Attorney Coaching: Reaching the Reluctant Participant

by Gretchen Lyn Koehler on July 18, 2012

Structured business development coaching programs are often met with mixed responses.  Certain attorneys, often the younger, more eager attorneys, are quick to attend group or individual trainings, develop plans and attempt suggested networking and client relationship management techniques.  Others may be unwilling to participate in group programs or unwelcoming towards invitations for one on one coaching sessions.  Before becoming discouraged, coaches should explore alternative methods for finding their teachable moments.

As you examine your options, ask yourself how and when you already have access to your reluctant participants.  Do they attend internal practice group meetings?  If so, consider asking the practice group leader for permission to provide business development quick tips at the beginning of each practice group meeting.  If the reluctant participants are always quick to respond to your emails, think about circulating emails containing coaching tips to all attorneys within the firm.  Does your firm provide an intranet?  If so, try building a Business Development portal within the intranet which contains coaching tips.  Send out alerts and links to your target audience when new content is added to the portal.

Another question to examine is whether the coaching you’re offering is tailored to the needs of your target audience.  Perhaps formalized planning sessions and goal setting are not necessary.  Could you be more effective by tackling the areas that you see as actual problems?  For example, perhaps you know certain attorneys who regularly attend conferences without making the kinds of connections that the firm would like to derive from their attendance.  Could you plan a coaching session specific to those issues, such as an internal “speed networking” event where attorneys learn tips, practice new techniques and develop talking points before attending conferences?

Alternatively, are there certain attorneys at your firm who pitch frequently with limited success?  Perhaps they will be more receptive to the idea of pre-pitch planning meetings and post-pitch debriefs than offers for formalized coaching programs.

Providing assistance around the actual needs of your attorneys rather than the universe of business development skills they could master over time will at least allow you to collaboratively accomplish some quick wins.  Once your attorneys begin to benefit from the tips you have provided for overcoming their most daunting challenges, they may be more amenable towards suggestions around topics they once found less relevant.

Gretchen Lyn Koehler is the Director of Business Development at Kenyon & Kenyon, LLP.  She can be reached at  


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