Success coaching for lawyers: Who can be coached?

This is part five of a five-part article.  For the entire article, see the link below.

“Not all lawyers can be successfully coached,” said Tarlton.  “Before starting this process ask a few select questions to screen the good candidates from those who will only waste your time and talent. Work only with lawyers who take personal responsibility for their own success.   Reject any lawyer who is not willing to partake in the process outlined above.”

Questions to screen potential coaching candidates include:

n  Will you commit to a certain amount of time to spend on this effort? (Most lawyers spend long hours at work and already feel that they are shortchanging their families.  Nonetheless, a good candidate will be willing to set aside a specific amount of time each week.)

n  Are you willing to acknowledge that, although you know a lot about your area of the law, you do not know everything about business development?  Are you open to new ideas?

n  Can you be counted on to keep all of your scheduled appointments with your coach – no matter how busy you are?

n  Will you commit to “walking the talk” – doing what you say you will do?  If you agree to make three phone calls to existing client by the next meeting, will you do so?

n  Are you willing to try something if you are not 100-percent sure it will work for you?

n  Are you willing to take full responsibility for your own business development?

If business development staff can master the steps of the process, and if lawyers can commit, business development coaching can greatly benefit the careers of coaches and lawyers alike.

Successful coaching for lawyers is a process


Successful coaching for lawyers: Steps six and seven

This is part four of a five-part article.  For the entire article, see the link below.

Step six entails creation of a method to track and measure success, using specific deadlines.  How does the lawyer being coached define success?  Is it three new clients in a particular industry?  Is it five additional matters for an existing client? Is it strengthening his or her reputation in an area by writing three articles for a well-read industry publication?   Lawyers carefully track progress on their matters and cases; tracking business development activities will feel natural to them and can help drive results.

Finally, a good business development coach will help a lawyer to focus on the pipeline that will delivery work to his or her desk in the future – not just today.  What are the emerging issues that will threaten your clients?  Create lists of clients and potential clients who will be affected, and begin a communication process that puts you in front of these clients well in advance of the pack.

Successful coaching for lawyers is a process


Successful coaging for lawyers: Steps four and five

This is part three of a five-part article.  For the entire article, see the link below.

In the fourth step of the business development coaching process, a good coach will help the lawyer come up with useful ideas and resources.   “Never say ‘this is what you need to do’,” said Tarlton.  “There is no magic pill.

“Do some research and contribute this knowledge and these resources to the lawyer,” said Tarlton.  “Provide examples of tactics used successfully by similar lawyers.  Ask the lawyer to name colleagues who are successful at business development – and to analyze these lawyers’ approaches.   Encourage the lawyer to generate individualized business development ideas based on these resources.

“Lawyers are naturally curious and process-driven,” said Tarlton.  “Get them interested intellectually in business development and they will likely buy into the process.”

The fifth step of the process involves supporting and encouraging the lawyers as they attempt to implement their business development ideas.  Behaviors that are rewarded tend to be repeated.

“This support can be individual,” said Tarlton.  “A coach can drop by the lawyer’s office on a regular basis to assess and provide positive feedback, and to ask and answer additional questions.  Support and encouragement also can be firm-wide, such as a method for public recognition of lawyers’ business development accomplishments – perhaps in meetings or firm-wide emails or on the firm’s intranet site.”

Successful coaching for lawyers is a process


Successful coaching for lawyers: Step two and three

This is part two of a five-part article.  For entire article, see link below.

The second step in the business development coaching process is to carefully assess the lawyer’s position within his or her career – in terms of both age and accomplishment.  “All of these steps involve asking useful questions and carefully listening to the answers,” said Tarlton.

Why did you go to law school?  Why did you choose to focus on environmental rather than personal injury law?  Why did you choose this particular firm?  Where do you see your career in five or ten years?  Which are your favorite and least-favorite clients --and why?  Where did your best clients come from?  Which business development tactics have you tried that worked -- or did not work?  How do you feel about using these tactics?

“A good coach’s questions and answers will be based on a lawyer’s seniority and experience,” said Tarlton.  “A young lawyer fresh out of law school needs a different approach to business development than a senior lawyer with a long list of clients and contacts.  So does a lateral transitioning from an in-house position.  Once again, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.”

