Client Development Coaching

I want to share two stories with you about how changing what you think it takes to succeed can make a difference in your client development success.

Years ago I coached a lawyer as part of a dozen lawyers in the coaching program at a well known regional firm. She was struggling with her client development, in part because she was not comfortable doing what the senior lawyers in her firm suggested that she do. She was not particularly optimistic that she could become a rainmaker.

Fast forward: For several years now this lawyer has been one of the top rainmakers in her law firm. This dramatic change was not because I was a great coach, it was because I was able to get her to change her idea of what it takes to succeed.

My second story is about a lawyer I coached a few years ago. She was a young partner in her law firm at the time. She is now in-house with her old law firm’s largest client.

At the end of our coaching program, each participant sent a report to firm leaders.

Here is an excerpt from the lawyer’s report:

 Cordell once told me: “I have to make you believe you can have a seven figure book of business.” He believed in me. It took quite awhile, but now I believe in myself. Not only as a quality lawyer, but also as a business developer. Prior to working with Cordell I secretly enjoyed not having to be responsible for attracting clients. Now it is my goal.

 

I enjoyed reading Heidi Grant Halvorson’s book: Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals (a great book I have recommended to lawyers I coach). Near the end of the book Dr. Halvorson writes:

Americans believe in ability. East Asians believe in effort.

I suspect she is right. I know for sure that many lawyers believe client development is about ability and you either have it or you don’t. While a lawyer must be a good lawyer and must have some ability to communicate, client development is more about effort.

Take a look, you might find this short video valuable.

Before the coaching, each of the two women thought that ability was the key to becoming a successful rainmaker. Each looked around her firm and concluded she did not have the same kind of ability she saw in the older lawyers (near my age), who were extroverted, great at networking, played golf with clients and took them to dinner and football games.

During our coaching, a lightbulb went off. I convinced each lawyer that successful rainmaking is based less on ability and based significantly more on the level and quality of her effort, and on using her strengths most effectively.

Lawyers who believe client development success is based primarily on ability typically come to a point when they quit trying to develop business. Lawyers who figure out success can be obtained based on the level and quality of their effort persist until they succeed and constantly strive to get better. The very most successful are able to recognize their strengths and their ability and constantly strive to use them and develop them further.

Recently I posted a blog that made available for the first time my Client Development Video Coaching Program with the Participant’s Guide. Want to get the most out of the experience? I hope this helps.

I am only rarely coaching lawyers in person these days. But, in the hopes you will get the most out of the free video program, I wanted to share with you a summary of an email I received years ago from a lawyer I coached. He sent this email to a group of his colleagues who were just starting to work with me.

Cordell’s Coaching Program is a transformational opportunity for people who buy in completely. The main shortcoming is that people who are cynical/skeptical about the process won’t invest the time and effort to reform their daily lives to make the lessons (and the year-long program) work for them.

Cordell’s like a personal trainer – he’s going to work if I show up at 6 am for our meeting and follow his plans but he’s not much good to me if I still am eating Twinkies every day after the workout.

Cordell’s program provides a solid foundation on identifying the skills a person needs to be personally and professionally happy as their career progresses to more advanced stages.

Cordell has helped me focus on what I want long-term, middle-term and short-term out of life and my experience at an AMLAW 100 firm. I think that’s invaluable and suspect many others have reached the same level of enhanced personal and professional satisfaction through this program.

I’m happier today with myself and the firm than I was before I started this program. Nothing the firm has ever done for my development matches the investment that this program has made in my maturation as a lawyer, leader, and person.

During the past year, I have read books Cordell recommended on marketing, self-improvement, public speaking/persuasive skills, new media, people management, building client trust, etc. Cordell has convinced me that I must look to master a range of business skills that will (1) complement my legal expertise, (2) make me more attractive to clients, (3) a better teammate to others in the firm, and (4) a better leader of those who will work under me in the future.

Without Cordell’s pushing/prodding and recommending specific books (and following up on me to discuss them) I doubt I would have read any of this or found time to focus on self-improvement.

With Cordell, I have updated a personal mission/vision statement with personal values of importance to me and a list of 100 experiences in life I want to have; while I have had these things for 15 years, Cordell helped me to really reshape them to reflect who I have become and what I want in the future. Now I have the list handy and I am focused on living up to the statement and figuring out how to fulfill those life experiences, a few each year.

Cordell helped me focus on the basics of client services, in terms of making sure I have regular contact with all my clients and that the contact is always positive in nature. From little things, like sending them articles of interest, or calling to say happy birthday, or sending Christmas gifts telling them I appreciate the chance to represent them, I think I have seen progress with the clients. I’m much less frustrated with my relationships with clients and feel better prepared to handle the difficulties that inevitably arise.

