In Part I of this two-part series, I discussed why it’s so difficult for lawyers to resist the siren’s song of coaching and marketing programs that promise the sky but often fail to deliver. Here in Part II, I’ve set out a long list of factors to help lawyers separate the wheat from the chaff when choosing a program and to figure out whether or not some of the highly-regarded programs are the right fit for you.
What Does the Program Cost and Can You Afford It?
Most people would never dream of shopping for a home in a neighborhood where the cheapest house is more than $150,000 out of their price range. Yet many lawyers are often induced to spend far more than they can afford or that they feel comfortable spending on programs because they’re convinced by salespeople that the spend shows a “commitment” to success or will serve as motivation to work hard.
If you spend more than you can afford, you’re likely to feel so stressed that you won’t be able to focus on doing what you need to do. Or you’ll second-guess or beat yourself up about what you paid which will lead to a loss of the confidence that you need to thrive.
Bottom line – spend only what you can comfortably afford to lose.
Will the Program Lock You In?
Related to the question of cost is the question of flexibility. Specifically, does the program offer refunds? Don’t assume that you can get out of a non-refundable program just because you decide that it’s not working. Bear in mind, some programs offer money-back guarantees or pro-rated refunds while others do not. Think about whether the program offers enough value to justify being locked-in and potentially precluded from trying another program if you didn’t find the right fit.
Does the Company’s USP (Unique Selling Proposition) Match Your Needs?
Every marketing or coaching program has features that make it unique. Some excel for mindset, others for sales, others for tech or creating system or innovating a practice. Some programs focus on helping former big firm attorneys break off and start a firm, others on managing a volume practice or multiple lawyers. Some programs include a few of these features but it’s extremely rare to find all in one place.
Though many marketers would disagree, I believe that practice area is also relevant. A lawyer or program with experience in helping lawyers serving consumers may not have much advice for a lawyer targeting corporate clients and vice versa.
If you’re going to invest a considerable sum of money in a marketing or coaching program, you want to make sure that it’s a fit for what you need. That means engaging in due diligence with pointed questions to the program or coach such as:
- What kind of experience have you had in working with lawyers in my practice area?
- Can you give me specific examples of how your program has helped lawyers with [increasing sales conversion or gaining confidence or managing staff]
- Can you tell me what types of lawyers have not had success with your program and why?
- Can you tell me what percentage of your program includes [lawyers just starting out? lawyers of color? Older lawyers with limited tech experience. Etc…]
- Will I be personally coached/advised by XXX?
- Will I be working with lawyers or non-lawyers as part of the program? And if I work with a non-lawyer, will they be familiar with law-specific technologies and legal ethics obligations?
A program isn’t objectively deficient because it lacks a module on tech or doesn’t have coaches experienced in helping immigration lawyers which might be your practice area. But if those features are important to you, then the program may not be right for you.
Does the Company’s Style Match Your Own?
You’re most likely to succeed if your values and propensities match – or at least don’t conflict with your chosen program. To figure that out, examine the approach that a program or coach takes to marketing their own services because chances are, that’s how they’ll advise you to do business.
Here’s one example – the practice of charging premium fees. If a coaching company charges premium rates, chances are that the program will advise you to do the same in your business. Some lawyers enjoy being top price in the market while others would rather hold themselves out as an affordable option. Neither approach is wrong – it’s simply a matter of preference. But if you fall into the affordable camp, tips on increasing your rates by 30% to make more money may not resonate and you may resist implementing them.
