In this week’s edition of Things I Wish I Knew, New York lawyer Joleena Louis shares her up and down situation with a business coach, and provides advice for those looking for coaches themselves.
No one can give you better advice than other lawyers or professionals who have already experienced what you are going through. It’s critical for lawyers to find colleagues who will listen to their ideas, and provide guidance.
One example of this type of person would be a mentor or business coach.
Many solos hire business coaches and have great success. Unfortunately, I was not so lucky. I have recently had a few sessions with a law firm marketing coach and it was not at all what I thought it would be.
Typically, a business coach is someone who has expertise in a specific area, helping you set and implement both short and long-term goals. They are also a third party that can help to motivate you and hold you be accountable.
The coach I worked with focused on law firm marketing. I was referred to her by a different career mentor I had met at a networking event. After being introduced to this coach I had a free consultation, followed by two Skype sessions costing $200 each.
During our first phone call, I told her what I was looking for and she described how she could help. It seemed like the perfect relationship to help my practice move forward. After the consultation we then scheduled two follow-up skype meetings.
Everything seemed great after that initial call but things quickly fell apart during the Skype session.
It was like she forgot everything we discussed during the first call. She didn’t guide me, help me think anything through, or provide any real advice. She just responded “that sounds great” throughout the entire conversation.
I wanted to get her opinion or advice on new marketing strategies or different techniques, not confirmation that what I was already doing seemed “great.”
Needless to say, during the second session I ended the relationship.
Since this experience, I have talked to some other coaches I know (in different areas) who gave me some tips for the future. Here are their recommendations for selecting a coach going forward:
1. Talk to their previous clients
It would be smart to talk with their past clients, preferably ones who are in the same industry as you. Since I trusted the person who referred me to my previous coach, I didn’t ask to talk to past clients. Big mistake.
She had good Yelp reviews, but it would have been helpful to ask someone who worked with her. This way I could ask specific questions about the process and results of their relationship.
2. Make sure you can get out of the contract
Luckily, I only signed up for the intro package with my coach (which included the consultation plus the 2 follow-up skype calls). Since the second session was basically me firing her, she voluntarily gave me a refund for that session.
Other coaches might not have an “intro package” and might not want to refund you for ending the engagement early. So before signing any contract, make sure you are able to terminate the relationship at any time. Hopefully, you won’t have to, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
3. Consult With Several Coaches
I believe that I set myself up for a poor outcome by deciding to hire a coach on a whim. I didn’t put the time and energy into researching that I should have. If I had to do it all over again, I would have talked to multiple coaches before making a decision.
I think I would try coaching again if I found someone that understood what I wanted to accomplish and whose program aligned with my goals. And I would definitely do a better job of vetting. But for now, I think I’m okay on my own.