I hope you will find these ideas helpful as you view the videos and use the Participant’s Guide to create a plan, have a better idea on how to build your profile and repuation and work on developing relationship.

 

 

In my new recruiting work I don’t place a lot of law firm associates because the associates I coached are now partners in their law firms. Some now have leadership positions in their law firms and others have become top rainmakers.

But, when I was coaching, I loved working with law firm associates. Why?  The associates with whom I worked were eager to learn and open to new ideas.

Some of my Lateral Link colleagues focus on associates. I have shared with them, it is important for their candidates to prepare a Personal Development Plan. I  have shared with my colleagues an idea on how their candidates can get started and I want to share it with you also. If you are not a law firm associate, please pass this on to one you know.

Here are steps to get you started on your plan:

  1. Define success for you at the end of 2023 (5 years from now). It could be a number $1 million in business. It could be recognized as go to lawyer in_______ field in _____ (for me Transportation Construction Law in the US.) It could be a variety of other things. The important thing is it must be something that will motivate you.
  2. Next, ask yourself why achieving that goal is important to you. It might be family security. (For me, it was wanting to be recognized as being the best at something.)
  3. Next, write down 10 (it could be 8, it could be 15) stream of conscious things you want to do in 2019 to work toward achieving your 5-year goal. (For my 5-year plan writing articles and speaking at contractor meetings topped my list.)
  4. Then review your list and combine those that are really the same. Then, rank the items on your list 1- (if you could only do one, it would be … if you could only do 2 you would add…).
  5. Once you have ranked the items, ask for each one why you think it will lead you toward your 2023 goals. Write down the reasons.

With this background, you are ready to create your 2019 Development Plan. You can click on the Development Plan for a link to a template.

One final note: Your plan will be worthless if you don’t put it into action and hold yourself accountable.

 

 

I am making my Video Coaching Series available for free for the first time. If you want to learn about client development and get off to a great start in 2019, I urge you to watch the series and before you start, download the Client Development Participants Guide that you will want to use to get the most out of the program or contact me at cparvin@cordellparvin.com and I will send you a copy.

When I was a young lawyer, I learned about client development by the seat of my pants and trial and error. It all worked out for me in the end, but looking back now I think about how much time I could have saved if I had some coaching at the beginning.

As you likely know, I coached close to 1800 lawyers in the United States and Canada, in big firms, medium-sized firms, and small firms. In my 13 years, I learned that I could not coach the unmotivated lawyers. I told two law firms that they were wasting their money on the lawyers they had selected for me to coach.

I worked with one law firm and the first group of lawyers I coached set a goal of doubling the fees the group originated in two years. They doubled originations in one year and tripled originations in two years.

Their success led to the second group of lawyers who started with double the amount of fees originated of the first group. They doubled their originations in two years. For the third group, firm leaders asked office managing partners and practice group leaders to select lawyers who “needed coaching.” It was a disaster. I can’t coach lawyers who “need coaching.”

When I was being considered by one large law firm, I met with the firm’s management committee members who were located in the home office. One member asked me to describe the type of lawyer I wanted to coach. I said I wanted to coach lawyers who were like Tiger Woods.

The member who asked the question laughed and said: Tiger Woods doesn’t need a coach. I replied, leave aside the fact he has several coaches, I wasn’t describing ability, I was describing his burning desire to constantly get better and his work each and every day to that end.

So, if you are not motivated, or you really “need coaching” you won’t likely gain much from the videos and workbook.

On the other hand, if you have that burning desire to get better and are willing to work at it each and every day, download the Participant’s Guide with the link in the first paragraph and here is the link to the videos.

Over the years when I coached lawyers, several Professional Development and Client Development/marketing professionals contacted me asking for subjects to cover in client development teaching and training.

If I wanted to take just 30 minutes or less at lunch each month, here are the topics I might cover:

  • What makes client development in 2018 and soon 2019 different and more challenging than 10 years ago – the economy (it’s roaring now), clients and the tools available
  • How to develop a business plan
  • How to determine individual goals that will challenge and stretch your lawyers
  • How to determine what activities to undertake to meet their goal
  • Methods you and your lawyers can use to hold the lawyers accountable
  • How to raise their visibility and credibility to their target market
  • How to write articles, blog posts and give presentations that will enhance their reputation and increase their chances of getting hired
  • Networking
  • Building relationships
  • How to work more effectively as a team
  • “Beyond Selling”- How to get business without coming across like a used car salesman
  • Extraordinary client service and expanding relationships with existing clients

Actually, I would put the last session first. I think one of the most important things you can teach your lawyers is how to provide extraordinary service to existing clients.

 

Someone recently asked what kind of lawyers I hoped to recruit. I believe the person wanted to know what practice areas, what locations, whether I wanted to recruit associates or partners.

