Practice Development Coaching: Why Coaching Increases Lawyers' Revenues
by Edward Poll
(County Bar Update, August 2001, Vol. 21, No. 7)


Practice Development Coaching:
Why Coaching Increases Lawyers' Revenues

By Edward Poll, J.D., M.B.A., CMC. Poll is a member of the Law Practice Management Section Executive Committee. The opinions expressed are his own. Contact him at (800) 837-5880 or for comments and questions. (c)Edward Poll April 2001

What do Tiger Woods and Tom Hanks have in common? Both understand the value of having a coach. Each of these outstanding and well-known personalities regularly works with a coach to refine and hone his skills.

The same is true in the business world. Top-flight business executives retain experienced individuals to coach and help them refine their skills in the business world. These coaches also act as part of their inside advisory board, which guides them to greater heights of success.

Coaching is a form of consulting that helps professionals set and reach their business goals. Lawyers are retaining coaches in increasing numbers. In the "old days", such advice generally was given by a more experienced lawyer and was referred to as "mentoring". Today there is little mentoring because of the demands of billable time.

How does coaching work? Coaching is usually performed on an individual basis, one-on-one. This is the most effective approach because the attorney can be candid with his or her concerns, fears and challenges. Each coaching session is usually done over the phone and lasts no more than 15 to 30 minutes. A weekly frequency keeps the attorney on track with adjustments as needed.

The subject matter of coaching can be limited or broad, depending on the needs of the attorney and the skill and experience of the coach. Today attorneys seem to be most interested in addressing business development (increased revenue), human relations (staff stability, workload and compensation) and stress (how to deal with "difficult" clients and leading a "balanced" life) issues.

These subjects are important to all lawyers -- new as well as experienced lawyers, associates as well as partners.

One coaching experience saw an attorney have an issue with her client who did not want to pay a significantly discounted fee for services rendered.

The lawyer had achieved an outstanding result and even reduced her fee by two-thirds because of the personal relationship between them.

Her client failed to appreciate the value of her service and refused to pay even the discounted fee. (Does this sound familiar?)

After raising the issue with the coach, the lawyer and coach developed a proactive strategy to this challenge, which resulted in the lawyer earning an additional $85,000 (the difference between the discounted fee and the fee the client was willing to pay).

This particular coaching session was brief, but its value to the attorney was huge. The attorney's client had threatened to take the attorney to the State's Disciplinary Board.

Top athletes in every sport have personal coaches. Successful business executives and professionals have coaches. Why shouldn't lawyers have coaches?

Like the shoemaker whose children go without shoes, lawyers frequently don't take care of their own needs. Having a coach helps you focus your energies on those tasks, which will increase revenues. The coach is someone who gives you advice on how to achieve your goals and to whom you make a commitment to perform the tasks you agree are necessary.

When you are accountable and committed to yourself, it is much easier to achieve your goals with someone on your side and available to you for immediate consultation. You become more focused and produce more results that translate into more success. You develop new skills, and these skills translate into more success. You gain more control over your practice, your business, your life.

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