Client Development Coaching

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.

If you start a coaching program in your firm, the senior lawyers who will be coaching need to know as much as possible about the lawyers they will coach. When I start coaching  a new group, I send these coaching questions to help me better understand their practice.
  1. What kind of work do you do? Be specific.
  2. Describe your target market (e.g. who do you want to hire you?)
  3. What do you want the target market to hire you or your firm to do?
  4. What do you consider to be your major strengths as a lawyer (e.g why should your target market hire you or your firm rather than the competition?)
  5. What areas of your client development would you most like to improve in the coaching program?
  6. Have you written and published any articles or books? In what publications? How did you get the articles published? What was the topic? Are you blogging? Please give me the link to your blog.
  7. Have you made presentations at any conferences, conventions or meetings? If so, identify them and describe each presentation.
  8. Are you active in the Bar or in your community? Describe what you are doing and if it has resulted in any business.
  9. How many non-billable hours did you spend in 2016 for your career development and client development and what were the major activities you did with those non-billable hours?
  10. What have you done to expand relationships with your existing clients?
  11. What are your client development goals for 2017?
  12. Have you put together a development plan or business plan to achieve your goals? If so share it with me.
  13. Suppose you plan to spend 20 hours a month on your own development and client development. How do you think you can best spend that time?
  14. What do you think you can do with the other firm members that would contribute to client development?
  15. What is the one thing you can do that you are not doing now that would have the greatest impact on your client development efforts and how can Cordell Parvin help you do it?

Even if your firm does not start a coaching program, these questions are good ones for you to answer to better understand your own practice and the steps you can take to enhance your efforts.

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.

A friend read my blog Tuesday: 7 Questions to Answer to Develop a Successful Client Development Coaching Program and asked me to answer the questions I posed.

She said she wanted my “Client Development Coaching for Dummies” answers. She finally convinced me to answer the seven questions.

  1. Setting a group goal creates a team. One lawyer I coached said his group felt like a firm within the firm. The hope is that no one will want to let the team down.
  2. Agreeing on 25 action items makes the goal more focused. Goals without actions are like New Years Resolutions that never get done. It also provides a talking point for each group meeting. “How are you doing on those 25 action items?”
  3. Creating a plan forces the lawyer to start thinking strategically and how best to use his/her time. I want the lawyers to have something to aim at and know when they are off-course.
  4. We break down the yearly plan into 60 or 90 days actions because it is more likely the participants will do the activities if they are in smaller chunks. It also provides for accountability when I have the telephone coaching sessions with them between the in person sessions. My beginning agenda item is a report on how they are doing on their 60 or 90 days action plans.
  5. When they share their plans with me, I have “nagging” rights. Again, my goal is to find ways for each participant to be accountable.
  6. Reporting monthly is one more way to be accountable. When the reporting is on a portal page or in an email that is shared with the group and with a firm leader, no one wants to have nothing to report. It also enables me to keep up with what each lawyer is doing, which makes the coaching sessions more focused.
  7. I have to build a personal relationship to better understand the lawyer’s unique talents, opportunities, and challenges. I also must earn their trust to be able to help them find the path that will work best for them.

I hope this is helpful.

I suspect that if you have not started a client development coaching program in your firm for this year, you are not likely to start one now.

How about 2018? Let me share one analogy to argue in favor of a coaching program in your firm. Have you ever had a workout trainer? When I worked out with a trainer, I was focused, I did more than any other time, and I was in the best physical condition of my life.

A coach will provide the same motivation and focus for your lawyers. I’m thinking about retiring at the end of this year, so let me give you some ideas on how to get the most out of a coaching program.

A law firm marketing director recently ask me how to make a client development coaching program successful. As you know, my first response is always to select lawyers who want to be in the program and develop business. If you select the right lawyers to participate, then you are ready for the next steps.

When I coach a group of lawyers in a firm, we set a group goal and decide on 25 action items to achieve the goal. Each member of the coaching group sets individual goals and prepares a plan to achieve them.

Each time when we meet in person each member of the group create action plans (goals) for the next 60 or 90 days.

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.

Some of you might be asking or wondering:

  1. Why do I have the coaching group set a group goal?
  2. Why do I ask the participants to agree on 25 action items?
  3. Why do I encourage each person to set his or her own goals and create a business plan?
  4. Why do we break down the actions to 90 days action plans?
  5. Why do I encourage each member of the group to share with me what his or client development plans are?
  6. Why do I encourage each member of the group to report monthly what client development activities he or she has done, and why that report is published?
  7. Why is building a personal relationship with each lawyer so important?

