Time Magazine says, “Coaching is an action-oriented partnership that concentrates on where you are today and how you can reach your goals.” Today’s competition facing the business world – especially lawyers – demands that everyone who wants to succeed have a coach. Why is this different from the past?

Around the world the downturn in the economy has impacted everyone in every field of business.  The changes affecting lawyers, though, have been huge and will not likely revert back when the economy improves. This downturn has played a part in the demise of very large law firms, most recently Dewey & LeBoeuf. It has been responsible for the downsizing of many other firms. It has caused many very experienced lawyers to leave long established firms and either go solo or start a smaller firm. Although the need for lawyers continues, clients have cut back on hiring lawyers whenever possible as a cost saving so now there is more competition among lawyers seeking the same business.

In addition, clients are demanding more for less. Bloomberg Law Reports on Pricing said in a recent AmLaw survey: “81% of law firm leaders say clients are requesting discounts and 55% of clients are requesting deeper discounts. 90% of Managing Partners surveyed say increasing price competition is a permanent change in the legal marketplace.”

In addition to reducing fees, clients also are having a significant impact on how law firms manage matters. For one thing, clients don’t want to pay to train young associates – thus law graduates are finding it harder to find jobs in firms where they traditionally developed experience as clients were billed for their time. Rainmakers who customarily gave work to other partners and associates in their firm are doing more of it themselves. In addition to lower fees, clients want morevalue for their money – something which isn’t always quantifiable and may differ for every client and every firm.

Technology is also having an impact on work that was traditionally done by lawyers. Richard Suskind, the author of The End of Lawyers? Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services, predicts “significant new pressures on the legal marketplace and, in turn, great change in the world of legal services.” He argues that “the market is unlikely to tolerate expensive lawyers for tasks that can be better discharged with support of modern systems and techniques.” In other words, new technology may enable a tech company to do work previously done by law firms faster, better, and less expensively than if lawyers continue to do it themselves. Individuals, who might normally turn to a lawyer to solve their legal problem, may now go to the Internet or a software program to see if they can do it without a lawyer. The future of law firms in a tech world suggests that lawyers need to rethink their current practice.

What does all this have to do with coaching? Everything. Great athletes have always had coaches because they know that only through coaching can they improve performance. Coaching lawyers has to do with implementing marketing activities differently, not how well you know the law. And a coach that understands your goals, how you can more effectively communicate with your client, and how a law firm functions, can help a lawyer become more successful in today’s economy.

Even corporations know their up-and-coming leaders need coaches.  “Coaching now is part of the standard leadership development training for elite executives and talented up-and-comers at IBM, Motorola, J.P. Morgan, Chase, and Hewlett Packard. These companies are discreetly giving their best prospects what star athletes have long had: a trusted adviser to help reach their goals.” –CNN.com

How does coaching work for lawyers? A coach is part advisor, part sounding board, part cheerleader, part manager and part strategist. You set the pace and determine the outcome you want. You identify what you want to achieve. The coach provides guidance, support, focus and structure.  Lawyers who benefit most are solo practitioners or those in small law firms because they often have to do everything from running the firm to being the rainmaker – and practice law. Also senior associates who want to become partner, junior partners who want to be equity partners and senior partners who want to move into the higher-tech aspect of business development. In other words, just about everyone.

Consider some of these performance changes due to coaching:

  •  Make smarter business development decisions. Understand the difference between marketing activities vs. marketing strategies.
  •  Set measurable goals and implement specific strategies to achieve them. Goals need to be quantified in order to measure them. Goals alone cannot be achieved without appropriate strategies.
  •  Make commitments you can keep through planning and desire. Without commitment, you won’t follow-up; don’t over commit or commit to things you won’t do.
  •  Move your marketing activities to the next level. Often, lawyers believe they are marketing effectively because they are using marketing tools that they see others use. Learn to measure your results and use appropriate tools that positively affect the outcome.
  •  Identify new prospects and referral sources. Know where they are and how to reach them.
  •  Communicate your experience and build a stronger reputation. Reputation is your ability to be seen as a skilled and knowledgeable lawyer who can solve problems.
  •  Have an experienced sounding board for your business development ideas. A coach who has worked with lawyers understands the practice of law and how to market to client’s needs and can help you reach your goals.

Your coach as a business partner focuses on high-value actions vs. low-value activities. With a fresh perspective and the objectivity of your coach, you will accomplish significantly more than you have before with business development results that can be measured. Think of your coach as an investment in your future.

Dee Schiavelli of Results Marketing for Lawyers is a strategic marketing coach and consultant for lawyers and their firms. She is also a certified Social Media Strategist. Dee can be reached at 520.229.3241, dee@resultsmarket.com,www.resultsmarket.com or www.linkedin.com/in/deeschiavelli