I know you’re busy, so I’ll only take 30 minutes of your time.
Quick background. For 20 years I was the sales coach to BigLaw partners. I was in the good-to-great business, i.e., taking a lawyer from $1m to $2m, 2-5, 5-10, etc. No matter how carefully firms tried to select the participants, only 20% of them took the investment seriously and performed; 80% wasted it. Recent conversations with more than 100 CMOs and BDOs confirms that their experience was similar to me. Fortunately for me, the 20% attributed a billion and a half dollars in new business to these processes, so it wasn’t a disaster for the firms or me.
First, please help me understand your perspective on lawyer training and BD support:
Typically, what % of your work is reactive vs. proactive?
What do you react to?
What tends to be more proactive?
Research shows that
When we react, i.e., satisfy an explicit request, our clients perceive that as us simply doing our job.
The more proactive we are, the more valuable we’re perceived to be. It’s interpreted as “above and beyond.”
Thank you. I appreciate you helping me understand your perspective.
What you describe is very much like your lawyers’ world. Mostly, they respond to client requests. I read the same research you read, and it shows that responsiveness is expected, but doesn’t get them a gold star from the clients. It’s now the price of not getting fired. Contrast that with what clients say about lawyers who approach them with fresh thinking about a situation the client faces. Those are the memorable lawyers.
It’s no different for you. I’m sure you respond quickly and effectively to the ___% you described. However, the lawyers see that as merely doing what they pay you for. If you want to be seen as valuable, you must approach them proactively with something that will make a difference in their professional or personal lives. That’s the opportunity that just-in-time training gives you.
Let’s talk about what we’re up against, what we have to overcome.
For lawyers, “training” is an abstraction, and training programs are seen as yet another obligation added to an already too-full plate. Worse, it’s another source of scrutiny -- and we know how lawyers respond to that. Since the training typically isn’t connected to anything concrete, they don’t see its relevance to their day. It feels kind of like a degree program, with a vague, “someday maybe” payoff.
Which of you would sign up for a multi-week training program to learn about all the functionality in Outlook? Kind of like an Outlook degree. It’s a silly idea. Nobody wants an Outlook degree. All you want is to know how to do the thing you’re trying to do right now. You don’t really care what else there may be to learn about Outlook.
The degree program approach results in two fights with the lawyers:
Getting them to complete the program
Getting them to apply the training before they forget it
They don’t want a biz dev degree. As one of my consultant friends put it so well, “I don’t want to become fluent in French; I just want to impress my date Friday night at the French restaurant.”
One of the problems with lawyers and biz dev is what’s known as “unconscious incompetence.” That means they don’t know what they don’t know. One characteristic of that is overconfidence about our ability to perform, based on our ignorance of what it actually takes to perform. If we don’t know what it takes, we can’t know that we don’t have what it takes, that we’re skill deficient, so why would we ask for help? You don’t know that you need help, much less what kind of help.
You’ve heard lawyers describe their clients in similar terms, e.g., clients don’t know that certain workplace attitudes and behaviors produce turnover or harassment claims; they don’t know that certain types of relationships with foreign sales agents create FCPA problems, etc.
Any training investment has to accomplish two goals:
Make the lawyers more effective at their biz dev actions, and make them more comfortable and confident with performing those actions
Cause the lawyers to see each of you as more relevant and valuable than they were previously aware.
This second point is an extension of “unconscious incompetence.” They don’t know what you can do for them, so they only ask for a narrow range of help. By approaching them proactively, you’ll subtly educate them about the broader array of help available.
Here’s the learning trilogy:
Nobody’s going to get credit for generating understanding, or for training. You get credit for coaching them to win, and for bringing timely ideas to the table that will make a difference for them. You want the highest possible percentage of your time dedicated to helping them win. Let the computer handle the understanding and training burdens.
The two keys to all of this are
What’s relevant to busy lawyers? Help with what they’ve already decided to do, just before they have to do it.
Most lawyers engage in only four BD activities:
How do you find out what your lawyers have planned?
Lawyers inform BDMs
Go to prac grp mtgs
End of wk email
BD asst does all calendaring
Good news: These are all tied to their calendars, enabling what we call Capability on Demand.
Here’s What to Do:
Use your complimentary access to experience the courses that correlate to lawyers’ four primary marketing/sales activities
Networking Event simulation
Door-Opener: Associating Yourself with Business Problems that Drive Demand for Your Expertise
Door-Opener: Become a “Thought Leader”: Uncover a Business Issue that Will Open Doors for You
GF- Write Articles with Greater Impact - In 30 Minutes
GC- Door-Opener: Learning How Your “Door-Opener” Problem Affects The Company You’re Talking With
GF- How To Get the Most Out of a Speaking Engagement
GF- Making “Thought Leadership” Pay Off: Expanding Your Network from Your Desk
GF- Write Articles with Greater Impact - In 30 Minutes
GF- Networking Events
GC- Next steps meeting
GC- Co-Specific version of D/O
GC- Stakeholder Alignment
Subscribe to feeds that will help you recognize common circumstances that lawyers aren’t aware they can influence
Rainmaking in a Buyer’s Market
Training Triggers: Browse TTs, experiment with Search function, seeking known circumstances relevant to lawyers you support
When you become aware of a lawyer’s imminent BD activity, review the RainmakerVT course descriptions to see which ones would be most useful. In the beginning, or any time you’re not sure which to recommend, call me for guidance. It won’t take long before you become very familiar with the courses and their applications. If you’ve not previously experienced that course, or if it’s been a while since your last exposure to it, use your administrative account to go through the course before offering it to the lawyer.
A week or less before the scheduled activity, approach lawyers who have activities scheduled (#1 above) and offer them relevant help
“I know you’re going to that networking event next week. That’s great. Many of your colleagues have expressed frustration about how little they get, compared to the amount of time and effort they expend on these events. Others have admitted feeling really uncomfortable being there at all. We have something that will make this easier and more effective for you, and it won’t take you long to gain the capability. Would you find that helpful?”
Because the event is only 5-6 days away, it’s real, as is their memory of previous discomfort or failure. Because of the event’s imminence, help should be very welcome at this moment. If you offer it too far in advance, it’s an abstraction; they’ll get around to it when they have time. We know they’ll forget and it won’t happen.
To register the lawyer for the course, let your firm’s RainmakerVT administrator know:
the lawyer’s name and email address
what specific 5-day period
to CC you on the access info email that goes to the lawyer
The admin will send the lawyer email containing access information, and CC you so you can confirm that the course and dates are as you intended
Day One, the RainmakerVT system will send a welcome email to the lawyer containing suggestions to get the most out of the course, and addressing a few housekeeping items, e.g., iPad access.
Day Three they’ll get an email encouraging them to repeat the course to make sure they’ve absorbed it. If they haven’t done it the first time yet, this will remind them to get to it.
Day Five they’ll get email alerting them that their access expires that day at midnight PST, again encouraging them to repeat the course to make sure they’re ready to succeed.
Even if they decline the training offered, they’ll recognize the relevance of your approach. “Gee, she’s paying attention to what’s happening in my world, and looking for ways to help me.”
Offer to have a short coaching session after they’ve completed the online training, to help them apply the training to the specific event, type of people expected, etc.
Arrange to close the feedback loop the day following the real-world use of the skill.
Tight 6-day feedback loop. The day following the real-world experience, debrief the lawyer
What worked, and what next steps make sense as a result?
What didn’t work as well, and what should we do differently as a result?