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Ed Poll
  Week of March 25, 2008

The Right Way to Use a Coach

Regular readers of these tips are familiar with what a professional coach can do to help make their law practices better and more meaningful. In keeping with our recent financial themes, it's worth noting that a coach's experience can lead to direct financial benefits. I am typically able to help my clients dramatically increase their incomes by five or six figures through practical coaching. I am aware of one coach who helped a firm, for their $24,000 investment in business development coaching for 20 partners, increase revenue by $1 million in one year—a 2000% ROI.
Such rewards, however, are hardly automatic. I often find that the biggest barrier to a successful coaching process is a lawyer's expectation that the coach has all the answers. This reflects the lawyer's training that finding the right authority or citation is the key to arguing a case successfully. An almost equally counterproductive belief is that a coach should be a mentor—a friend who does nothing but compliment and encourage rather than a leader who occasionally pushes and challenges.
The best way to work with a coach is be active and engaged, asking questions and applying challenging answers. As users of coaching gain more experience in their careers, they give feedback to the coach, participate in the dialog, and sometimes change the dialog (or the coach) completely. Active participation in the coaching process is the complete opposite of sitting back and waiting for the coach to give you all the answers, and it produces much better results. In a real sense, it reflects the increasing expectation of business clients that their lawyers give up a pure hourly billing rate and adopt a compensation method that involves performance targets as incentives for greater rewards—in effect giving the lawyer "skin in the game." When you have "skin in the game" of coaching, it means more to you.
Coaching is not an episodic engagement—that's consulting. Coaching is the development of a career-long team approach to identifying the challenges of your endeavor and to overcoming them—a dynamic partnership between coach and client, and one in which roles and approaches can change. As successful career and personal needs change, the coaching dynamic likely will change also. Remember that a coach is someone who pushes, not nurtures. When the push of a given coach no longer is the right one to feed excellence, the successful person will seek out a new stimulus. Successful people engage coaches throughout their careers to reach pinnacles of success, and continually reinvent themselves through coaching to stay there. That's the right way to use a coach.

Ed Poll

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Ed Poll
Ed Poll

Personal Commentary
Karen Mathis, immediate past chair of the American Bar Association, focused her year on developing a new awareness for the legal profession. She said recently that 400,000 lawyers will retire in the next 10 years. That's the entire current membership of the ABA! What will these lawyers do? Will they close their doors and start new careers? Will they become sole or small-firm practitioners because their current firm has a mandatory retirement age, some as young as 62 years of age? Will they be "warehoused," and merely wait to die? Karen was perceptive to suggest that the "Second Season" is an important issue that needs to be addressed both by our profession as well as our society in general. We're currently experiencing a multi-generational workforce, something not seen before.
As with many concepts, it's important that the individual take responsibility for his/her own future welfare. Looking out at least 5 years to prepare for what you will be doing when it is time for you to slow down, or even leave, the practice of law is essential for your very well-being. These 5 years may be the "Red Zone" of your career. What will you be doing to prepare yourself so that you can score a touchdown, so you can spend the final years of your life enjoying the fruits of your labor as you choose?
Best wishes,
Ed Poll

Ed Poll
Ed Poll

What Readers Are Saying...
Secrets of The Business of Law® is the most insightful book I've read on this topic. It is written in an engaging, easy-to-digest style, and there was never a dull moment. I recommend it to anyone who runs a law firm and needs to turn a profit.
-CM, Massachusetts

Ed Poll
Ed Poll

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