A friend read my blog Tuesday: 7 Questions to Answer to Develop a Successful Client Development Coaching Program and asked me to answer the questions I posed.

She said she wanted my “Client Development Coaching for Dummies” answers. She finally convinced me to answer the seven questions.

  1. Setting a group goal creates a team. One lawyer I coached said his group felt like a firm within the firm. The hope is that no one will want to let the team down.
  2. Agreeing on 25 action items makes the goal more focused. Goals without actions are like New Years Resolutions that never get done. It also provides a talking point for each group meeting. “How are you doing on those 25 action items?”
  3. Creating a plan forces the lawyer to start thinking strategically and how best to use his/her time. I want the lawyers to have something to aim at and know when they are off-course.
  4. We break down the yearly plan into 60 or 90 days actions because it is more likely the participants will do the activities if they are in smaller chunks. It also provides for accountability when I have the telephone coaching sessions with them between the in person sessions. My beginning agenda item is a report on how they are doing on their 60 or 90 days action plans.
  5. When they share their plans with me, I have “nagging” rights. Again, my goal is to find ways for each participant to be accountable.
  6. Reporting monthly is one more way to be accountable. When the reporting is on a portal page or in an email that is shared with the group and with a firm leader, no one wants to have nothing to report. It also enables me to keep up with what each lawyer is doing, which makes the coaching sessions more focused.
  7. I have to build a personal relationship to better understand the lawyer’s unique talents, opportunities, and challenges. I also must earn their trust to be able to help them find the path that will work best for them.

I hope this is helpful.

I suspect that if you have not started a client development coaching program in your firm for this year, you are not likely to start one now.

How about 2018? Let me share one analogy to argue in favor of a coaching program in your firm. Have you ever had a workout trainer? When I worked out with a trainer, I was focused, I did more than any other time, and I was in the best physical condition of my life.

A coach will provide the same motivation and focus for your lawyers. I’m thinking about retiring at the end of this year, so let me give you some ideas on how to get the most out of a coaching program.

A law firm marketing director recently ask me how to make a client development coaching program successful. As you know, my first response is always to select lawyers who want to be in the program and develop business. If you select the right lawyers to participate, then you are ready for the next steps.

When I coach a group of lawyers in a firm, we set a group goal and decide on 25 action items to achieve the goal. Each member of the coaching group sets individual goals and prepares a plan to achieve them.

Each time when we meet in person each member of the group create action plans (goals) for the next 60 or 90 days.

Members of the group share their plans with me and in some cases with the other members of the group. Each month, each member of the coaching group reports on what he or she has done that month.

Some firms put the reports on a coaching group portal page and other firms send an email with the photo of each person in the group and his or her report by the photo.

Some of you might be asking or wondering:

  1. Why do I have the coaching group set a group goal?
  2. Why do I ask the participants to agree on 25 action items?
  3. Why do I encourage each person to set his or her own goals and create a business plan?
  4. Why do we break down the actions to 90 days action plans?
  5. Why do I encourage each member of the group to share with me what his or client development plans are?
  6. Why do I encourage each member of the group to report monthly what client development activities he or she has done, and why that report is published?
  7. Why is building a personal relationship with each lawyer so important?

You may wonder what I love the most about coaching younger lawyers. It’s really pretty simple. Each young lawyer I have coached has unique talents, unique goals, unique challenges. The great joy I experience coaching is when a lawyer has an aha moment and figures out the way to achieve his or her unique goals.

Many of you reading this blog had that moment when we worked together and you personally know what I love about my work.

Ok, if your firm is thinking about a client development coaching program, If you answer these questions you will have some good thoughts on how to make client development coaching successful.

 

How many times has a more senior lawyer told you that client development is about building relationships?

I heard that throughout my career and likely you have also.  Maya Angelou summed up one key ingredient in building relationships:

 

I recently posted a blog that touched on this point: Lawyers: To Attract Clients Should You Be Interesting or Interested? If you have an extra minute, I urge you to read that post again. You will find the famous William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli story there. Both were prime ministers during Queen Victoria’s reign in the late 1800s.

As you might recall the story is about a young woman who sat next to each gentleman at dinner on consecutive  nights. After the two dinners she reportedly said:

When I left the dining room after sitting next to Mr. Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest man in England,” she said. “But after sitting next to Mr. Disraeli, I thought I was the cleverest woman in England.

I want you to picture the dinner conversation each night. I wonder how many times Gladstone began a sentence with the word “I.”

Do you think the young woman actually got a word in during the conversation? If she said anything, do you think Gladstone actually listened, paid attention and responded?

I suspect Disraeli approached the conversation differently. I suspect he frequently used the word “you.” I bet he asked many questions in order to get to know the young woman.

