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How to Launch a Successful Law Firm Coaching Program

For the first time, at the LMA 2011 annual conference several weeks ago, I heard a convincing argument that sales people and lawyers have something in common:  “Both are high producing individual contributors.” As opposed to team players, presumably.

This quote was courtesy of Kelvin Chin, Sales Director at Womble Carlyle who was one of three senior business development professionals to speak on how to develop a sales culture at a law firm.

Even as part of a panel of like-minded business development professionals, Womble stands out as a culture unusually accepting of the term “sales” and everything that goes with it. Since most attorneys I know would rather swallow a powdered wig than say that they engage in sales, it’s no surprise that the other two firms represented on the panel – Nixon Peabody and Perkins Coie —  stick to euphemisms like business development and lead generation.

The panel’s shared best practices had a lot to do with making smart choices before any new coaching or training program gets off the ground. Getting off the on the right foot can mean success in the long term and that includes:

  • Work with a coalition of the willing;
  • Be sure to FIRST get management’s buy-in that the ‘coalition of the willing’ is who you’ll focus on, rather than those who have been stagnant for years or who just haven’t been living up to expectations;
  • Make certain that the program is championed by a well-respected equity partner (equity partners are more rare these days and they carry more cache).
  • Identify those who seem to ‘get’ the concept of business development but don’t have the skills yet (read:  no remedial cases).
  • The ideal demographic is senior associates and young or newly minted partners.
  • When you launch a coaching or training program, think carefully about who is invited to apply, then select those who make the best case for their own success.

These tips certainly make sense from my experience — what would you add to these?