Client Development Coaching

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.

 

Several years ago,  a lawyer I had coached came to advise other lawyers in her firm how to get the most out of our coaching program.

She told them to focus on the three Ps.

  • Persistence,
  • Perseverance and
  • Patience

I know from experience that lawyers who focus on the three Ps are more concerned with learning how to become better at client development than they are with getting early results.

I know many lawyers who are focused on results rather than focused on striving to get better. They fear failure to such a degree that they are unwilling to get outside their comfort zone.

They are not learning about how to become better at client development. Instead they are focused on techniques that may help them get business from the low hanging fruit. When their efforts do not produce results, they give up.

What should you do instead? Work on getting better at things that are outside your comfort zone.

If you want to learn how to network, go to events where you can practice. In fact, go to a networking event and approach strangers and introduce yourself.

If you want to become a better public speaker, speak in public. Consider joining a Toastmasters International club, or starting your own speaking club.

If you want to become a better writer, write articles or blog posts and have someone review them and offer a critique. There are plenty of retired editors and senior lawyers, who would gladly critique your writing.

Finally, remember the three P’s: Persistence, Perseverance and Patience.

Seth Godin wrote a blog several years ago: Mentoring, platforms and taking a leap. It is worth reading. I appreciate this point he makes:

And yet most mentors and coaches and teachers will tell you that few of their students ever do, not in comparison with their potential. A few break through and change everything, and we celebrate them, but what about everyone else?

I agree with his point. Only a few lawyers I have coached truly reached their potential. So, what about everyone else?

How can I encourage or push them to come closer to their potential? In this post, I want to ask you six questions. I believe figuring out the answers to these questions will give you ideas on how you can create a successful program in your own firm and reach those lawyers.

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

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.

Here are questions for you to ponder:

  1. Why do I have the coaching group set a group goal?
  2. Why do I ask the participants to agree on  action items to achieve the group goal?
  3. Why do I begin the first individual coaching session learning about the lawyer’s family and what he or she enjoys doing when not working?
  4. Why do I have each person to set his or her own goals and create a business plan?
  5. Why do we create 60 days or 90 days action plans each time I meet with each lawyer?
  6. Why do I have each member of the group to share with me what his or her client development plans are?
  7. Why do I encourage firms to have each member of the group report monthly what client development activities he or she has done, and why do I suggest the report be published?

If you answer these questions you will have some good thoughts on how to make client development coaching successful in your firm.

I suspect that I have coached the vast majority of lawyers who read my blog. If you are one of those lawyers, I have recently been thinking about you.

When we had a coaching session scheduled, did you ever not look forward to meeting with me? Did you ever hope I would not show up, or would show up late so our session would be less time?

If so, I understand.

I recently wrote that I am working out with a trainer for the first time in about 20 years. It has been a grueling one-hour, twice a week experience.

I remember when I started starting to dread going for my one hour session for several hours. I remember hoping my trainer would not show up, or at least show up late to shorten the training session. (Keep in mind I’m paying for an hour session, twice a week.)

Then, all of a sudden, I experienced progress. I could feel a difference from all the time we spent on core exercises. I could feel I was getting stronger. My training sessions were still challenging, but I didn’t feel beat to death afterwards.

I don’t understand endorphins, but I think they were kicking in.

So, what’s my message to you? When you were not experiencing success or progress, you may not have looked forward to our time together. But, once you saw you were making progress, that likely changed. It just might have been those endorphins kicking in.

Earlier this year a law firm marketing director asked me:
Cordell, what should be included in our client development training program?
Almost 10 years ago, I wrote a Practical Lawyer article Unlocking The Secrets To Developing Your Future Rainmakers. It has some ideas for the marketing directors.
I practiced law and learned about client development from the seat of my pants. I probably learned more from my mistakes than I ever learned from my successes.
In 2017, you don’t have time to learn from your mistakes. That was one reason I left my law practice to coach lawyers.
In my firm I found many lawyers were motivated to develop business and client relationships, but gave up when their efforts weren’t productive.
Since 2005, (seems like a long time ago now), I have worked with young associates, junior partners and senior partners, just like you.
Based on my own client development efforts and the work I have done with lawyers, I have a good idea what you need to learn to be successful.  Here is my list of Planning and Motivation activities to incorporate now:
Planning and Motivation
  1. Discover the attributes of successful lawyers/people and incorporate them into your own career
  2. Decide what you want to achieve
  3. Set motivating stretch goals
  4. Prepare a yearly plan to achieve those goals
  5. Break down your plan into shorter time frames (90 Days, or 60 Days and weekly)
  6. Take StrengthsFinder and determine what kind of client development will best work for you (See this blog post with my strengths.
  7. Make time for client development (you will never find it)
  8. Get organized for a more productive day (See this blog post for discussion of David Allen’s book: Getting Things Done)
  9. Stay motivated and accountable…even when you are not seeing results
  10. Patience and persistence (It took two years before I received the first call from my client development efforts)

The beauty of coaching is you can get feedback when you are working on each of the 10 activities above.