As important, I bet he actually listened intently and took what he heard to further the conversation.

Lawyers tell me they do not want to be thought of like a used car salesman. I would never want a potential client or contact to think of me that way. Suppose you are meeting with someone for lunch, are you talking about:

  • You
  • Your firm
  • Your last case or transaction
  • Anything else about you, you you
Instead are you asking questions about:
  • Him/Her
  • His/Her company
  • The company’s issues
  • What you read about the company
  • His/Her family
Are you truly listening? Are you making eye contact? Are you smiling and warm? I will leave you with a quote attributed to Disraeli:
The greatest good you can do for another is not to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.

As you know, I spent a month in San Miguel de Allende learning Spanish. I actually learned more than Spanish. For the first time in a very long time I was forced to listen. Listening to questions or statements in Spanish took a lot of energy. That experience made me realize I was not listening as well when someone speaks to me in English.

You don’t have a month to go somewhere and learn how to listen. I searched and found an article that might help you listen more effectively: 10 Steps To Effective Listening.

Greetings from New York City. I’m here today to sit in on an all day workshop titled: FIND THE STORY BENEATH THE SURFACE. New York Editor. Donald Maass, is the presenter.  I heard him speak in Dallas a couple of years ago and I was so impressed that I bought his books, and traveled to New York to hear him speak today.

I heard him speak in Dallas a couple of years ago and I was so impressed that I bought his books, and traveled to New York to hear him speak today. He definitely stands out in the crowd of editors and speakers at writers conferences.

With that in mind, I’m writing a series of posts on standing out from the crowd.

As I was thinking about this post, a lawyer I coached sent me a message on LinkedIn about Verrill Dana lawyers whose niche practice is representing breweries. They write a blog titled: Lawyers on Tap, which as best I can de

Seth Godin recently posted a blog titled: Be the Different One. It’s short, take a moment to read it.

I have shared parts of this story before, but it bears repeating. While I was on active duty in the USAF, I represented the Air Force in government contract litigation against some of the top defense contractors and top government contract lawyers.

In 1976, as I was planning the next phase of my life and career, I received offers from large defense contractors to go in-house and from DC law firms with government contracts practices. I chose something different and Nancy and I came to Roanoke, Virginia where there wasn’t a government contractor for miles and miles.

I became a commercial litigator, like at least a dozen or more Roanoke lawyers. Then, I decided to focus on construction law, representing contractors. (I believe I was the first construction lawyer in Roanoke. Now there are several.)

 

The whole idea of being the different one was made clear to me when I was asked to be on a Public Contracts law panel at the 1981 ABA Annual Meeting. During a conference call, each panel member was asked to describe their topic. When I responded I would be talking about highway construction contract disputes, the panel chair said:

Cordell, no one cares about that topic.

I can’t remember exactly how I felt when he put down my topic, but I do remember that after my presentation, I knew I was on to a great practice, because he had probably been right-the lawyers attending that meeting probably did not care about my topic.

I was indeed the different one, and it paid off over the next 30 years of my career.

What’s a different practice now?

School started yesterday in Prosper, Texas. As I was cruising Facebook I noticed several Windsong Ranch moms posted photos of their kids who are seniors and titled them the last, first day of school.

One mother lamented that no one posted the last first day of work. I could be at that point. In 2010, I coached 125 lawyers and I was on the road every month. Since I left my law practice in 2005, I have never coached as few lawyers as I am coaching in 2017.

So, maybe January 2, 2017 was my last first day of work. We’ll see.

I practiced law a long time. I’ve coached lawyers for over 12 years. I’ve seen and coached a lot of rainmakers.

At the risk of overgeneralizing, here are some traits I have observed:

  1. Most rainmakers have the right attitude Most rainmakers have a “can do” attitude. That enables them to persist when others quit. They are not like the pessimist described by Winston Churchill.
  2. Most rainmakers are really good lawyers They may not be the smartest lawyer in their field but they have focused on always getting better and becoming the best lawyer they can be.
  3. Most rainmakers are genuinely likeable They connect well with other people in large part because they are able to convey they really care. They are empathetic and understand the other person’s point of view. They are good listeners. They are able to build trust and rapport quickly. They are open and friendly.
  4. Most rainmakers have a confidence inspiring personality Clients need to feel you can take care of their problem. They are entrusting something really important to them in your hands. Rainmakers are able to instill confidence.
  5. Most rainmakers are willing to get outside their comfort zone I believe real achievement occurs when you stretch and try something that is uncomfortable.
  6. Finally and perhaps most importantly, rainmakers know what they want, they know what their clients need and they deliver value and exceed expectations. It all starts with knowing what they want and having a burning desire to achieve it and then using their non-billable time wisely.