The third step of the coaching process is to skillfully challenge the way that lawyers are trained to think. “In law school and in legal practice, lawyers are rewarded for knowing everything about a matter or a case – and never being wrong,” said Tarlton.  “It goes against lawyers’ nature to admit that they might need help.  If lawyers state, ‘I’ll never be good at business development,’ follow up by asking them why they think this is true.  Try to get at the root of their resistance to business development.”

successful coaching for lawyers is a process


Successful coaching for lawyers is a process

More than ever before, lawyers are expected to develop new business for themselves and their law firms.  Some lawyers are naturals at business development.  Many others, however, have no idea how to start.  Business development was not part of the traditional law-school curriculum.  As a result, law firm marketers increasingly are being asked to coach their lawyers in business development skills.

“Business development coaches need to know two things,” said Merrilyn Astin Tarlton.  “They need to know how to coach and they need to know which lawyers will most benefit from coaching.

“Before you can coach a lawyer, or anyone else for that matter, you need to build a relationship with that person,” said Tarlton.  “We’ve all had the experience of being ‘told what to do’ by someone we do not know or someone we dislike.  It’s excruciating.

“Coaching is based on trust,” said Tarlton, “and trust is created in a relationship.  Good coaches will encourage the lawyers they are coaching to do most of the talking.  Ask questions.  Listen carefully to the answers and use this information to continue the conversation and dig deeper.

“Many lawyers come to the business development coaching process looking for a quick fix,” said Tarlton.  “’Just tell me what to do and let me get about my business.’  But that is not how coaching works.  There is no ‘one size fits all’ formula.  It is a careful process, not a quick prescription.  Plus, each lawyer is unique.  You cannot know what will or will not work with that lawyer without creating a relationship.”

Tarlton discussed business development coaching in law firms at the monthly program of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association, held June 17 at Guard & Grace in LoDo, Denver.

As a founding member of Astin Tarlton, Tarlton consults with lawyers on their roles as leaders and business people.  She was a founder and early president of the Legal Marketing Association.  In 2007, she was inducted in the LMA Hall of Fame.  In addition, she has held senior positions with the ABA Law Practice Management Section.  She launched Attorney at Work in collaboration with Feldcomm.

This is part one of a five-part post.  For the entire post:

Successful coaching for lawyers is a process

To satisfy new search algorithms: Use analytics to measure success

Part five of a five-part article:

“Take advantage of Google Analytics to collect data that can be used to improve the quality of your webpages – adding more of what works and eliminating what does not,” said Robinson.  “In Google Analytics, which is currently free, law firms can set up specific goals to study how users are entering and interacting with your website.”

Google Analytics lets a law firm know which content is most-viewed and acted upon, so that similar content can be added.  It lets the firm know which content is ignored, so that it can be eliminated or improves.  It lets a firm know the exact path users take through its site, so that adjustments can be made to create a better user experience.

If observation and analytics show that a law firm website is not getting the results it wants, an audit can help determine the source of the problem, take steps to fix the problem, measure the results of these steps, and look for any others areas that could be improved.

“Increasing inbound traffic to your website is not magic – it is a combination of art and science,” said Robinson.  “You should select any agency that makes you feel comfortable and uses language that is easy to understand.  You should never feel intimidated.

“At the same time, do not expect miracles,” said Robinson.  “Go into the process with reasonable expectations.   It takes time to make changes, add quality content and wait for the search engines to find and reward this content.  Each day, more than one million pieces of new content are posted to the Internet.  It takes time to rise above the fray.”

A law firm that has experienced worsening search engine results in the wake of Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird can take positive steps to restore performance.   Google will continue to reward webpages with strong content marketing efforts, including answer-driven content.  It also rewards sites that generate social media buzz – especially an active presence on its proprietary YouTube and Google+ platforms. 

For the complete article:


To satisfy new search algorithms, legal websites need quality content

To satisfy new search algorithms: Create relevant content

Part four of a five-part article:

Law firms that want to prevent or correct loss of search engine result page rankings and traffic should publish meaningful, original content on a regular basis.  The goal is content that will establish a firm, practice group or lawyer as a though leader in an area relevant to a user persona.

“Take the time to discover the common questions your clients have, and provide the answers to these questions,” said Davis.  “Relevant content can be written, but it also can and should be visual.  Video content posted on YouTube (which is owned by Google) is particularly powerful as ‘Google juice.’”

Instead of using keywords like “car accident,” use more specific terms like “car accident lawsuit” or “car accident insurance”, or better yet natural language terms like “What should I do if I am sued for a DUI car accident?” or “What should I look for when buying car insurance for an older vehicle?”  Think in terms of full-fledged questions that a person might ask Siri on a smartphone.

