Scalable coaching services: myth or reality?

Four years ago I started to get busy in my consulting and coaching practice. It was great, I was finally making more money than I had been as a lawyer. I got busier and busier over the next few years but I soon realized I had a major bottleneck in my business—me. My time and energy were finite commodities and there was no way to replicate myself. Some people gave me this advice, “Stephen Covey did it, so why can’t you?”

Stephen Covey was different though, he was teaching leadership and time management—a simple skill set that applied across the board to almost any business of any type so he could have junior coaches and trainers that were paid little to give high price training. He didn’t have a lot of competitors and the market was ready for his message. His format wouldn’t translate as well into the legal vertical because in the legal vertical lawyers demand personal attention and individually designed strategies for their particular market and network. That kind of high-touch coaching is hard to replicate. And it certainly can’t be farmed out to underlings. But that doesn’t mean people aren’t trying.

There are numerous efforts or I guess you could call them “experiments” into scaling the coaching experience. I’m sure there are more than these, but these are a few that have caught my eye.

Take Mike Ohoro, who invented a virtual training software called RainmakerVT. This very clever software provides a virtual environment where young and old lawyers can put themselves in imaginary situations, like at a cocktail party, and have to make decisions about how to interact with people. If the wrong options are decided, the software teaches you why it isn’t the best thing to say or do in that particular situation. Rather than scale high-end coaching, Mike is working to scale inexpensive coaching for the masses within law firms. I don’t know how widespread the adoptions is, but Mike seems to be gaining some traction.

David Freeman created a DVD with top CMO’s teaching about important legal topics called the CMO’s Playbook. There were sessions on business development, networking, cross-selling along with other topics from some really terrific speakers, some of the best in the industry. David was kind enough to share with me some of his materials, and it was all high-quality stuff, but it didn’t catch on because watching a show on DVD, no matter how engaging, won’t keep the attention of busy lawyers. I wouldn’t call it a failed experiment because it was used by a number of top firms, but I don’t think it scaled as easily as David was hoping it would.

Then you have David Ackert, inventor of Practice Boomers. His program has turned his experience coaching lawyers into short 5 minute videos that lawyers can watch quickly but that have actionable takeaways that can constantly drip on the lawyers tips and tactics to help them improve. The training is combined with metrics and goal tools that are part of an online app. Now there is a physical coaching component as well, every two weeks or month there are mastermind sessions—with an actual coach (not David, this is where he gets scale) that allows lawyers to share and compete with each other. It is still in the early phases, but Practice Boomers seems to be gaining traction.

All three of the above solutions use technology to scale, but the other way to scale is through what I will call a group coaching model. Law Vision and Akina both have what appear to be similar models. Every single coach is outstanding and is a partner in the business. Both of these organizations appear to be very successful and work with some of the largest law firms in the world, but having multiple partners seems to offer them synergies and cross-selling opportunities but falls short of allowing them to scale exponentially. They do however get scale from doing a lot of group coaching or mastermind training. There is a limit to how far that can scale though.

Scaling of coaching services has definitely been done before in other industries, but I’m still waiting to see a big success in legal. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the companies or people I mentioned above cracks the code first. Whoever can do this well and whoever is able to do it first is going win a large piece of the pie.

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