P. S. I have finally finished a complete draft of my novel. I’ve worked on it since 2014, and I have written 10 different versions. This one is the last version. But, some of my earlier versions tell a story so different from this one that I may go back and create a second novel with different characters.

This novel is about a young Hispanic lawyer who is best known for her beauty and defending refugee children who is called upon to defend the richest man in Texas against Department of Justice Prosecutors who know no bounds when it comes to their desire to convict the defendant and destroy the defendant’s lawyer’s reputation.

If you are interested in reading the draft, send me an email.

quarters.jpegA friend asked why me why so few law firms have client development coaching programs. My answer was simple:

Some law firms look at client development coaching as a cost rather than a revenue producer.

As you may know, I set up a client development coaching program for new partners in my old law firm. We set a goal of doubling the total business of the new partners in two years. After we achieved the goal in one year, I decided I wanted to work with lawyers on client development full time.

A few years ago I did a series of presentations for Legal Marketing Association (LMA) chapters on how to set up a wildly successful client development coaching program in their firm.

Knowing that even if I made awesome presentations, the legal marketing professionals would go back to skeptical firm leaders and partners, I concisely shared what a firm should experience from a coaching program. Here is my short list:

  1. INCREASE FIRM REVENUE AND PROFITABILITY
  2. Make its next generation of partners and firm leaders more focused on client development.
  3. Develop individual and group responsibility and accountability.
  4. Make client development a greater part of the firm’s culture.
  5. Help each lawyer in the program determine the client development efforts that will work most effectively for him or her.
  6. Ensure that each lawyer in the program is taking action.
  7. Increase business with existing clients and bring in new clients.
  8. Enable lawyers within the program to get to know each other better, to work effectively as a team, and to collaborate on their client development efforts.

If you have a partner who is interested in teaching and coaching lawyers in your firm, you have a great opportunity to create a wildly successful coaching program.

 

This week I am posting on how to make the sale and close the deal with new clients.

Recently I was asked:

What are some of the most popular client development topics lawyers you coach want to discuss?

After thinking about it, I responded that the lawyers I coach want to know ways they can attract business from friends and people they know who work with businesses which already have outside counsel.

You likely also spend time with friends who are with companies using other law firms.

How can you unseat those other law firms? You may never, but the best chance you have is to do it in very small steps. 

First, you never want to say anything negative about the law firm the client is currently using. After all, the company picked that firm, so you would be seen as challenging their judgment.

I wrote a Practical Lawyer column on this topic: How Can Your Friends Become Your Clients? As you will see, I listed three potential opportunities:

  1. Become the Second Lawyer
  2. Become the Subject Matter Expert
  3. Add Value the Other Firm is Not Providing
I am sure you can see the potential in each of those idea, but how do you even have a conversation about potentially helping the client?  I believe it depends on your relationship with your friend or contact and what you are comfortable asking him or her.

When I was practicing construction law, I spoke frequently at construction contractor association events and had the chance to eat breakfast, eat lunch or drink coffee with potential clients who were not using us. While I never had this specific conversation, it might have gone like this:

Cordell: “John, how is business for your company this year?”

John: “It is so-so, the economy still has an impact on us and we would like more work.”

Cordell: ‘What kind of projects are you looking at?’

John: “Because of the economy, we are looking at more design-build and Public-Private Venture (P3) projects?

Cordell: “I am trying to understand what contractors value from their outside counsel on those projects, may I ask you a  couple of questions?”

John: “Sure.”

Cordell: “How many outside law firms do you use?”

John: “Two, we use one for our construction and labor and employment issues and another for our corporate and tax work.”

Cordell: “Are they small or large firms?’

John: “Our construction law firm is a smaller than our corporate firm.”

Cordell: “Does your construction law firm use create a plan at the beginning of the projects they work on for you?”

John: “No, they are not doing that.”

Cordell:  (I might or might not say this depending on how well I know John.) “ We found clients like having an idea at the beginning what to expect moving forward. Is this something your company would value? ”

John: “I could see where that would be helpful.”

Cordell: “ Does your construction firm do any in-house training on design-build and P3 projects at no charge for your project teams?’

John: “No, they don’t do anything at no charge.”

Cordell: (Again I might or might not say this depending on how well I know John.) “We love to invest in our relationship with our clients. We find these workshops are very helpful to get to know the management team and to better understand what is going on with the business.”

John: “Very interesting.”

Cordell: (I know that John is expecting me to try to get him to hire us at this point, but, in my opinion that would not be a good strategy. So I might say:) “Thanks so much for the feedback. We are constantly searching for ways to better serve our clients and your thoughts are very helpful. If you think of anything else to add, I would love to hear from you.” Or, I might say: “We would love the opportunity to do an in-house workshop for you. Would you find it valuable if I send you our design-build and P3 project workshop materials?”

In my coaching program we have a session on asking for business and closing the sale. A couple of years ago I wrote a one page guide:  How to Ask for Business/Close the Sale.