When some of you my age read the title to this blog post, you thought it was going to be about George Carlin’s 1972 monologue Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.

No, it’s not George Carlin. It’s a blog post I read several years ago  7 Words That Can Transform Your Business And Life. As you will see when you read it, the 7 words are in a sentence. They are:

What can I do to help you?

I have seen lawyers use those 7 words in a sentence very effectively. They do it effectively because of their sincerity. Jonathan Cole, a Baker Donelson Nashville partner I coached way back in 2006-2007, ended each conversation with me with those 7 words.

I will always remember him because of those 7 words and his sincere desire to help me. Your clients will remember you for the same reason.

You likely know the Maya Angelou quote. I’ve used it in other blog posts:

 

Your clients want to feel appreciated. Here are some initial thoughts on how you can do it:

  1. Saying to a client: “I want to know more about your company because the more I know the better I will be able to help you.” Or, you might say: “Tell me a little about the history of your company, where you are now and where you are going.”
  2. Keeping up with what is going on in your client’s industry, including what its competitors are doing and offering ideas on any implications.
  3. Helping the client obtain more valuable business. If ever you are able to actually expand the client’s business by introducing the client to other clients or to other lawyers in your firm who can do the same, that is always a plus.
  4. Conducting training of some sort or a workshop at no charge.
  5. Putting an associate in the client’s office for a week at no charge.
  6. If your client is local, inviting the client and spouse to your house for dinner.
  7. Finding out about the client’s children and keeping up with them.
  8. Simply saying at the end of every conversation “Is there anything else I can do to help you.”
  9. Saying “thank you” after finishing a matter.‚Ä®
  10. Getting to know your client representative’s assistant and treating that person as well as you treat the client representative.

When it is considered safe to visit, I recommend you spend a day with your clients with no charge. This is especially important if COVID has kept you from seeing clients in person.

I did that frequently as a lawyer and even put associates in my clients’ offices or out on a construction project and did not charge for their time. I remember at least two of my visits were to bridge construction projects like the one pictured here.

I thought of this recently when Nancy and I went to Best Buy to buy a new dishwasher. After deciding on the one we wanted we began speaking with Jacob, our young salesperson about making our home smarter. After a few minutes our young sales representative gave us a brochure for a free home consultation.

A couple of days later our home consultant spent at least an hour helping us figure out options for making our home smarter. It was time well spent and I believe brilliant marketing by Best Buy.

When I was coaching I shared the give away a day idea with many of the lawyers I coached. Each one who did it found it valuable and many came back to the office with one or more new projects.

A law firm leader once asked me if I would suggest questions to ask junior lawyers to determine if they would be the best suited for client development coaching. At the time I didn’t have questions, but at his request I suggested these.

  1. What do you believe you will get out of the coaching program?
  2. You would consider the coaching program a success if________.
  3. What do you want to learn?
  4. What client development efforts have you made the past year and how have they worked for you?
  5. What are your major client development strengths?
  6. What areas in your client development efforts do you want to improve?
  7. Did you create a business plan for last year?
  8. How much time will you commit each month to the coaching program and your client development efforts?

I have written on this subject many times. But, I suspect after COVID-19 fewer law firms than ever have client development coaching programs for their young lawyers.

You will hear baby boomer lawyers say:

When I was a young lawyer, no one coached me.

True. No one coached me either and I can’t begin to tell you how many hours I wasted trying to figure out by trial and error what would work most effectively for me. It was also harder for me to devote quality time on client development because no one was holding me accountable.

So, here are some benefits your firm might realize coaching your up and coming lawyers.

  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. Ensure that each lawyer in the program feel like they are in control of their future
  8. Client development will become part of the daily habits of lawyers in the coaching program
  9. Increase business with existing clients and to bring in new clients
  10. 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
  11. Increase opportunities for cross-selling among the lawyers coached
  12. Make client development go from an activity dreaded to one enjoyed

When I was building my law practice, I never thought about branding. I likely never heard the word used in connection with practicing law.

A few years ago, I was asked by the Boston Bar Association to be the keynote speaker of a day long program they titled: “Brand Yourself: Business Development for New Associates Conference.” At the time I wondered if the young lawyers who attended wondered what it meant to brand yourself.

If you want to review the slides from Boston Bar presentation you can find them here. If you are interested in my workbook handout, send me an email.

 

If you give it much thought, isn’t your brand or your law firm’s brand what your clients think of you or your firm?

What do you want your clients to think of you?

To give you some ideas, here is what I wanted my clients to think about me.  I wanted to be perceived by transportation construction contractors as:

  1. The preeminent transportation construction lawyer in the US
  2. Able to anticipate and identify their potential problems and provide innovative solutions before they thought of the problem
  3. The lawyer with the greatest construction business savvy
  4. Trustworthy
  5. Ethical
  6. Likeable
  7. Empathetic and Caring
  8. Responsive
  9. Focused on helping contractor clients succeed

How did I make these ideas come to life?

When I first started I spent about as much time reading about construction and the construction business as I did reading about legal issues. By understanding how my clients made or lost money, the challenges they faced building complicated projects and how their industry was changing, I was better positioned to help them.

My goal was to take what I learned and distinguish myself from other lawyers.

Then, for 25 years I wrote a column for Roads and Bridges magazine titled “Law: The Contractor’s Side.”

When I wrote the column I spent more time figuring out what to write about than actually writing it. Why? Because each month I wanted to demonstrate I was anticipating and identifying potential problems and offering a solution. Because the column was so well read, it enabled me to build my brand more than any other client development activity I did.

How do you want your clients to perceive you? When you answer that question you will be on your way to building your brand, or whatever other term you choose to describe it.

