Home Concepts Strategy Coaching in Legal Institutions The Good, the Bad and the Non-Billable: The Reality of Coaching Lawyers

The Good, the Bad and the Non-Billable: The Reality of Coaching Lawyers

19 min read

Lawyers are paid to be exceedingly detail oriented, never make mistakes, select the perfect words, find clever exceptions to rules, etc.  The focus is on anticipating and protecting against problems. Performing the job as perfectly as possible is the way lawyers keep themselves and their clients safe.  Yet, the perfectionism that is a core value of the legal profession is in opposition to qualities that make someone great at marketing and business development.  Business development is about building relationships, connecting with people, listening to them and helping them find solutions. If you are always trying to be perfect, it is a lot harder to listen well and create the authenticity and connection that are at the core of close human relationships.

Similarly, marketing is essentially trial and error.  There are some things for which brainpower alone does not suffice, and marketing is one of them.  It’s like predicting the weather. There are so many factors that contribute to whether a particular message will resonate with people that it is impossible to be certain without giving it a shot.  As they say in the tech industry, the key to success is not to never fail, but rather to “fail fast.” This concept does not sit well with lawyers.  A commitment to high quality is wonderful and serves the lawyers, their clients and society well in many ways, but NOT when it comes to marketing their services. As a result, most lawyers find transition from an associate to partner mindset extremely difficult.  Nonetheless, in order for a lawyer to have a successful private practice, he must find a way to generate business.  The more clients a lawyer has, the more money he will make, the more power within the firm and choices he will have.

My approach to coaching on business development

For years, I was aware that coaching lawyers on business development would be a sensible niche; and yet, I resisted marketing myself that way.  First of all, I was trained as an ontological coach. I love focusing on deeper levels of inquiry, and the idea of constantly discussing how to have sales conversations seemed both painfully dull and well outside my expertise.  In recent years, though, I have shifted my perspective.

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