There is nothing magical about the traits in the list above. I know some traits may not come naturally to everyone. When I was practicing law, I worked harder on those that did not come naturally to me. You can follow that path also.

Two final points:

  1. Rainmaking skills can be developed. You don’t have to be born with them. I know because I certainly was not born with innate rainmaking skills. Many of you also know because you have worked to build your profile and relationships with clients and referral sources.
  2. You don’t have to be an extrovert who is the life of every party or event. That doesn’t mean you can just hide in your comfort zone. Be willing to engage people.

I didn’t think of empathy when I decided to learn Spanish. Yet, as I tried to speak to people in San Miguel de Allende, I understood more about them than if I was speaking to them in English.

When I got home, I found a recent Fast Company article: Can Learning Another Language Boost Your Empathy? There is an interesting study of kids learning a second language the parents among you might find interesting. I found this quote that applied to me while I was in San Miguel.

Learning another language, it seems, may nudge us into territory where we can’t help but slow down–where we need to seek understanding and commonalities in order to communicate.

I definitely slowed down, as I was processing what the other person was saying to me in Spanish.

A few years ago the New York Times published a blog: Can Doctors Learn Empathy? It was written for doctors, but it could have just as easily been written for lawyers.

I found this interesting:

Greater physician empathy has been associated with fewer medical errors, better patient outcomes and more satisfied patients. It also results in fewer malpractice claims and happier doctors.

Wouldn’t you agree that greater lawyer empathy would be associated with the same things for clients and lawyers? If so, what is empathy and how can you learn to be more empathetic?

According to Wikipedia, Empathy is defined as:

the capacity to recognize feelings that are being experienced by another. I like to say that it is the ability to walk in another’s shoes.

As a lawyer, it is the ability to look at things from your client’s perspective. It is very important for you to understand how your client, or client representative, views the matter you are handling and what is important to him or her.

Keep in mind that for a business client your legal work is in the context of their business and for an individual client, your legal work is in the context of their life.

You are not born with empathy. You have to develop the skill and practice.

A few years ago I was working on a huge contract dispute that took me to Las Vegas every week. After working hard one day, I came back to the hotel and ate at one of the many restaurant bars. I struck up conversations with strangers at the bar and tried to listen, and not judge or offer advice.

I used phrases we should use as lawyers, like:

  • Tell me more
  • Help me better understand
  • What was that like for you?
  • How did you deal with that?
I paid very close attention to what each person told me and tried to put myself in their shoes. (As a quick aside, this experience taught me that it is true,
What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas
Through this practice, I discovered I needed to become a better questioner and better listener when meeting with clients.
So, when you are in a social setting, sitting on an airplane, or like me sitting at a restaurant bar eating by yourself, strike up a conversation, ask questions, sincerely listen, do not judge and do not offer unsolicited advice. Practice, practice, practice.

 

A few years ago, I read the Copyblogger post: How to Create World-Class Content by Never “Writing” Again. There are many gems in the post, like:

You’re more detective than writer.

identify bus man.jpgWhat does that mean in the context of practicing law?

Suppose that a federal agency that impacted your clients’ industry went to Congress to seek legislation to “experiment” with something new, what would you do?

That is what happened in the transportation construction industry and being a detective allowed me to create content (articles, guides, presentations) that put me at the top of mind for contractors.

Here is a discussion on Special Experimental Project No. 14 – Innovative Contracting. As you will see it allowed:

State DOTs to evaluate non-traditional contracting techniques which are competitive in nature but do not fully comply with the requirements in Title 23 United State Code.

As you will also see what started as an “experiment” became common practice and remains so today. In the 90s I wrote articles, including: Design-build requires changes in law and Design-build: evaluation and award.

I did presentations on design-build and innovative contracting and I created a Design-Build Guide and an Innovative Contracting Guide.

Here is the bottom line take away for you:

I was not a brilliant lawyer, but I was insatiable about staying in front of anything that impacted my clients. You can do that also.

The quality of the articles, presentations and guides was not nearly as important as being the first lawyer to focus on the issue for the transportation construction industry. It will take you more time to do the research necessary to learn what to write about and what to speak on than it will to write the article or prepare the presentation.

As you know, I spent a month living at Habla Hispana in San Miguel de Allende. Here is a link where you can get a feel for the residence there. The first floor was a spacious kitchen and living area. My room was on the second floor along with another room occupied by two of my fellow classmates. On the third floor another suite was occupied by a student in a more advanced class.

That living arrangement was like living in a dorm having your own room or like when I spent seven weeks living in visiting officer quarters when I was in the Air Force. Over the month living at the school I developed lasting relationships with my classmates.

It made me think back about building lasting, authentic relationships. Here are questions and thoughts.

