When I ask lawyers I have finished coaching “what is the one thing you wish you could have done differently before the coaching program,” their answer is always the same. “I wish I had started learning about client development earlier in my career.”

Law schools brag that students are taught to “think like a lawyer.” Unfortunately, your associates are not taught in law school to “think like a client.” As a result, they do not appreciate the business context of their legal work. They are taught to speak and write, but not taught to actively listen.

In law school, establishing goals is easy. Most law students who come to work at your firm wanted to finish near the top of their class, pass the bar and get a good job. After they became associates in your firm, setting goals became more complicated, in part because they had significantly more potential goals from which to choose.

Do your associates have a plan for their career or for client development? The Dip.pngIf not, they may be focused on getting their billable hours, but that is hardly motivating. Even if your associates have some sort of development plan, they may not have the discipline or commitment necessary to stay with it during “dips,” like the one they began experiencing a couple of years ago.

Years ago, I wrote an article for “The Practical Lawyer:” Developing The Next Generation Of Remarkable Lawyers outlining the importance of developing the next generation of remarkable lawyers. I discussed how the Millennial generation differs from others, how to make the business case for developing these young lawyers to partners and ideas on what to do.

As you will see in the article, I suggest that to the extent possible, the learning be interactive and experiential rather than just lectures. “Learning by doing” is the best way to develop your lawyers. There is a Chinese proverb that Coach Krzyzewski uses: “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.” Even in a difficult economy it is important to develop your firm’s next generation of remarkable lawyers. If you focus on your firm’s future, you will see the value.