Thank you for helping me subject my concept to practical scrutiny. What you see below is a draft based on comments from contributors like yourself. I welcome any constructive feedback or suggestions.
The legal industry media is awash in articles and blogposts about declining demand for traditional legal services, declining pricing power, and increasing competition, including out-of-category competition, e.g., technology, offshoring, Big 4 and other consulting firms, and “in-sourcing,” ie., where corporations grow their internal legal department and reduce outside counsel usage.
Driven by this drumbeat, more law firms acknowledge the criticality of having more lawyers bring in business, and lawyers are beginning to acknowledge that they’ve got to devote more than lip service and episodic effort to attracting clients.
In many firms, this has resulted in a larger number of anxious lawyers who, fearing for their future at their current firm, and overall, are requesting business development training, coaching, and other forms of support.
When it comes to biz dev training, firms struggle with three problems:
Training and coaching can get expensive, and firms can’t afford to provide it to all their lawyers
There’s no reliable way to predict which lawyers will be good training investments, i.e., will take the training seriously, stick with it, and apply it vs. waste it.
Whatever way the training resource gets allocated, lawyers who wanted it but were excluded will feel slighted
Can't afford to provide training for everyone
Firms have to choose who to include and who to exclude. There is legitimate demand, i.e., by lawyers who will take advantage of the training and produce results, and there is false demand based on ego, status, political considerations, and outward appearances. Only an unknown percentage deserve meaningful investment.
No reliable way to predict which lawyers are good training investments
- A high percentage of lawyers who enroll in training programs aren’t serious about developing skills and applying them diligently to produce a book of business.
- Many enroll because the internal optics are not good for those who don’t express a desire to get better at BD.
- Others enroll uninformed, not knowing the nature or degree of commitment required to succeed at BD, so they opt out after a short time when confronted with that reality.
- For others, it’s a lot like an exercise program: You’re gung-ho for awhile, then you skip a few workouts, then a few more, and then you quit. You want to be fit, but you don’t want to do what it takes to get fit.
Lawyers who are excluded feel slighted
With no objective inclusion/exclusion criteria for training, selection appears biased, arbitrary or subjective -- which it is.
- Lawyers are competitive. If something is being offered to some, they want it offered to them, too (even if they don’t really want it). “Hey, if the firm is funding a BD training program, I want it, too. Why wasn't I chosen? What am I, chopped liver?”
- They feel like second-class citizens, not in the club. Lower status. That plays havoc with lawyers’ already low resilience.
The allocation risk is both financial and strategic.
Historically, an unacceptable percentage of enrolled lawyers have wasted BD training, so the money was lost and, more importantly, during the time that elapses before the firm can expose the non-performers, they lose the opportunity for more committed lawyers to bring business into the firm and reinforce the firm’s market positions and brand.
Attempts to force lawyers to comply with training program requirements always fail, due at least in part to lawyers’ personalities, which put them in the top decile for autonomy and skepticism, and in the bottom third for resilience.
The only practical option is to improve the firm’s ability to identify performers and invest only in them, and do it in a way that’s viewed as objective enough that it doesn’t trigger the “why not me” reaction by those excluded.
The answer is a behavior-based approach by which lawyers qualify or disqualify themselves for training investment based on what they actually do, rather than what you think they’ll do or what they claim they’ll do.
Skill development is a three-part mission:
Education produces an intellectual effect, e.g., awareness, understanding, perhaps attitude change, but no skills.
Training is the actual doing and practicing, which produces measurable skill. In this case, I’m referring to my RainmakerVT online training. It’s a virtual world where lawyers learn through interactive simulations. Hence, “modest” cost and “scalable.”
- Coaching is providing guidance for lawyers to apply what they learned in the Training level to real-world opportunity. It produces tangible results.
Each successively higher rung on the Training Ladder requires progressively more expensive resources, and is accessible one of two ways:
- Permanently: Complete the “graduation” requirements the firm assigns to the current level.
- Temporarily: Have an imminent real-world opportunity that requires support from a higher-level resource. For example, Joe has made only modest progress on the Education rung, but is going to a networking event next week. To maximize Joe’s chances of producing a worthwhile outcome at that event, the firm would grant him access to the Networking Event simulation from the Training segment and, once he’s completed that, a short coaching session to help him apply what he learned to the specific environment he'll face next week. After that, Joe reverts to back to the Education stage to complete those requirements.
