them.
  12. Referral to outside sources on career and client development
  13. Opportunities for team building and cross-selling

Do you remember I recently wrote about the difference between teaching and coaching?

As you will see, the first six actions are in the coaching portion of the program and the last seven actions are in the training and teaching portion of the program.

I loved my law practice. I loved my clients. I appreciated what I was being paid, which was more than I ever dreamed possible.  But, there’s nothing better than receiving a hand-written note from a lawyer I coached several years ago, describing how the lawyer has become a top rainmaker, or leader in their firm.

If you know me, you know why that is so valuable to me.

I like to tell lawyers I coach that the difference between a teacher and a coach is:

A teacher will give you the right answers. A coach will ask you the right questions.

My goal in coaching is to help lawyers change and become more focused and purposeful about their client development efforts. I realize from my own experience that change is extremely difficult, especially for lawyers who are busy doing work for clients. I also realize that becoming more focused and purposeful is much easier if you have someone helping you.

I ask questions to get to know the lawyers I coach. I want to know their unique strengths, their unique experiences, what motivates them, what unique challenges they face and what client development activities they have done before they met me.

I frequently look for a good definition of a coach. Recently I saw this one:

What is a coach? “Part therapist, part consultant, part motivational expert, part professional organizer, part friend, part nag — the personal coach seeks to do for your life what a personal trainer does for your body.”

~MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL STAR-TRIBUNE

I think lawyers with whom I have worked would say at any given time I have taken on each of the roles described above.

Some time ago, I enjoyed reading The Harvard Business Review Blog: Five Coaching Strengths that Produce Champions. The writer focuses on coaching olympians and concludes that the most important of the five coaching contributions was:

build a strong coach-athlete relationship

I believe that also applies to client development coaching I do with lawyers. The lawyers who have been most successful working with me have allowed me to get to know them and we maintain a strong relationship years after the coaching program ends.

Create Your Own Client Development Coaching Group

I’ve written many times that if your firm is not willing to provide a client development coach, like me, get a group together and coach each other.

If you would like, I’ll make myself available by webinar for your first group meeting and share with you how to get the most out of working together.

 

 

I could answer by simply saying that every lawyer I have coached wishes he or she had started focusing on client development earlier in their career. But, let me give my own example.

Is your firm providing client development coaching for it next generation?

I tell law firm leaders that when I was growing up I played baseball every day during the summer. I played all the way through college.

I have not swung a baseball bat in 30 years or more. If I went to a batting cage today, I am not positive I would hit the ball, but I am postive I would not think about the technique of my swing.

On the other hand, I never played golf when I was young. I played for the first time when I was in law school. Now, 40 plus years later, when I stand over a golf ball, I am still thinking about all the things I need to do—technique.

If baseball and golf analogies do not resonate with you, think about driving. If you drove to work today, did you think about technique: I need to brake now, I need to put my turn signal on now? I bet you did those things naturally.

Then think back when you were in drivers’ ed. When you drove then, I am confident you thought about what you needed to do. It was not natural like it is today.

Becoming a rainmaker and generating business takes the same kind of practice. The earlier in your career you can work on client development and learn how to do it, the sooner client development and people skills will come naturally to you.

If you start now, at some point when you are meeting with a potential client, or giving a presentation, or attending a networking event, you will not think about your technique.

So, if your firm offers a program to help you become a rainmaker, jump at the chance to participate. Who knows, maybe we’ll get a chance to work on it together.

You likely have potential rainmakers in your firm that you are overlooking. You might even have concluded these lawyers are not motivated to make rain.

I have learned from coaching lawyers that there is more than one way to be be motivated. I will show you by telling you the tale of two lawyers. For purposes of this discussion, I will call one of them Sandra and the other one Jill. I bet you know lawyers who are like each of them.

