3 Tenets of a Good Law Firm Coaching Program
January 10, 2017
Originally, coaches were hired to help fix the acerbic behavior of rainmakers who caused heavily-recruited and talented younger lawyers to quit and who senselessly churned through competent professional staff. Think, screamers and pencil-throwers.
Today, coaching is less about intervention and more about facilitating effective individual business development. The problem: no research has followed coached lawyers over long periods. Regrettably most of the evidence around effectiveness remains anecdotal. Absent hard data, what are best practices firms should consider when evaluating existing coaching or beginning a program?
The three tenets below are based on my 30 years of experience, the 10 years my partner has spent coaching lawyers and the observations of several nationally recognized coaches who are licensed therapists. We all agree:
- Hire someone who knows how law firms are organized, how lawyers are compensated, who understands the basics of the law your firm practices, knows legal ethics and is familiar with organization of your target markets. This saves incredible amounts of time spent on explanation. Time is a lawyer’s greatest asset and what you are buying from a coach. Coaches think this knowledge is important. Several polls, including one in the Harvard Business Review, reveal coaches think they are more effective in companies and firms in industries with which they are familiar.
- Get your next-generation high-potential performers into the program. This is where you will see the largest return on your investment. If the firm budget allows, add in a few younger lawyers who are motivated, have high sociability and who you want to ensure you retain.
- It is critical the coach focuses on the future and that you ask if they can:
a. Advise lawyers, who are or will be firm leaders, about firm business matters
b. Involve management in goal-setting
c. Let lawyers discover their own path and pursue their own style of business development
d. Identify and tackle difficult issues, including both professional and personal pressures
e. Confront familiar behavior and the need for individual behavioral change
Following these guidelines will help you address a common concern expressed to us by managing partners, boards and executive committees. All ask us about the fuzziness around how coaches define their engagements, about how progress is measured and reported, and which person to select.