First Rung: Education
Library of marketing/sales content, e.g., articles, white papers, podcasts, blog posts, etc.
- Available to everyone via sign-in
- Measurable consumption, activity. The image below shows a crude representation of some of the many things firms might choose to measure, e.g., frequency, volume, intervals, etc.
- Quiz: Each piece of content has a quiz associated with it. (Optional; enable or disable)
- Quiz automatically arrives 10 days after the content has been accessed. Lawyer has infinite amount of time to complete it. No human or electronic nagging. The idea isn't to coerce compliance, but to document voluntary performance to inform training investment decisions.
- Graphic, color coded to allow at-a-glance grasp of overall activity volume, progress. Perhaps use green (invest)-to-red (don’t invest) spectrum to portray status
- Click through to individual status reports, color-coordinated to enable at-a-glance understanding.
- Mobile accessible by firm leadership (ver. 1.0)
Individual User Dashboard (ver. 2, 3)
List of content consumption history
- Content consumption history (similar to how Amazon tracks book purchases)
- Date chosen
- Last access date
- Quiz status: # complete; # incomplete
- Progress: “You’ve completed ___% of the criteria to enable access to the interactive training level"
Graduate to Next Investment Level
- Firm sets the consumption criteria to “graduate”
- System alerts management that the lawyer “earned next level of training”
Lawyers are in complete control of their eligibility for further training investment at any time. No need to monitor it. When they hit the threshold, they progress. If they don’t, they don’t. No pushing; merely monitoring/reporting progress or lack.
There's also no more complaining about having missed the training window. "I was in trial when the training started. I missed out." Day One is available to every lawyer, every day. You didn't miss out on anything; get started today.
Second Rung: Skills Training
Interactive simulations in which lawyers learn the skill from within a virtual scenario.
- They manage an avatar through a series of “say/do” decisions as they progress through the challenge.
- For each decision, they get video coaching that explains why that is or isn’t the optimal choice.
- Each simulation also features two auxiliary modes:
- Practice Mode: In just five minutes, just before they apply the skill in the real world, they refresh what they learned previously.
- Ready Mode: A skill-validation tool that lets lawyers test the degree to which they’ve internalized the skill they learned, and whether it’s available to them on demand in the real world.
Video lessons with drag-and-drop quizzes embedded. For narrower topics that don’t lend themselves to the degree of dialog and interaction offered in the simulations.
3-Month Guided Programs
- Each Friday, participants receive an email reminding them of what they should have completed this week, encouraging them to spend time over the weekend to catch up if they haven't done the work, and listing what they should do the following week. Each week's plan is a mixture of new courses, repeating one or more previous courses, practice sessions, and skill-validation sessions. Each program averages about 75 minutes per week.
- Lawyers must successfully complete the first 3-month program to be granted access to the second.
Ad Hoc Courses
- Just-in-time courses for lawyers who don’t want to commit to a program approach, but who need specific training to prepare for imminent real-world activity, e.g., networking events, article-writing, public speaking, prospect meetings, pricing conversations, etc.
- The firm purchases a modest inventory of courses and grants access to them one at a time as needed. Managed by the Marketing/BD department, who we train to use the system.
- View performance of entire firm, groups, teams, or individuals
Stage 1: Education
- Library access: $15 per lawyer per year, unlimited access
- Graduation fee: $25 per graduate (satisfied firm's criteria)
Stage 2: Training
- Two successive 3-month guided programs, each $250.
- Ad hoc courses: $1000 (25 courses at $40 each).
If you haven't already received a personal copy, request a private worksheet, which enables you to evaluate cost for your firm by modifying any combination of four variables to create different usage- and investment scenarios. Here's an example for a 300-lawyer firm.
Financial risk is reduced because the firm won't write a check for $23,750 Day One, only for $3750 to provide Education access for everyone. Lawyers will "graduate" at different times, so the firm will pay the graduation fees quarterly, based on the actual number of graduates. At the Training level, risk is contained by buying online course "tickets" in batches of 50 @ $40, for $2000. As those are consumed, the firm buys more. If they're not, they don't.
The $23,750 total shown above is merely a projection of what the firm would spend over the course of a year based on the behaviors modeled. If you'd like to test different usage scenarios, request a personal copy of this sheet. You can modify any of the assumptions in the pale yellow boxes to produce your own projections.