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.

 

  • Thanks Cordell. I’d love to see the article when you are finished writing it.

  • Rebecca Luck

    I would enjoy reading your article. Thanks. Rebecca

  • Mary Jo George

    Cordell: I would be most interested in reading your article when published.
    Regards, Mary Jo