I answered that I want to recruit lawyers who are hungry and dreaming big dreams about what they can become.

A few years ago Sherman Smith posted a blog: You Got To Be Hungry!!!. He began the post with three great questions:

  1. How HUNGRY are you in order for you to have longevity in your business?
  2. What are you willing to give up in order to achieve success?
  3. Are you unsatisfied with how things are and want to make a change for the better?

How hungry are you to become a successful lawyer with clients who appreciate your help?

If you are really hungry to learn, I can assure you from experience that nothing is more fun professionally than figuring out how you can be a more valuable lawyer and better serve your clients.

In November 2017, BTI posted: Law Firms to Add Big to Marketing Budgets in 2018—Here’s How to Get Yours. It began :

13% of law firm CMOs are trying to hide their smiles. They snagged big increases in their budgets—just over $1 million per firm.* Their goal is simple—keeping clients, growing clients, and getting new ones. Their success in justifying their new budgets comes from emphasizing the risk of not spending the money.

More recently I read: 5 TOP TAKEAWAYS FROM ACKERT’S 2018 LEGAL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT TRENDS STUDY.

It asked:

So, what are those business development strategies and which ones generate the most revenue?

Number 1 on the list was Sales/Business Development Coaching.

The unanswered question is how can client development training and coaching produce more revenue. Here’s how:

One-shot business development training will not produce more revenue because it will not change the actions lawyers should take to produce revenue.

Business development training should be combined with individual and group coaching. Your firm can either hire an outside consultant, or create your own internal program. Either way, to produce more revenue the firm, the lawyers and the coach must make commitments and keep them.

The Law Firm Commitments:

  1. Select lawyers who have the inner drive to be more successful. Your lawyers who need coaching the least, will put the most into it and get the most out of it.
  2. Leadership commitment and involvement. When your firm leaders are champions for the program, there is greater energy and a buzz around the firm.
  3. Aligned and active involvement of professional development and marketing professionals. Client development training has both a training component and a marketing component. Your professionals from both groups have a role to play.
  4. Sharing unique firm strategies and issues with the coach. Each firm is different. For an outside coach to be successful he or she needs to understand your firm’s goals, strategy, and culture.
  5. Funding for the program. Shows you are investing in your lawyers.

The Lawyer Participant Commitments:

  1. Active involvement in the group and individual coaching activities.
  2. An open mind to change.
  3. Create a business development plan with goals.
  4. Willingness to be held accountable.
  5. Preparation for coaching sessions.
  6. Monitoring client development activities.
  7. Sharing best practices and successes with the group.
  8. Identifying challenges and working to overcome them.
  9. Commitment to spend around 20 non-billable hours a month on client development activities.

The Coach/Consultant Commitments:

  1. Helping participants with planning and goal setting.
  2. Pushing each member and the group to attain group and individual goals.
  3. Role-playing and experiential learning.
  4. Ideas for client development.
  5. Teaching and applying client development techniques.
  6. Referral to source materials on career and client development.
  7. Team coaching.
  8. Creating opportunities for teambuilding.
  9. Providing candid feedback and suggestions.
  10. Making firm leadership aware if any participant is not meeting his or her commitments.

I know from my experience leading a program in my old firm and working with lawyers and law firms for 13 years that if your firm, your lawyers, and your internal or outside coach/consultant makes and keeps the commitments described above, the firm will generate a return on investment that is a multiple of the program cost.

This is the second in my series of posts on life and career lessons from John Wooden. They say Coach Wooden’s highest annual salary at UCLA was $36,000. It is hard to imagine that today.

Recently I posted a blog What is Success: Listen to John Wooden. As you might recall Coach Wooden said:

Success is the peace of mind which is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing that you made the effort to become the best at what you are capable of becoming.

Coach Wooden loved to tell the story of Bill Walton’s hair.

Coach had a rule that hair could be no longer than two inches and there could be no facial hair. Walton, the star of the team showed up for the first practice one year  with long hair and a beard and announced it was his right to have long hair. Wooden agreed and said:

“That’s good Bill. I admire people who have strong beliefs and stick by them, I really do. We’re going to miss you.”

Walton raced to a barber shop to get his hair cut and beard shaved. I loved watching this video of the story.

When I went back to Coach Wooden’s webpage, I found a tribute from Bill Walton. Walton said:

I thank Coach Wooden every day for all his selfless gifts, his lessons, his time, his vison and especially his patience.

That seemed fitting because one of Coach Wooden’s famous quotes was:

You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you

I can now look back and remember some perfect days, those days when I helped someone who I knew could never repay me.

This really leaves two questions for you to ponder:

  1. Are you making the effort to become the best you are capable of becoming?
  2. When was the last time you lived a perfect day, doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you?

