Successful Coaching for Lawyers is a Process – Part 2

Successful coaching for lawyers is a processThis is Part 2 of this article.  To read part 1, click here.

The third step of the coaching process is to skillfully challenge the way that lawyers are trained to think. “In law school and in legal practice, lawyers are rewarded for knowing everything about a matter or a case – and never being wrong,” said Tarlton. “It goes against lawyers’ nature to admit that they might need help. If lawyers state, ‘I’ll never be good at business development,’ follow up by asking them why they think this is true. Try to get at the root of their resistance to business development.”

In the fourth step of the business development coaching process, a good coach will help the lawyer come up with useful ideas and resources.   “Never say ‘this is what you need to do’,” said Tarlton. “There is no magic pill.

“Do some research and contribute this knowledge and these resources to the lawyer,” said Tarlton. “Provide examples of tactics used successfully by similar lawyers. Ask the lawyer to name colleagues who are successful at business development – and to analyze these lawyers’ approaches. Encourage the lawyer to generate individualized business development ideas based on these resources.

“Lawyers are naturally curious and process-driven,” said Tarlton. “Get them interested intellectually in business development and they will likely buy into the process.”

The fifth step of the process involves supporting and encouraging the lawyers as they attempt to implement their business development ideas. Behaviors that are rewarded tend to be repeated.

“This support can be individual,” said Tarlton. “A coach can drop by the lawyer’s office on a regular basis to assess and provide positive feedback, and to ask and answer additional questions. Support and encouragement also can be firm-wide, such as a method for public recognition of lawyers’ business development accomplishments – perhaps in meetings or firm-wide emails or on the firm’s intranet site.”

Step six entails creation of a method to track and measure success, using specific deadlines. How does the lawyer being coached define success? Is it three new clients in a particular industry? Is it five additional matters for an existing client? Is it strengthening his or her reputation in an area by writing three articles for a well-read industry publication?   Lawyers carefully track progress on their matters and cases; tracking business development activities will feel natural to them and can help drive results.

Finally, a good business development coach will help a lawyer to focus on the pipeline that will delivery work to his or her desk in the future – not just today. What are the emerging issues that will threaten your clients? Create lists of clients and potential clients who will be affected, and begin a communication process that puts you in front of these clients well in advance of the pack.

“Not all lawyers can be successfully coached,” said Tarlton. “Before starting this process ask a few select questions to screen the good candidates from those who will only waste your time and talent. Work only with lawyers who take personal responsibility for their own success.   Reject any lawyer who is not willing to partake in the process outlined above.”

Questions to screen potential coaching candidates include:

  • Will you commit to a certain amount of time to spend on this effort? (Most lawyers spend long hours at work and already feel that they are shortchanging their families. Nonetheless, a good candidate will be willing to set aside a specific amount of time each week.)
  • Are you willing to acknowledge that, although you know a lot about your area of the law, you do not know everything about business development? Are you open to new ideas?
  • Can you be counted on to keep all of your scheduled appointments with your coach – no matter how busy you are?
  • Will you commit to “walking the talk” – doing what you say you will do? If you agree to make three phone calls to existing client by the next meeting, will you do so?
  • Are you willing to try something if you are not 100-percent sure it will work for you?

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /



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Janet Ellen Raasch

About Janet Ellen Raasch

Janet Ellen Raasch is a writer, ghostwriter, editor and blogger at Constant Content Blog who works closely with professional services providers – especially lawyers, law firms, legal consultants and legal organizations – to help them achieve name recognition and new business through publication of keyword-rich content for the web and social media sites as well as articles and books for print. She can be reached at (303) 399-5041 or

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