Sandra is a go getter. She is very upbeat and has high energy. She is obviously highly motivated and very focused on her goals. She is very positive and very competitive. She is creative and willing to take risks on client development, but sometimes she is not very strategic using her time. She sets stretch goals and achieves them. When she achieves a goal she is highly charged. If she finds anything she believes she will not do well, she simply does not try doing it.

Jill, is much different. While she is highly motivated, she is not as positive. She does well and succeeds because she does not want to look like she doesn’t know something. She likes to say that she fears that her clients may come to realize that she is not the expert that she appears to be. She is very focused and not easily distracted. She is very detail oriented. She values getting it right more than getting it done quickly. She struggles with being a perfectionist. When she achieves a goal instead of being charged up, she is actually relieved.

Winston Churchill said it well:

The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

Sandra is the optimist and Jill the pessimist. Some law firm leaders or marketing professionals may believe that Sandra will easily become a rainmaker and Jill will never become a rainmaker.

I am sharing this story simply to tell you that both can become successful rainmakers, but  you cannot coach and motivate them the same way. If you try and use the power of positive thinking with Jill, it will not motivate her.

So, how would you motivate Jill to become a rainmaker in your firm? If you want some ideas read: Getting Others to Embrace Risk by Heidi Grant Halvorson. If you want even more ideas, read her book.

A few years ago I gave a presentation to the Legal Marketing Association Southwest Chapter meeting in Phoenix. My topic was: Developing the Next Generation of Rainmakers: Create Your Own Client Development Coaching Program.

I shared my ideas on these topics with the audience:

  • How to convince skeptical partners to train and develop the next generation
  • Why client development coaching
  • How to structure a successful program

I coach many different lawyers. Each lawyer is unique with different talents, passions and challenges. One of the most important things I can do as a coach is help each lawyer find what will work most effectively for him or her.

Many lawyers I coach come into the coaching with pre-conceived stereotypes of rainmakers and fear they cannot be successful because they are not like that stereotype. My job is to help those lawyers see their own path to success. Taking StrengthsFinder 2.0 is a great help.

Andrea Anderson, a Holland & Hart partner shared that her greatest take away from coaching was developing self confidence that she could be successful using her own unique strengths, Take a listen in this short podcast excerpt.

Anderson Andrea.jpgAndrea Anderson Podcast

Andrea made clear that you can become successful discovering and then focusing on your strengths. She did it and so can you.

I’ve coached well over 1000 lawyers since I left my law firm and started coaching in other firms in 2005. I believe most, if not all the lawyers I have coached would like to attract, retain and expand relationships with clients.

Why are some of the lawyers I’ve coached successful and others are not? Many who do not succeed are really only saying they wish they could attract more clients.

Those who succeed do it a variety of ways. In some cases there’s luck of being in right place at the right time. In some cases there is luck of being born in the right family, marrying into the right family or having a friend who created a billion dollar company.

But, for most of lawyers I have coached who attracted major clients, they did it the old fashioned way.

They were motivated and worked hard, like an athlete training each and every day, and not seeing immediate results.

Fitness woman

 

I read an interesting Psychology Today article titled: Don’t Let Your Thinking Sabotage Your Goals, written by David Ludden, Ph.D. Please take a look because the writer treats the motivation to lose weight as I just explained above about the motivation to attract clients. Then, Ludden writes:

According to University of Chicago psychologist Oleg Urminsky, a sense of connectedness to the future self is essential for achieving long-term goals. (My emphasis)…

Urminsky considers his idea of connectedness to the future within the larger context of a well-documented phenomenon in behavioral economics known as time discounting. This occurs when people discount the value of a resource when there’s a delay in receiving it. For instance, if I offer you $120 now or $180 a year from now, you’ll most likely take the smaller-but-sooner option over the larger-but-later one.

Therein lies the problem, client development and attracting clients is a long term process. It requires lots of hard work for which there is no pay, and no immediate benefit. I know it took me two years of work, work, work before the first construction client called me.