If I have learned one thing in my recent recruiting career, or better said, if I have been reminded of one thing in my recent recruiting career, it is this:

Law firms are looking for lawyers with clients they can bring and a book of business

For some firms, the cutoff is $1 Million annual fees. For other firms, it’s even more. So it’s natural for lawyers and law firms to focus on revenue. But, as Seth Godin recently wrote, that may not be the best place to focus.

Seth Godin posted a blog recently titled: Entrepreneurship is not a job. To provide an analogy, I would say: Practicing Law is not a job.

In his blog, Godin writes:

Bragging about how much money you’ve raised or what your valuation is a form of job thinking.

When I practiced law, some lawyers bragged about the size of their book of business. I understand. As I wrote above, it is how we get measured in the marketplace. But, it is, as Godin writes, a form of job thinking.

He then writes:

Entrepreneurship is a chance to trade a solution to someone who has a problem that needs solving.

Solve more problems, solve bigger problems, solve problems more widely and you’re an entrepreneur.

If you are a long time reader, you know this is how I think. I’ve written many times about identifying your clients’ problems, opportunities, and changes and then providing a solution.

Seven years ago I gave some advice on how to do it. How You Can Find Client Problems, Opportunities and Changes.

As you know, I grew up playing sports and I still enjoy sports. I have often wondered how the top coaches motivate star athletes. When I think of college sports, the top programs in any sport recruit the greatest number of 5-star athletes.

But, what about teams like the Loyola Ramblers?  

They made it to the final four without 5-star recruits. In 1963, while I was a teenager growing up in the Chicago suburbs, and listening to their games on the radio, the Ramblers won the national championship without the top recruits.

I recently read an article about how coaches motivate players Motivation and Coaching – A Misunderstood Mental Matter. 

I found this statement to be true:

Inspiration is something that comes the outside: from listening to another person or being involved in an event or through observing something which triggers an emotional response.

Motivation, however, comes from within. Motivation is a fire: a fire which is ignited by a dream and fuelled by passion.

Three years ago I made a presentation at the IADC/FDCC Joint Law Firm Management Conference.

I spoke on business succession and motivating and developing the next generation of law firm leaders and rainmakers. The title of our panel discussion was LIGHT MY FIRE: It’s Not ALL About Money. It’s About Passion, Purpose, and Fulfillment.

Here is a link to my slides. As you will see, I included a short clip from the Doors appearance on the Ed Sullivan show.

Have you ever thought about why your lawyers are not transitioning from being associates whose main function is to get the work done to partners whose main function is to bring in business, build and expand relationships with clients and supervise the junior lawyers?

Bwoman business presentation SS 77534098

 

When I practiced law, I had an aha moment the day I realized I could not motivate the unmotivated. My aha moment came when I was the partner in charge of attorney development at my old firm, I spoke at our new partner orientation each year. I began my presentation by asking:

How many of you have written goals and a written plan to achieve them?”

The first year I asked this question, I was astonished when no hands were raised. Here I was addressing our very best young lawyers and not one of them had written goals and a plan.

I wanted to understand why. I discovered:

  • I had greatly underestimated the challenge of getting lawyers to change.
  • The carrot and stick approach did not work and
  • Client development training and coaching should start before the lawyers were promoted to partner.

But, this group of lawyers didn’t have the fire and there was no way I could light it for them. I suspect that now, 15 years later, most if not all of those lawyers have not become top lawyers.

Having coached over 1500 lawyers in the United States and Canada, I came to the point that I knew during our first coaching session if a lawyer was self-motivated. That experience will likely serve me well in recruiting.

Recently scientists have done considerable research on the brain’s role in both learning and performance. They have found that we have both a “hard-wired” part of our brain and a “working memory” part of our brain.

For the learning and training, you offer lawyers to be effective, you must seek to move it from the working memory part of the brain to the hard-wired part of the brain. In other words, you want your young lawyers to develop habits.

In a nutshell, what does this scientific information mean? Your young lawyers are “hard wired” to get their hours. But, they are not hard-wired to develop their profile as a “go-to” lawyer and build relationships with contacts and clients.

What should you do?

  • Start training early in your associates’ careers
  • Work on bite-sized pieces. Let your young lawyers learn something and implement it before moving to the next subject.
  • Get them to focus on client development ideas and solutions, not on the problems they have to overcome to do client development.
  • Let them come to their own answers. Studies have shown that when people experience an “ah ha” moment on their own there is a sudden adrenaline energy rush that is conducive to making changes.
  • Finally, training by itself will not likely be successful. However, training with follow-up mentoring or coaching will way more likely be successful.

Get started now. There is no better time to help self-motivated lawyers “Light Their OwnFire.” I have done it and found it rewarding.