What does a musical suite have to do with coaching? As the Beattles would say, it’s all about a little help from your friends. My clients are very capable and intelligent lawyers, so they don’t engage me because they are unable to run a business. They simply want their efforts to result in a better business. How is it that individuals in the top 5% of intelligence in this country need help improving their business practices? Because even experts need a fresh perspective from time to time.
In 1874, a composer named Modest Mussorgsky wrote a suite called “Pictures at an Exhibition”. If you heard it you would probably recognize it as the piece became quite famous. But not at first. Initially, it played to lack-luster reviews and its performances were short-lived. Eventually, it was virtually ignored. But in 1922, Maurice Ravel created a new orchestration to the suite that moved it from black and white to technicolor. Audiences immediately responded and overnight, the piece because famous. In fact, it is Ravel’s orchestration that has enabled the suite to survive and thrive to this very day.
Mussorgsky is no one hit wonder. He wrote a lot of music that is still adored and played today. But even a great athlete is not assured a home run every time. The recent Olympic Games have been filled with stories of returning medal winners attempting yet failing to get onto the podium again.
Yet that’s what we try to do in business. To win every time. To land the client every time. To get an excellent verdict or settlement every time. Lawyers are high-performance individuals. A tremendous amount is expected of them, in business development and other aspects of their work life. In fact, I’ve been working on a summary of the areas in which a lawyer must excel. Here’s my list to date (which I’ve published here before:
- Understanding the law: (including the law itself, the context, the client, the other side).
- Development of Business Development Ability: (Understanding the typical client of each practice group; understanding our own practice strengths and weaknesses; understanding the market in terms of size v. competitors, economy, politics, trends, international markets, etc.; networking; communication skills).
- Administration of Your Practice: (including accounting; processes and procedures; file/case management ; prioritization and time management; billing process – collection
- Development of Your Reputation: (Internally meaning other lawyers and staff; externally meaning clients, targets, referral sources and the bar).
- Development of Your Interpersonal Skills: (including delegation, office manner, client service, external socialization with clients, for marketing, etc.)
Many professions require multiple skills on multiple levels, but that isn’t the norm. The responsibility on a lawyer’s shoulders is quite heavy. You can’t be expected to be an expert in all areas. But it’s usually unrealistic to be able to manage a practice – and work your way into partnership if that’s your dream – without doing all of these things reasonably well. It’s logical that you might need some help in some areas.
This is particularly true of the business development and marketing areas. The essential skills required in a great lawyer are very different than the essential skills required in a good salesperson or marketer. But a lawyer can certainly learn those skills, and can work with a coach to create a strong marketing plan and bring it to life with outstanding execution.
Adequate marketing is fine, as long as it accomplishes your business objectives. But in this marketplace, a strong plan and great execution is always better. And most lawyer personalities require a greater performance than average.
Mussorgsky was a great composer. We all just need a little help now and then to bring out our best.