I’ll leave you with one final example. I coached a lawyer 10 years ago. When I began coaching her, she had a very small amount of business in her column.

Recently she wrote to me and told me that a few years ago, she had set a goal of originating $3 million by the time she was a certain age. She told me she had reached and even exceeded her goal in 2016.

How did she achieve this awesome goal? Just as the motivation article suggests, she saw herself as a $3 million originator by a certain age, then she broke it down into smaller chunks and worked each year to get closer and closer to her long term goal.

 

Seth Godin posted a really short, to the point interesting blog on January 20. The title: Everyone is better than you are… Take a moment to read it, at least the last line because in that one sentence he describes how to be successful at client development.

His blog reminds me of his book: Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

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He makes many great, thought provoking points in the book. Here is one of them:

Perhaps your challenge isn’t finding a better project or a better boss. Perhaps you need to get in touch with what it means to feel passionate. People with passion look for ways to make things happen.

And here is another, explaining what it takes to be a linchpin.

The combination of passion and art is what makes someone a linchpin.

When I was a young associate, a partner in my first firm unknowingly gave me about the best piece of advice I have ever received. He said:

Cordell, you are a very smart lawyer. After all you finished third in your law school class. But, smart lawyers graduate from law school every year and they are easily replaced by other smart lawyers. Your success in this firm will depend more on how well you attract, retain and expand relationships with clients. Lawyers with those skills are indispensable.

Are you busy doing the work for senior lawyers in your firm and hoping they appreciate your work so much that it will be ok for you to never have clients of your own? I hope not. If you want to become indispensable:

  1. What are you learning about client development?
  2. What are you doing to attract new clients?
  3. What are you doing to exceed your clients expectations and create value for them?
  4. What are you doing to build relationships with your clients and with partners in your law firm?
  5. What are you doing to become a linchpin?

Are you in a small or medium sized law firm? If so you will want to read a report I saw recently:

How Small Law Firms Succeed Under the Pressure of Today’s Challenges … or Fail: 2016 State of U.S. Small law firms Study.  (Note: You have to fill out some information to get the study).

In the study, small law firm leaders identified their top challenges:

  1. Challenges acquiring new client business
  2. Client rate pressure/clients wanting more for less
  3. Spending too much time on administrative tasks

What are the most successful small firms doing differently?

In essence, the study shows that among “lawyer entrepreneurs,” simple goals allow each firm to fill in unique strategies to get there…

It is this same opportunity for entrepreneurship that will likely help position small law for greater growth in the coming years…

By contrast, successful firms are differentiating themselves – building a brand, leveraging it to win
new business, and investing in the firm’s future. Less successful or unsuccessful firms, on the other hand, are instead trying to cut their way to profitability.

If you are a long time regular reader, you know I believe:

  1. About 10% of the business out there is “bet the company” and whoever is perceived to be the top lawyer/law firm will get that business.
  2. About 30% of the business out there is price sensitive meaning clients will do it themselves or whoever is willing to do it at the cheapest price will get it.
  3. About 60% of the work out there will go to lawyers the potential client knows, likes and trusts.

Small firms should be actively seeking that 60%. Attracting those clients is based on building trust based relationships.

When I practiced law, my clients were my friends and my friends were my clients. Recently, Nancy and I were on vacation in Cabo San Lucas. There were five couples. Three were clients from my law practice and the fourth was the brother and his wife of one of those clients.

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Tomorrow  Nancy and I will travel to Phoenix where I will begin coaching lawyers in a firm there.

On Saturday, we’ll eat dinner with a lawyer I coached several years ago, her husband and three kids. Every time we go to Phoenix we see them. On Sunday, we’ll eat dinner with, you guessed it, a former client and his wife.

If you are a small firm, are you investing in your firm’s future?  If you are interested, I know I can help develop your next generation of rainmakers.

 

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:

I strongly believe your lawyers will be better able to attract, retain and expand relationships with clients, if you make these topics part of your client development coaching program.