You may wonder what I love the most about coaching younger lawyers. It’s really pretty simple. Each young lawyer I have coached has unique talents, unique goals, unique challenges. The great joy I experience coaching is when a lawyer has an aha moment and figures out the way to achieve his or her unique goals.

Many of you reading this blog had that moment when we worked together and you personally know what I love about my work.

Ok, if your firm is thinking about a client development coaching program, If you answer these questions you will have some good thoughts on how to make client development coaching successful.

 

School started yesterday in Prosper, Texas. As I was cruising Facebook I noticed several Windsong Ranch moms posted photos of their kids who are seniors and titled them the last, first day of school.

One mother lamented that no one posted the last first day of work. I could be at that point. In 2010, I coached 125 lawyers and I was on the road every month. Since I left my law practice in 2005, I have never coached as few lawyers as I am coaching in 2017.

So, maybe January 2, 2017 was my last first day of work. We’ll see.

I practiced law a long time. I’ve coached lawyers for over 12 years. I’ve seen and coached a lot of rainmakers.

At the risk of overgeneralizing, here are some traits I have observed:

  1. Most rainmakers have the right attitude Most rainmakers have a “can do” attitude. That enables them to persist when others quit. They are not like the pessimist described by Winston Churchill.
  2. Most rainmakers are really good lawyers They may not be the smartest lawyer in their field but they have focused on always getting better and becoming the best lawyer they can be.
  3. Most rainmakers are genuinely likeable They connect well with other people in large part because they are able to convey they really care. They are empathetic and understand the other person’s point of view. They are good listeners. They are able to build trust and rapport quickly. They are open and friendly.
  4. Most rainmakers have a confidence inspiring personality Clients need to feel you can take care of their problem. They are entrusting something really important to them in your hands. Rainmakers are able to instill confidence.
  5. Most rainmakers are willing to get outside their comfort zone I believe real achievement occurs when you stretch and try something that is uncomfortable.
  6. Finally and perhaps most importantly, rainmakers know what they want, they know what their clients need and they deliver value and exceed expectations. It all starts with knowing what they want and having a burning desire to achieve it and then using their non-billable time wisely.

There is nothing magical about the traits in the list above. I know some traits may not come naturally to everyone. When I was practicing law, I worked harder on those that did not come naturally to me. You can follow that path also.

Two final points:

  1. Rainmaking skills can be developed. You don’t have to be born with them. I know because I certainly was not born with innate rainmaking skills. Many of you also know because you have worked to build your profile and relationships with clients and referral sources.
  2. You don’t have to be an extrovert who is the life of every party or event. That doesn’t mean you can just hide in your comfort zone. Be willing to engage people.

Seth Godin posted a really short, to the point interesting blog on January 20. The title: Everyone is better than you are… Take a moment to read it, at least the last line because in that one sentence he describes how to be successful at client development.

His blog reminds me of his book: Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

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He makes many great, thought provoking points in the book. Here is one of them:

Perhaps your challenge isn’t finding a better project or a better boss. Perhaps you need to get in touch with what it means to feel passionate. People with passion look for ways to make things happen.

And here is another, explaining what it takes to be a linchpin.

The combination of passion and art is what makes someone a linchpin.

When I was a young associate, a partner in my first firm unknowingly gave me about the best piece of advice I have ever received. He said:

Cordell, you are a very smart lawyer. After all you finished third in your law school class. But, smart lawyers graduate from law school every year and they are easily replaced by other smart lawyers. Your success in this firm will depend more on how well you attract, retain and expand relationships with clients. Lawyers with those skills are indispensable.

Are you busy doing the work for senior lawyers in your firm and hoping they appreciate your work so much that it will be ok for you to never have clients of your own? I hope not. If you want to become indispensable:

  1. What are you learning about client development?
  2. What are you doing to attract new clients?
  3. What are you doing to exceed your clients expectations and create value for them?
  4. What are you doing to build relationships with your clients and with partners in your law firm?
  5. What are you doing to become a linchpin?

Before I begin, I want to share that I’m still looking to coach lawyers in two more law firms this year. If your firm is considering a client development coaching program for 2017, reach out to me.

