Where Each Fits in and How Each Benefits a Lawyer and Law Firm
Both Coaches and Consultants...
There are two types of consultants...
Practice and Tips
Coaches and consultants are like cab drivers. They want to take you where you want to go. If you don't know where that is, they're lost too. Some will, however, keep driving until they run out of gas or you run out of money.
When you consider entering into either a consulting or coaching relationship, first consider...
More consulting and coaching relationships come to naught because the client isn't sure - or the firm can't agree - where it is going than for any other reason. An ethical consultant or coach will tell you this. But you must remember that they want to consult and coach, and they generally believe they will confer the benefit they promise.
With information consultants the benefit you will enjoy is directly related and proportional to the sharpness of your focus. Nebulous practice development plans produce nebulous research projects which produce really nebulous conclusions. You will refer to this as 'money for nothing'.
With practice development consultants, listening skills are more indicative of the benefit you will receive than their experience. Consultants, like physicians, need to analyze what is usually a complicated and complex situation very carefully before prescribing the medicine. You are better served by having your consultant carefully chose the right program from a library of a hundred options, than carelessly choose from a library of a thousand.
With coaches, listening skills are less important than experience and persistence. Coaching presumes that you have already decided on the direction you would like to go, the habits you want to develop and the habits you have to jettison. Normal human beings are phenomenally successful at developing barriers and resistance to change. Even when the change is as simple as putting aside your substantive work at 4:00 P.M. and returning your calls, the coach must be more like Vince Lombardi than Ann Landers.
Consultants benefit you and your firm early in the practice development process. If you are seeking ad hoc consulting, it will benefit you most sooner rather than later. In some instances, market and client research, for example, firms establish an ongoing long-term relationship with their consultants. Consider a retainer relationship that gives you access to the consultant's ongoing experience in the field. Quarterly or semi-annual meetings not only refresh the benefits of their assistance and updates you on their ongoing experience, but helps keep your firm tuned in to the reality that practice development is an ongoing process.
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