Coaching Solutions: Create Time to Market

By Lawyer and Executive Business Coach, Irene Leonard

Reprinted with the permission of the Association of Legal Administrators Puget Sound Chapter, December 2007.

Recently, I gave a talk on Time Management for Attorneys at the ALA Business Skills Curriculum Series. Since the theme of this month's magazine is Marketing, I thought a combination of the two topics, time management and marketing, would be appropriate.

As legal administrators you are likely involved in promoting your firm's legal services. I hope to help you answer the question: "How can I help the individual lawyers in my firm create the time to market?"

Time as a Marketing Challenge

One of the big challenges lawyers face in carrying out their marketing plan is carving out time for marketing activities. When a major and critical focus is billing hours, it's hard to allocate additional hours to market, especially if the lawyer doesn't like or see the benefit of marketing.

Changing Mind Set

People will make time for things they like and believe in. So when helping the lawyers in your firm, coach them to find an appreciation of or reason to market that's in their best interest. Until they see how marketing directly benefits them, they aren't likely to make marketing a priority. Deciding to make marketing a priority is the first mind set shift needed in order to create time to market.

Coaching Steps to Help Others Commit Time to Marketing

  1. Find out what goals the lawyer you are going to coach wants to achieve with respect to marketing. Does he/she want more clients? Does he/she just want to get their marketing hours in easily? What does he/she see as important in marketing?
  2. Assess where he/she is in marketing activities today. What are his/her beliefs? What marketing does he/she currently do? What does he/she think he's willing to do? What has she/he tried? What worked? What didn't? What kind of marketing best appeals to that individual?
  3. What values or principles are important to him/her? Help the lawyer learn what values are important to them so that they can make a values-based decision. A values-based decision will help him/her be willing to engage in the activities.

Your goal is to help him/her find the motivation to fit marketing activities or efforts into their busy schedule. After you've done that, then you'll be able to coach him/her on determining the marketing activities that best fit their values and that they are comfortable engaging in.

A Coaching Example: Helping an Associate Create Time for Marketing

The following is an example of a coaching interaction: Joe is a 5th-year associate who does not feel he has any time to market. He's excellent at what he does and likes his work. For the most part he likes the clients he works with, but wishes he had more control over whom he works for.

Start by getting permission from Joe to coach him on this issue of finding time to market. Without permission you aren't likely to get Joe to honestly address behaviors he needs to change, including carving out time in his very busy calendar. Changing his behaviors and helping him reach a commitment to come up with and carry out a marketing plan is critical. The more you know what's important to Joe and what his values are, the more you can use the information to facilitate helping him make a values-based decision and then plan.

You: Joe, I understand you're having a hard time finding time to engage in marketing activities.
Joe: Yes.
You: Okay. Do I have your permission to coach you in this area?
Joe: Sure, I don't see how it will help though. I have so much on my plate already.
You: Alright. Thanks for giving me a try. So, tell me where you are in your marketing efforts.
Joe: Well, I probably shouldn't admit this, but I haven't done anything. I don't really know where to begin.
You: Okay. Good. Thanks for being honest with me. That really helps. What are the reasons you haven't done anything?
Joe: Well, I frankly don't think I have any time to even consider adding marketing activities to my busy work load.
You: Let's talk about what value you'd get if your marketing efforts paid off, Joe. Tell me how you think marketing would benefit you?
Joe: That's a good question. First I can see it'd help me become partner more easily. It'd help me get work that I like. I'd be able to work on my own client work, rather than receiving work from others. I wouldn't be so dependent on others for work.
You: How is that important to you – not being dependent on others for work?
Joe: Well, there's a lot more freedom and independence if I can generate my own work. I hadn't thought about that before. I like the idea of having more independence. How do I do that? Get my own clients?
You: Let's brainstorm marketing ideas that suit your style and your time availability. Once you have the ideas you can come up with your plan.
Joe: Good idea.

In order to get Joe to be willing to market, it's important to establish what will motivate him before going directly to the activities he will engage in. His values of independence and freedom will be the values you can remind him of when and if carving out time for marketing gets hard for him again.

I welcome receiving your specific coaching questions for a future article.

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© Irene Leonard. After more than 19 years as a business lawyer, Irene Leonard offers practice development coaching services as an executive business coach. She helps lawyers improve their ability to manage and market. Go to her website www.CoachingForChange.com or contact her at 206-723-9900 for more information.