Answer these questions:

  • At a networking event should you be interesting or interested?
  • On Facebook should you be interesting or interested?
  • When you meet with a potential client should you be interesting or interested?

A few years ago, Seth Godin posted a bblog titled Interesting & Interested, suggesting  it is important to be both and asked why it is so difficult. He didn’t say it this way, but my take is most people try so hard to be interesting, that they are neither interesting nor interested.

woman_man_dinner_rs.jpgSeth’s blog reminded me of the story of a young English lady eating dinner in successive nights with Gladstone and Disraeli. I believe I first read the story in one of Stephen Covey’s books. According to the story, the young lady reported:

When I left the dining room after sitting next to Mr. Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest man in England,” she said. “But after sitting next to Mr. Disraeli, I thought I was the cleverest woman in England.

Do you want to do more reading on building authentic relationships? I recently found a Fast Company blog that was posted two years ago. The Art of Building and Maintaining Authentic Relationships. I think you will find four tips of the advice in the blog valuable.

 

Well, I’m finally back home from San Miguel de Allende, the city awarded best in the world by Travel and Leisure. I’ve been told that the number of searches for San Miguel de Allende since the award is incredible.

I am happy to be home, but, I miss the great learning experience at Habla Hispana, the  $1.20 lattes, inexpensive meals, watching 100s of families gather at El Jardin, buying vegetables and street corn from the same vendors at the Mercado.

But, most of all I miss the local people I met and my classmates, who like me poured their heart out  learning to speak and understand Spanish.

San Miguel’s award: Best in the World, and what is likely to follow made me recall Seth Godin.

Being best in the world is seriously underrated.

is Seth Godin’s opening line from his book: “The Dip.” He talked about it in this video, as one of his 10 rules.

He says the only way to win is to be talked about. People do not talk about average companies,  or average law firms.

What is being the best lawyer in the world? It is simply being the best is in the eyes of your clients and potential clients. They define what best means. For most legal work, “best” does not mean literally the best. It means “best” at the time, “best” value, “best” for the particular matter.

Since the big recession, business clients have redefined “best in the world. In many cases it is no longer big law firms whose associates billing rates are $300-$500 an hour. If your firm is not one of those pricey ones, what are you doing to become visible to the large companies that are looking for more value for their money? Do you know who the influencers are for those large companies? Do you know what they read?

Business Section of Paper

You won’t be very successful by trying to sell those clients. Everyone is trying to sell them, so they will not believe what you say. You will be more successful by showing them.

Suppose a General Counsel of a large company came to your law firm website. What do you suppose she would be looking for? Do you suppose she would find it on your website, or is your website just like every other law firm’s site?

Wow, this is my last post from San Miguel de Allende. Tomorrow I will meet with Martha from 11:00 to 1:00. Then a car will pick me up and take me to a Leon Airport hotel. On Saturday, I will catch a 6:00 AM flight and I’ll be home before 9:00.

Have I learned Spanish in four weeks? No, I wouldn’t be able to tell you about anything I did in the past or anything I will do in the future, as I only know the present tense of verbs. Also, my son-in-law (yerno en español) will tell me I still speak Spanish like a gringo. It’s going to take a lot of listening and speaking out loud to hopefully one-day pronounce words and sentences correctly.

But, there is hope. While here, I decided to research why Selena was so popular. I found a website, 20 Reasons Selena Quintanilla Will Never Be Forgotten. There, I discovered that when she died. thousands of her fans remember what they were doing, like those of us who were alive when President Kennedy was assassinated.

More importantly, I learned: Selena didn’t actually speak Spanish at the beginning of her career. Her father, Abraham Quintanilla taught her to sing in Spanish — learning lyrics phonetically — so she could resonate with the Latino community.

I have the video of her last concert from the Houston Astrodome on my iPad. Her Spanish, including, pronunciation es excelente. So,…maybe there’s hope for me.

Ok, enough about me. let’s focus on you. While here learning, I’ve been thinking about your learning.

Have you learned how to:

  1. Create a Business Plan?
  2. Determine goals that will challenge and stretch you?
  3. Determine what activities to undertake to meet your goals?
  4. Find articles and other materials about your clients’ industries and their company?
  5. To write articles, blog posts and guides and give presentations and webinars that will enhance your reputation and increase your chances of getting hired?
  6. Develop a Focused Contacts Plan so you focus on your best contacts?
  7. Determine what your clients want and expect?
  8. Get business without appearing to be needy or greedy?
  9. Build trust and rapport?
  10. Become more client focused?
  11. Hold yourself accountable?
  12. Develop the young lawyers on your team, so they can be trusted by your clients?

Here is a short clip from the video coaching program I created for lawyers.