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Playing the Long Game

5 Reasons Coaching Is More Important Than Ever for Lawyer Business Development

By Jennifer Griffin Scotton and Jill Huse

Business development coaching can help lawyers meet their goals for both short- and long-term success — no matter what the future holds. 

business development coaching

When the pandemic hit, the world shut down. Except it didn’t. Lawyers across the globe continued serving their clients remotely and found that, indeed, clients still need trusted advisors. As the way law firms operate has shifted, so too should your business development. It’s more important than ever not to rest on your laurels, thinking “once this is all over, I’ll get back to developing business.”

Business Development Means Playing the Long Game

The business you’re seeing now is likely the result of groundwork you laid 18 to 24 months ago. We don’t know when the world will be “normal” again, but any gaps in working toward your ultimate goal will mean you won’t reap the rewards for an additional few years. A business development coach can help you make the necessary adjustments to stay on track toward realizing your goals.

In our experience, lawyers are often intimidated by the idea of business development coaching. As a group of individuals taught to carefully mitigate risk, it can be difficult to convince lawyers to hedge their bets and entrust their practice to a coach. But for those who let loose the reins and fully embrace it, to the victor go the spoils.

How Does Coaching Work?

It’s important to understand what a coach will do for your business development planning and practice. A coach will work with you to crystalize your intrinsic “why,” envision “what” you want, and help you execute “how” you will get there by setting attainable goals, and quite possibly pushing you a little outside of your comfort zone. If your firm has an in-house marketing team, you may already have a business development coaching resource at your disposal. In addition, external coaching consultants can provide an excellent complement to your firm’s internal team resources and the lawyers at your firm. Structures that incorporate both internal and external resources working collaboratively realize the best results.

Why Working With a Coach Is Critical

Here are five key reasons why working with a business development coach is important, perhaps now more than ever.

Reason 1: Accountability

A coach will work with you to set appropriate goals and guide you to ensure you take the necessary steps to achieve those goals. This accountability is undoubtedly the reason that coaching works. When we ask previous coaching participants about what they valued most about having a coach, they resoundingly respond with “accountability.” Without someone to check in on your progress, it may be easy to forget why you’re on this path. A coach will help you stay focused on your business development objectives and get to the root of why you may be avoiding doing something you said you wanted to do.

Reason 2: Authenticity

Business development is not one-size-fits-all. Coaching works best when it’s personalized. It’s about helping you understand your authentic style and using those attributes to build your practice. No one is going to buy what you are selling unless you do it in that unique way that only you can. When business development coaches work with professionals, they spend a lot of time talking through a variety of factors including values, beliefs, communication styles and business approach.

Reason 3: Perspective

Many times, we get stuck in our bubble. For instance, have you ever dismissed something because you tried it 10 years ago and it didn’t work? You can gain a new perspective from discussing your practice with a trusted advisor who can help you navigate approaches from all sides. Perspective is crucial to business development.

Reason 4: Pivot

Pivot! That feels like the word for 2020, doesn’t it? Your distillery can’t serve customers in person or sell to shuttered restaurants? Use your alcohol to make hand sanitizer! The media has been full of headlines about businesses that pivoted to better serve their clientele or find new customers during the pandemic.

Conferences have been canceled or delayed, in-person networking is nonexistent until further notice, and most in-person avenues for meeting new clients have been shut down. How are you working to pivot your business development in the pandemic? A coach can help find new ways to connect with potential clients and leave a meaningful impression even in these unusual circumstances.

Reason 5: Thinking Beyond 2021

Oftentimes we get stuck in our present — billing time and putting out fires. A coach can help you think about what long-term success looks like and map out how to achieve it. Are the activities you are doing now preparing you to meet your career goals for five or 10 years from now? Business development takes time, and it’s important to be thoughtful and deliberate in your approach. Once you stop chasing the wrong things, it frees you up to catch the right ones.

Now is the perfect time to think about your career goals — not just for 2021, but for 2025, 2030 and beyond. A coach can help you navigate the current challenges, and lay the foundation for a solid game plan, regardless of what the future holds.

Related:Top 20 Legal Marketing Posts of the Year

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Jennifer Griffin Scotton is Director of Marketing & Business Development at Brooks Pierce, a 100-lawyer firm in North Carolina, and Co-Chair of the Legal Marketing Association’s international Shared Interest Group for Small Firms and Solo Marketers. An award-winning professional services marketer, she has served as a strategic client development advisor for law firms for nearly 15 years. Jennifer oversees the strategic marketing and business development efforts across all three Brooks Pierce office locations. She delights in coaching lawyers to create and implement practical business plans that build relationships and deliver value to clients.

Jill Huse (@jillmasonhuse) is a co-founder of Society54 (@Society54) and a trusted professional services advisor. A certified Worldwide Association of Business Coaches Coach, she has worked in professional services marketing for over 20 years bringing an innate ability to identify, encourage and develop her clients’ differentiating professional strengths, and to help clients leverage these strengths to meet and exceed bottom-line goals. Jill is the Immediate Past President of the Legal Marketing Association International Board of Directors and co-founder of Law 2.5. She has a master’s in law firm management from George Washington University.

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