The same principles apply with regard to the “hard sell.” A company that hard sells its programs will be likely to persuade you to adopt the same approach in your practice. Some lawyers are perfectly comfortable with hard sell. After all, potential clients are all adults, the service that the lawyer is selling is generally important and necessary in most instances, many time, clients do need a push to move forward and and those who don’t want to buy can always say no and walk away. On the other hand, some lawyers believe that because many clients come to lawyers under stress to begin with, they’re uniquely vulnerable to hard sell and for that reason, lawyers should give them breathing room. Either position on hard sell tactics is valid and for what it’s worth, I waffle between the two. My point is that if you chafe at hard sell tactics, a program that uses them on you or teaches them as part of its program won’t work for you because you won’t feel comfortable implementing that approach. On the flip side, if you’re looking to grow fast, a program that focuses on building long term relationships and that takes a more passive approach to closing a deal may not deliver the results you want so you’ll likewise come away dissatisfied.
Does the Company Have a Stake In Your Success?
One thing that riles me about some coaching programs is that supposed experts refuse to take any responsibility for the success or failure of participants. I realize that coaches are reluctant to offer guarantees because they can’t control if participants will do the work. But if participants don’t do the work, isn’t that partly the fault of the coach for failing to keep them accountable? Likewise, if a program isn’t a fit, isn’t it the owner’s fault for failing to effectively vet participants? Strive for programs where the coach and owner are as accountable as they expect you to be.
When You Do Diligence, Are You Duly Diligent?
Many lawyers will often ask colleagues for recommendations for coaching or marketing programs but don’t ask the kinds of questions that I suggested above to figure out whether the program might be a match. Keep in mind that even if colleagues rave about a coach or program, it may not be right for you so delve into the reasons why it worked.
As for online reviews, all I can say is buyer beware. The coaching and online influence sphere is rife with conduct that in my view borders on fraud. You’ll see one coach offering a testimonial at another’s site with the implicit understanding though not overt agreement that the favor will be reciprocated. Others who recommend a program may get affiliate fees or discounts that they fail to disclose. And testimonials are often gathered from participants right after a live event when they’re still feeling a high and haven’t had a chance to implement what they learned.
Finally, what’s most unfortunate is that complaints about programs are often kept under wraps. Many high cost programs contain non-disparagement clauses that have a chilling effect on critical reviews. And most lawyers blame themselves and feel embarrassed when a program doesn’t work out so they’re loathe to share their opinions candidly.
Is the Company Diverse in Composition or What It Teaches and Supports?
In the wake of recent events, all lawyers must consider the diversity of a coach, consultant and their team as well as the diversity of the consultants and authors that the program teaches and supports. Why is this important? Because 85 percent of lawyers are white and 64 percent of lawyers are male, according to a 2019 ABA Report and until those numbers even out, we must all make sure that the voices of women and lawyers of color are not lost – and to do that, we must ensure that they have access to inclusive coaching and marketing programs to help them build successful, sustainable law practices that can power them to the top of the profession . How to tell if a program is walking the walk? Is the program’s leadership diverse? Does the program work with diverse professionals, or interview them on podcasts or feature them on their blog?
Does a Program Fall Into the TAO Category?
Because choosing the right program can be so daunting, I always advise lawyers to budget several hundred or even several thousand dollars (depending upon what you can afford to lose) for an annual TAO – try anything once category so you can check out something new with low risk.
The Bottom Line and My Guarantee
I’m always amazed that the same lawyers who spend weeks trying to select a computer system for their office or deciding which car to buy will spend the same or more money on a coaching or marketing program with little investigation. Don’t misunderstand – I’m not knocking coaches, masterminds and other similar categories of programs, some of which have helped some lawyers achieve incredible success. But these programs are not without risk – and if you don’t choose a program that’s the right fit, you may find yourself locked in for a year or more and unable to afford a better option. Or you may beat yourself up for choosing poorly and become so gun shy that you never try again and remain stuck when there might be a service that can help you grow.
I am hopeful that this post can help avoid that outcome. But I’ll also provide you with this guarantee:
If you go through all of the steps that I’ve listed for choosing a coach or marketing program and it still doesn’t work out, then know that you made the best decision on information available at the time and don’t beat yourself up and don’t feel ashamed. Instead, share your experience with others so that they can make a more informed decision and move on. You have my permission to set yourself free!