I received an email this week from a lawyer I am coaching. He said:

Cordell, I know it’s important for me to have a 2017 Business Plan, but I’m stuck. I’m not sure where to start and I want to make sure my plan will help guide me.

I shared with him this blog that I posted in 2012. If you’re also stuck, I hope it will help you.

I have always learned from seeing what other lawyers were doing and then adapting the best I saw to my own situation. I believe most lawyers learn the same way.

This month I have received several requests from law firms and lawyers asking for workshop materials and plan templates I have created for lawyers.

If you or lawyers in your firm are still stuck on how to create your 2012 Business or Personal Performance Plan I hope you will find the workshop materials, plan templates, articles and workshop slides valuable.

If you haven’t read it, you can read my Practical Lawyer article: Making 2012 Your Best Year Ever. You can also go through the slides from my 2011 Planning Webinar.

If you’ve been stuck, I hope you find these materials valuable.

It’s 2017. More baby boomer lawyers will retire this year.

Is your firm working to create your next generation of rainmakers? As you might imagine, I strongly believe a coaching program helps.

I like to tell people that if client development coaching had been available when I was a young lawyer I would have saved so much time just by getting feedback. I would have been far more focused and accountable.

As you may know, when I coach a group of lawyers in a firm, we meet in person for one-on-one coaching and group coaching sessions several times a year.

Recently a firm marketing director asked me what we cover in those group meetings. I invite you and your firm to “steal my stuff.” That is why I put an active link to my presentation materials. Here is the list of most requested topics:

I strongly believe your lawyers will be better able to attract, retain and expand relationships with clients, if you make these topics part of your client development coaching program.

In January, I will start my 13th year of client development coaching. I’ve worked with 100s of incredibly motivated lawyers in the US and Canada.

Many of you are subscribers. I want each of you to know that while I loved practicing law, working with you has brought me even more satisfaction as I have seen you take your practice to the next level.

Is your firm considering a client development coaching program for 2017? If so, I’m available. I’m looking to coach lawyers in five new firms in 2017. Here’s how it will work.

I will come to your office either quarterly, or every other month and coach 6-7 lawyers individually and put on a lunch program for all in the office who want to participate.

Each lawyer will create a business plan for 2017 and each time I meet with them we will end our session with a 60 Days or 90 Days Action Plan. In the first group lunch, the group will create goals for 2017 and an action plan to achieve them.

The two main criteria for a successful client development coaching program are:

  1. Selecting the right people to participate, (I can only help highly motivated lawyers, not those who “need” coaching) and
  2. Having the unfettered support of firm leadership.

Young partners or senior associates selected should have a strong desire to develop business, expand client relationships and develop their reputation. They should be open to coaching and trying new ideas. They should be comfortable getting outside their comfort zone.

John Maxwell Success

Second, to be successful, firm leadership must support the program and ensure it is supported by lower level leaders in the firm. In this way it can be a win-win for the selected lawyers and for the firm.

  1. Purpose-Why are you creating a client development coaching program? Firm leaders need to clearly articulate the purpose, focus, or mission of the project and it must be aligned with the participants’ personal wants and needs. This might include providing maximum opportunities for them to develop their individual practice and to work synergistically as a team
  2. Challenge-Participants need to set challenging individual and team goals that stretch them.
  3. Camaraderie-Participants should feel like a team, get to know each other well, learn from each other and think synergistically.
  4. Accountability-Each participant must be hold themselves accountable and also be accountable to their group members and the coach.
  5. Responsibility-Participants must take responsibility for their success and the group’s success.
  6. Growth-The program should include learning and growth. If participants feel they are moving forward, learning new concepts, adding to their skill base, and stretching their minds, motivation will remain high.
  7. Leadership-Participants should lead group meetings held without the coach because the teachers always learn more than the students.

Here is the most interesting thing I have experienced in the 12 years I have been coaching lawyers: If the first coaching group is successful, there is a “buzz” around the firm and firm lawyers are most anxious to get selected for the second group.

The firms where I have coached over many years, routinely have more lawyers apply than they have slots for each coaching group.

If your firm is developing a client development coaching program, take a look at my Client Development Coaching eBook and my presentation slides.

As you will see, I like to include both a group component and individual coaching. The lawyers in the group feel like a team and no one wants to let the team down.

If you want to learn more about the program described above including the cost, check out the Work with Me page and then give me a call at 214.305.3121, or send me an email.  I would be happy to share with you the cost and answer any questions you have.