Gary Mitchell's Biz/Dev Coaching Blog
Gary’s column from The Lawyers Weekly, January 20 2017
Traditionally as part of their day- to-day work, young lawyers turned to more senior members of their firm when they needed answers to thorny legal questions and guidance on building a suc- cessful practice. Times have changed. Today client demands for rapid-fire service, the growth of large national, even multi- national law firms and increasing numbers of people entering the profession have combined to make informal mentoring much more difficult.
Several years ago I predicted that at some point the larger firms in Canada would look to bring on full-time in-house business development coaches. It has recently come to my attention that it’s happening now. New positions are being created where coaches are working in-house with specific practice groups. Unlike other business development and marketing roles, these new positions are purely about coaching. They are there full-time to help the lawyers create a plan of action and then support them through implementation teaching them various skills along the way. If this isn’t a resounding statement in support of the value of coaching lawyers in business development, I don’t know what is.
Situation: A very unhappy 5th year associate decides he can no longer practice as a litigator. He approaches his firm to get support in making a shift to build a solicitor practice. The marketing department hired me to work with him to turn his career around.
Approach: As we began to create his business plan, we focused on his definition of success, what did he ultimately want to create for his career? We focused on his values and what was important to him. Before we decided where he would focus his attention we spent some time figuring out what made him tick. As it turned out, environmental issues were very important to him. So we investigated the ‘green’ market and how it was being served. Through his connections and contacts he was able to get some meetings with green start-up companies.
Results: It didn’t take too long before he was bringing in new business. He created an IP practice and worked under one of the partners at his firm. The shift that he experienced was clearly visible to his colleagues at the firm. He was happy, engaged, motivated and committed to building his practice. It wasn’t too long before he was basically caught up to the partner track he had been on. What was that worth to him and his career? What was that worth to his firm instead of losing this talented and loyal associate, they made a small investment in him and helped turn his career around? And what did it mean for his career?
Situation: A Managing Partner decides he would like to get more people on his team engaged in business development. He suggests coaching for one of his law clerks and warns me that she is very introverted and shy. After consulting her it was apparent she was very open to coaching to improve skills and advance her career.
Approach: This is an excellent example of business development 101. This law clerk was extremely introverted. And yet at the same time she was open to expanding her skills and career. We began by identifying networking opportunities and professional associations she could join. It wasn’t too long before she was enjoying networking and looking forward to the next event. She was making great progress in building her network. We also looked at where to get her published and what speaking opportunities there were.
Results: In a very short time she identified the fact that she would never have been engaged in her current business development approach prior to the coaching. During the summer months she was chomping at the bit for September when these functions started up again. She gained confidence when networking and started to make some great connections. She started contributing to her firm’s blog. She’s currently approaching legal publications to write articles and looking for speaking opportunities as well as joining Toastmasters to improve her presentation skills. It won’t be too long before she starts bringing in clients to her firm.
Situation: A junior partner who was already doing ‘well’ in building his practice had his firm hire me to help him take it to the next level. Much like athletes who want to compete on the world stage, he wanted more. He interviewed three potential people to help him and in the end chose me primarily for my entrepreneurial drive and tenacity.
Approach: As with all clients, we began by looking at his current clients and contacts to mine them for opportunities. Being somewhat introverted, he wasn’t keen on going out there to attract new contacts, he wanted to focus on his current clients and contacts to explore opportunities. Over the course of one year of coaching, this client got more and more confident in his approaches to business development. Where he had been ‘good’ he was now becoming ‘great’.
Results: Within a couple of years of working with this client, at age 40 he became the number one income earner and Rainmaker at his firm. He brought in the largest file in the 100 year old history of his firm. Years later, the file continues to bring in large revenues.
Situation: A 4th year associate already engaged in business development wants to take it to the next level and begin attracting the ‘bigger fish’. She has the attention of one of the senior named partners and decides to invest in coaching to help her build her practice. I was not surprised to learn that she was going to pay me directly and not ask her firm to cover the investment. She did this for many reasons, not the least of which being that she didn’t want anything hanging over her head. She didn’t want the firm to hold expectations over her. The only person who knew about my work with her was the senior partner that she did work for. And he was very supportive.
Approach: We created a business plan for her practice. We identified key events to attend and network. We identified key contacts to help her build her network of referrals. Her confidence in herself and her ability to attract new clients is increasing. She created her own networking/mastermind group and meets monthly. I helped her build her LinkedIn profile and network.
Results: By taking this initiative and hiring me directly, and gaining business development skills, this makes her more valuable as a Lawyer. Whether she ends up staying where she is or looks to move to another firm, her ability to build her own book of business makes her more valuable and attractive to partnership. She invested in herself, in her career and her success. Based on my experience, she will see that investment pay off in dividends for years to come.
I am very pleased to chair “Raindance: The Business Development Bootcamp for Lawyers” to air September 24th. This Bootcamp is especially geared towards solo practice and small to mid-size firms who are looking to grow. Working closely with the conference organizers at The Commons Institute, we’ve put together a stellar group of presenters including legal practitioners and legal marketers who are leading innovation in today’s marketplace. You will hear from a Law Clerk who will share what she did to grow her network and bring in clients to her firm; a 4th year M&A Lawyer who will share her approach to business development, and a Managing Partner will share how he continued to make rain, lead the firm, manage his people, engage his team in business development and grow his firm. We also have Jana Schilder, my Co-Founding Partner of Legal A Team, who will cover the value of media relations in growing your firm, and Susan Van Dyke of Vandyke marketing, who will cover off effectively using Social Media.
In addition to the amazing content we will cover, each participant of Raindance will receive a copy of my 2nd book, “Raindance 2: A Blueprint for Growing Your Practice”, and a one-hour coaching session with me to follow the conference. If you are looking to grow your practice or firm, this webinar cannot be missed. GO to The Commons Institute and sign up today. Early bird rates are still available. I look forward to working with you to grow your firm.
I’ve wanted to get my own coach for some time now and finally found a perfect match in Shannon Graham out of Santa Barbara California. Just like how I focus 100% on the legal industry, Shannon focuses his coaching specifically on other coaches. I’ve learned a lot already and wonder why I waited so long to invest in myself and my own business. Now I have someone who’s got my back, just like I do for my clients. Shannon’s approach is very much aligned with my own. He blends a mixture of art and science with a soft and genuine approach to serving and helping people. He also provides a lot of inspiration and encouragement. Why didn’t I get my own coach sooner?
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” That quote from Charles Darwin is particularly relevant to lawyers and law firms right now. So much change is happening and it seems the speed at which it’s changing is constantly increasing. You have two choices. One, do nothing and hope for the best. What’s the definition of insanity again? Or, adapt, look for ways to change your approaches and habits and how to increase your client satisfaction and loyalty. Look for ways to do what you do better, faster, more cost-effective. Look for ways to further develop your people and increase productivity and loyalty. If you’re stuck and don’t know where to start, give me a call. I can help. That’s what I do.
One of my clients, a 4th-year call associate clearly identified networking as one of her biggest weaknesses. Not only she felt she was not good at it, she really felt uncomfortable doing it. As I often hear myself telling my clients, “often times it’s not about the ‘what’, but more about the ‘how’ and ‘where’ of what you are doing that will make the difference. So we spent some time figuring out first where the best ‘places or events’ to network at, and then we spent some time on her approach to networking. Recently she was going to be attending a two-day conference and in her words was “pumped’ to go and meet new people. And she had already started meeting some great connectors and growing her network. Another great example of what one-to-one coaching can do for your people.