I remember coaching an outstanding young associate who soon thereafter became a partner in her firm.

On thing she wanted to focus on was preparing a plan for the year that would work for her. So as we got started I asked for her to share her goals  with me.

She started with a goal of bringing in a certain amount of business from her own clients. I then asked how she had estimated the amount of business. She replied she had based the estimate on what she had in the pipeline for her one big client.

I then asked is she felt she was limiting herself by setting a goal she was pretty certain she would reach. I told her she might be focused on not failing rather than focused in succeeding.

Are you like the lawyer I coached ? Are you limiting yourself to what you feel confident you can achieve?

When I practiced law I can’t tell you exactly why but I started setting financial goals that other lawyers said I would not be able to achieve. I wanted to push myself. I wanted to be able to visualize something really big.

 

Have you ever heard of James Allen, an English author in the late 1800s? I bet most of of you haven’t.  He was a self-help guru when self-help gurus weren’t cool.

Here are just a few of his quotes on self-motivation.

“You will become as small as your controlling desire; as great as your dominant aspiration.”
“To desire is to obtain; to aspire is to achieve.”
“For true success ask yourself these four questions: Why? Why not? Why not me? Why not now?”
“All that you accomplish or fail to accomplish with your life is the direct result of your thoughts.”
If you want to learn more about self motivation, I recommend reading: Self-Motivation Explained + 100 Ways To Motivate Yourself. In the meantime, don’t limit yourself. Think about your own definition of success and then ask: Why? Why not? Why not me? Why not now?

  1. If you are blogging start by finding a topic that addresses a timely client problem, opportunity or change.
  2. Spend more time deciding on a topic than writing the blog post.
  3. Remember your readers don’t care about what you do. They only care about how what you do solves their problems.
  4. When writing it is better to appeal to a  “narrow” target market than trying to write something that will be less valuable to a bigger audience.
  5. You must consistently post new blog posts not hit or miss.
  6. Make sure your blog gets the widest distribution using social media and other tools.
  7. Potential clients reading your blog prefer bullet points or lists. My clients never wanted to know the history of Swiss watch making they wanted to know the time.
  8. Your firm may want group blogs. That is fine except you lose the voice of the blogger.
  9. Your blogging may lead to speaking opportunities. The writing gives you a “calling card” to get asked to speak.
  10. Pretend your readers will only read the first line of your blog because if you don’t grab their attention there you will lose them.
  11. Business clients skim blog posts they do not read them word for word.
  12. To be a thought leader you have to see things others do not see and be first to write about those things.

 

When I coached lawyers in a firm, I told the managing partners that it is incredibly important to select the right lawyers for the coaching program. I said:

I can’t motivate the unmotivated.

I also said:

The lawyers in your firm who will get the most out of coaching are those lawyers who you believe don’t need coaching

I knew that from my own personal experience. In one well-known firm I coached the first group of lawyers and they did incredibly well. The second group of lawyers also did very well For the third group the firm reached out to practice group leaders and office managing partners  to identify the lawyers they believed most “needed” coaching. It was by far the worst experience I had coaching, and was the last group of lawyers I coached with that firm.

I would not recommend coaching these young lawyers in your firm:

  • Lawyers who believe they just have to do good work to attract clients
  • Lawyers who think they are too young, too inexperienced or any other too…to attract clients
  • Lawyers who have no interest in developing their own book of business
  • Lawyers who are content with their client development success
  • Lawyers who believe client development is a God given talent and cannot be learned and developed
  • Lawyers who claim to be too busy to do client development
  • Lawyers who just want to work on a senior’s lawyer’s clients
  • Lawyers who are not open to new ideas
  • Lawyers who believe you have to be an extravert or go to networking events to attract clients
  • Lawyers who believe the only way to attract clients is to do it the way his or her senior lawyer did it
  • Lawyers who say “My problem is…,” “I can’t…,” “Yes, but…”

A lawyer I coached once asked  how I could possibly leave a secure, successful law practice in a large firm to go out on my own to coach, mentor, and help lawyers.

I told her that Nancy had asked me the very same question when I told her in 2004 that I planned to make the change.

It was a logical question for the lawyer and for Nancy given that my construction law practice was thriving, my clients were happy, my last trial resulted in a a great result. I loved practicing construction law and I loved my clients. I finally answered her question this way:

Coaching lawyers was the intersection of my talent, my passion and a need.


Simply put, I discovered when I worked with lawyers in my old law firm that helping those lawyers achieve success and fulfillment was the intersection of my passion and talent.

It also fulfilled a need. The lawyers I coached appreciated the help I gave them.

Finally, it was a new challenge. Long ago I discovered that I easily got bored doing things I had done many times before. While my law practice energized me, and I loved working with my favorite clients, I was even more energized by my efforts to help young lawyers and I felt I was making a greater contribution.

I can look back on that decision now. Had I continued practicing law I would have been far more financially secure than I am now. I didn’t make as much money as I had hoped I would make coaching lawyers. Even in my best years, I made only a fraction of what I made practicing law.

That said I doubt I would change anything. I worked with awesome young lawyers. Many of them are leading rainmakers or firm leaders now. Many share their success stories with me by email or handwritten notes. I discovered my passion when practicing law and later when coaching was helping others succeed…and having a feeling I had some part to play in their success.

What does my career change mean to you? I believe it is important to find your passion, talent and a client need. The lawyers I coach who are most successful have found that sweet spot. I saw a quote from the late Herman Cain. He said:

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you’ll be successful.” ~ Herman Cain

So naturally the question I ask is: Do you love what you do?