My first major step onto the coaching soapbox came in the form of an article entitled “Coaching to Improve Skills,” which appeared in the December 3, 2007 issue of The Pennsylvania Bar News. I wrote it because I was sick and tired of hearing attorneys say that if an attorney did not instinctively know how to market, they would never learn. It’s just wrong.
Most attorneys are not instinctively good at marketing. However, marketing is very much a learned skill. Any attorney is capable of learning how to become an effective rainmaker, or at least a strong contributor to a firm’s efforts.
The fact is that Baby Boomer attorneys grew up in a rapidly expanding marketplace. Individuals and companies were happy to find an attorney who did decent work, and had a nice “bedside” manner. That’s about all that was required to grow one’s practice through word of mouth. There was plenty of room for new attorneys to try one methodology or another, and make mistakes along the way to honing one’s skills in asking for legal work, and referrals to new clients. Those who chose not to do so were able to make partner by serving the needs of other partners’ clients. Those “worker bees” chose not to develop skills outside their comfort level, because they didn’t need to do so in order to succeed. That doesn’t mean that they weren’t capable of doing so. Maybe they would have needed some assistance to get there, but if motivated, they could have.
When the marketplace leveled off, development of marketing skills started to become a determinant of who would make partner, and who would not. Firms would invest enormous resources in helping attorneys develop professional skills. But when the same attorneys did not “naturally” develop marketing skills by a certain point in their career, they were cut loose, on the assumption that they were a lost cause. Such a shame. Many who were cast aside went on to develop the skills out of necessity, in order to survive on their own. Some did better than others, but most managed to survive in the profession.
Now that we’re in a highly-competitive, contracting marketplace, there is even less room for experimentation and trial and error in client development. Smart firms are realizing that training in this area is as necessary as any other area. And let’s keep in mind that real learning by lawyers is acquired by “doing” and not by “studying” about it. That means one must know what to do, how to do it, and then practice and perfect the skills.
For many attorneys, coaching can provide the difference between success and failure. And that doesn’t apply just to development of rainmaking skills. Coaches work directly with attorneys to help them create a personal action plan. They help attorneys identify what is holding them back, and develop strategies to overcome the roadblocks.
I have searched for coaches I can recommend for many years. Most that I have met over the years do not meet my expectations. It’s not about the credentials; it’s about the person and their methodology. I have a few I can recommend to PA Bar Members. Some focus just in marketing. Others in more general areas contributing to success. However, I was recently so impressed by one in particular, I will mention her here.
We became acquainted through LinkedIn. After some e-conversation, we met in person. Obviously I was impressed. So let me recommend you take a look at the credentials of Dena Lefkowitz. If you decide to call, tell her Ellen sent you. I don’t get any referral, just satisfaction knowing attorneys are getting the additional skill training they need to be successful.