Having worked in law firms and with lawyers for nearly two decades, it is safe to say that business development coaching and training programs are fraught with challenges — even under the best of circumstances.
First, there is a lack of attorney accountability. The willing, who are amenable to coaching, are often reluctant to agree to performance metrics for fear of failure and judgment by their peers and leadership. Other participants, who have been “strongly encouraged” by firm leadership, just want to practice law and “do good work” that they hope will lead to business.
Second, there is reluctance to direct firm resources to those attorneys who are best suited to capitalize on it. To avoid the political minefield of “choosing favorites,” firm leadership either avoids coaching and training programs altogether or choose candidates based on political cover.
The final barrier is the lack of formal scrutiny to ensure meaningful results. It is common for an in-house law firm professional to provide coaching to a partner on an as-needed basis (e.g., in response to a plea to “help me improve the presentation I need to give next week”) without any processes in place to measure the efficacy of that coaching. Even a structured program is typically assessed based on arbitrary indicators such as whether or not the lawyers liked it or found it helpful.
Yet, in order to source and secure a sufficient number of new clients and to develop future leaders and revenue generators, some aspect of coaching and training must be part of the professional development mix. In fact, a recent legal industry survey conducted by The Ackert Advisory found that more than 71 percent of North American law firms provide coaching and training, mostly through their professional marketing staff, with only 12 percent of the firms surveyed reporting any positive return.
So what is one solution? Technology integration.
E-learning programs like RainmakerVT, Practice Boomers and Practice Pipeline provide a variety of affordable business tools that promote accountability and measure outcomes. RainmakerVT and Practice Boomers offer a curriculum of video tutorials that can either be used to “train the trainer” or to train the lawyers directly. Practice Boomers walks lawyers through a business development planning process, which they can access through a mobile app. All three programs offer performance tracking that integrates metrics.
Additionally, these technology platforms allow marketers to provide a consistent training experience throughout the firm and generate meaningful reports that show e-learning utilization (so marketing departments can cut off underutilized programs), reported business development activity (so inactive lawyers can receive constructive feedback), auto-generated reminders (so marketers don’t always have to do the nudging) and regular origination surveys (so lawyers can report which of their new matters are directly attributable to the coaching they have received.
Most importantly, the hard data generated by these programs arms marketers and firm leadership with irrefutable evidence that the hours spent consulting and cajoling their firm’s lawyers are tangible contributions to the firm’s growth.