Law firms estimate that 80% of the money invested in business development training and coaching is wasted by lawyers who opt out after the firm commits the funds. Here are the results of my Fall 2016 interviews with 100 law firms, and ALA's poll of their membership. It aligns with my observations of the firms and lawyers with whom I worked over the past 25 years.
No matter how firms try to predict which lawyers will use the training/coaching, they’ll fail, because there’s no reliable way to do that. Here are the four primary methods of choosing lawyers to train/coach, and the degree of waste associated with each one.
The inescapable conclusion is that there's no way to predict which lawyers will make use of training and which will opt-out, and waste it.
Unbundle the "training" monolith into three discrete learning missions: Education, Training, Coaching. Each has a different purpose, outcome, and appropriate investment, as shown in the Learning Ladder:
Firms have no way to reduce the high opt-out rate, but they can reduce its cost.
Stage One: Education
For a trivial amount, Dezurve allows firms to offer basic BD education to all their lawyers. Education doesn't develop skill, but it does enable lawyers to develop a baseline functional understanding of marketing and sales, and a context to anticipate their application.
Once logged in, lawyers can locate the Library content they want by:
- typing a keyword into the Quick Search field
- using a directory tree that they're familiar with
- clicking on one of the major content categories and viewing the articles associated with it
- clicking on any keyword to view associated content.
If they get confused or stuck, they can click on the live chat icon (5) at bottom right and get immediate help.
The app lets firms see at a glance who does what and who doesn’t. Lawyers can demonstrate that they’re serious about learning and acquiring skill and earn additional investment -- or not. At a glance, firms get objective usage data to inform additional investment.
There's no management overhead. Whenever you must make an investment decision, take a quick look at who's doing what. The report can be sorted by any column. This view is sorted by the most recent 10-week average. Let's say that your Managing Partner sent out a message in week 12 encouraging participation. You could sort on that week to see who responded to that. Maybe the firm hosted a big client networking event in week 16. You could sort by week 15 to see who decided to prepare for it by learning networking tips. You can click on any name to see what content they've consumed.
When you make the Dezurve education library available, 80% or more will likely opt out, but almost all will do so at Stage 1 (Education) which costs only $15 each. Another percentage will opt out at Stage 2 (Training) wasting a few hundred dollars. By the time the firm invests $5000-10000 per lawyer for Stage 3 (Coaching), they’ll have reliable data to inform that investment. The firm eliminates expensive waste by reserving expensive coaching investments for those who have demonstrated that they value it, and deserve it.
Stage Two: Training
RainmakerVT is online training that develops measurable skills through video lessons and interactive simulations through which lawyers guide an avatar through simulated networking events, sales calls, pricing discussions, formal competitions, etc. Lawyers who satisfy the firm's Stage One requirements are given access to this training.
Here's a summary of the research I did comparing technology-based training vs. instructor-led training, and the results of in-depth user feedback interviews we did with lawyers who experienced the training, go get their feedback on the experience. Hint: They loved it.)
To control your financial risk, lawyers begin with a three-month guided regimen. Each week, they receive an email showing what they should have completed the previous week, and what their plan for the ensuing week includes. Each weekly plan features a combination of new courses, repeating one or more previous courses, practice sessions, and, after a few weeks have passed since their last exposure to a course, skill validation sessions. The typical time commitment is about an hour. Those who perform earn a second three-month plan (each is different) that builds on the first.
As an example, here's the Week 21 plan:
Stage Three: Coaching
Using the performance data extracted from Dezurve and RainmakerVT, you can make informed investment decisions about this scarce, expensive resource.