Once search brings users to a law firm’s site, there must be a way to create and nurture a relationship and convert the potential client into a real client over time.  Each item of posted content should contain a call to action – some way for the user to interact with the site so that the firm can capture data.  This could be a way to comment on a white paper or download information about an upcoming event.

For the complete article:


To satisfy new search algorithms, legal websites need quality content

To satisfy new search algorithms: ID client personas and clarify their needs

Part three of a five-part article:

Before a law firm can create relevant content, it needs to know with whom it is communicating.  In marketing talk, this is called the “user persona” – or target market. 

“In user-centered design and marketing, personas are user types that might use a legal service in a similar way,” said Davis.  “A small law firm might target one user persona.  A large law firm will target numerous user personas.”

One law-firm user persona might be high-income individuals going through divorce.  Another might be small businesses in need of venture capital.  Another might be large medical equipment manufacturers facing product liability lawsuits.  The more specific the persona, the more specific a law firm’s content can be.  Relevant content will answer the questions these users are asking, using natural language.

A user personal is a representation of the goals and behavior of a hypothesized group of users.  In most cases, personas are synthesized from data collected from user interviews.

“An effective law firm website will focus not on the firm’s capabilities, but on the identified needs of a persona or personas,” said Davis.  “It will use industry- or interest-specific terminology within a context familiar to the targeted persona.”

For the complete article:

To satisfy new search algorithms, legal websites need quality content


To satisfy new search algorithms: Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird

Part two of a five-part article:

Panda and Penguin are two major changes to the existing Google algorithm made in 2011 and 2012, respectively.   In 2013, Google released a totally new algorithm called Hummingbird (which incorporates and enhances the updates made by Panda and Penguin).  These three developments have completely changed the way law firms must look at search.

“Law-firm sites that regularly showed up on page one now find themselves on page 20,” said Robinson.  “Since searchers rarely go beyond the second page of results in an online search, this is a real problem.”

Google Panda focuses on keywords.  Sites with keyword “stuffing” are demoted or flagged as spam.  Panda also penalizes low-quality content, thin content, duplicate content and the amount of advertising compared with the amount of useful content on a site.

Google Penguin focuses on links.  It focuses on “black hat” tactics like links that come from poor-quality sites, from sites that aren’t topically relevant to a target market, paid links, and links where the anchor text is overly optimized (exact-match anchor text).  Use natural language in your links, and vary it.

“Quality inbound links are not found at garage sales, “said Robinson.  “Steer clear of link farms.  A few high-quality, carefully developed links perform much better than a large number of weak, irrelevant links.  It takes time and perhaps a dedicated staff person to develop and nurture quality links.”

The new Google Hummingbird algorithm looks for a steady stream of high-quality, relevant content and natural language on webpages – and rewards those who provide it.  Hummingbird attempts to decipher a search engine query by using the context of a question rather than the specific keywords within the question.  Thin content, keyword stuffing and lack of relevant content will cause significant demotions.

“Content marketing is a technique that creates and distributes valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience,” said  Davis, “with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

For the full article:

To satisfy new search algorithms, legal websites need quality content


To satisfy new search algorithms, legal websites need quality content

The success of a law-firm website is determined by how many clients and potential clients visit the site, spend time there and take action based on what they discover.

Over the years, law-firm marketers focused on keyword and link strategies to enhance search engine results and increase traffic to their websites.  While these are still valuable tools, recent developments in the search universe have shifted the emphasis to content strategy.

Quality content includes well-written articles, blog posts, videos, webcasts, presentation slide decks, infographics, eBooks and white papers.  Quality content addresses client needs.

Sixty-seven percent of the time, online searchers use Google to find what they are looking for.  To provide the best results, Google is constantly tweaking its search algorithm. (An algorithm is a process or set of rules to be used by a computer in calculations or other problem-solving operations.)  These algorithms are designed to maintain search engine integrity and punish violators.

Sara Downey Robinson and Chris Davis discussed the changing landscape of digital marketing and search engine optimization at the monthly meeting of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association, held May 13 at Guard and Grace in LoDo Denver.

Davis is business development director at Burns Marketing, a full-service B2B marketing agency that combines traditional and digital marketing to help clients drive demand.   Robinson is marketing coordinator at Inflow, a top inbound-marketing firm specializing in search.

This is part one of a five-part article.  For the complete article:

To satisfy new search algorithms, legal websites need quality content